ALKESH PATEL: WE WILL DEVELOP NEW HOTEL CULTURE
Born in Nadiad, Gujarat and originally from Sojitra, Alkesh Patel migrated to the United States in 1986, where he went to school and graduated. He is the president of familyowned Trupadi, Inc., which owns and manages both branded and boutique hotels. He also serves as a trustee for Portland GSI, a not-for-profit group dedicated to preserving Asian American heritage; and is a key mover in several hotelier associations like the Washington Lodging Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Council of Inns & Suites. Alkesh currently resides in Vancouver, Washington, with his family. NRI Achievers sought out Mr. Patel, when he visited India in January this year for the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2013 and spoke to him. Tell us about your involvement with AAHOA. “I have been involved with Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) since 2000, I entered the executive board in 2009, and now I am currently the Chairman of this association. AAHOA is the largest hotel owners association in United States, whose members own more than 43 percent of all hotel rooms in the US, in all classes of hotels, from the roadside motel kinds to the Hiltons, Mariotts, and Westins. Gujaratis constitute 95 percent of the membership, which today stands at about 11 thousand members.” Are you looking at India? “We are open to opportunities. What we are doing is, we are going to have a PE fund. We will chip in with our own family fund first and then we are expecting to expand that as we come. Our plan is to ultimately work in tune with the government and attempt to replicate what we have successfully done in the United States. We are not looking at 5 star or 7 star projects, instead we propose to concentrate on a high quality, 2~3 star properties, and roadside rural, where there is no accommodation. We are going to try and keep these hotels at a size of around 40~50 rooms.” Is your focus limited to the hospitality sector only? “Well, our core-competencies are in the Hotel industry. We are going to do the design, furnishing, we are going to do it turnkey. So if somebody has land or an old hotel, we want to advice them, we make it a nicer hotel, put a nice brand on them, and we can do the management. We can also bring funds, if they want we can do a joint venture, put a value on the land, and build a nice property there. Ultimately, we can put a Westin flag on that, you know, like a 2-star, 3-star, maybe a Daisy, something like that.” Roadside rural in India is pretty much dominated by the ‘Dhaba Culture’. How do you propose to deal with it? We will provide something that is not yet here in the first place. We will bring the expertise, which can help in converting older buildings into nicer hotels and transform them into places where people can come and stay.” How did you get started on this hotel business? “I went in United States as a student in 1986, as my family was already there. When I was in college, I used to volunteer for these associations, which were formed in 1989. As a volunteer, helping them out putting the meetings together and managing activities, I learned this business, saw how people were succeeding, so when I graduated I got myself into properties. We got one, then two, and then we started building ourselves. Looking back, I remember when my father died when I was three years old, how my mother worked very hard as a single mother to raise me and my four sisters. The foundation she established is behind the success of our family today.