A master of many trades, Girish Jhunjhnuwala has been showcasing his business abilities since he graduated from the University of Southern California in 1984. Initially starting out at his family’s watch company, Jhunjhnuwala now oversees six hotels and serviced apartment properties on Hong Kong Island and West Kowloon and four hotels in Australia, among other ventures with his family company The Hind Group. Although the watch company seems a dusty string on his illustrious bow two decades later, the youthful-looking 50-something still makes use of the lessons he learned there.
“You can’t really learn entrepreneurialism,” Jhunjhnuwala explains. “Yes, I went to a good university, but growing up I had a strong sense of business—it just makes you understand what you want to do and how you can make a difference.”
This outlook has certainly taken him a long way. Born and raised in Hong Kong—a “very entrepreneurial” city—Jhunjhnuwala started off selling t-shirts while studying Business Administration in Los Angeles, before moving back to Hong Kong and learning the ropes at that watch company. “One of the things I learned there is that nothing replaces hard work,” he says. “You have to work the hours, and that’s the only way you can learn. I started from the bottom and worked my way up. In the hospitality world, I had to learn about housekeeping and inventory control—and a lot of that came from what I was doing in the watch business.” Jhunjhnuwala then poetically adds, “I learned how time was managed.”
As his career took him from paint manufacturing to restaurants and cafés, Jhunjhnuwala traveled the world and constantly kept mental notes of problems he experienced at hotels he visited. In particular, was his indignation at booby-trapped minibars. “They had sensors inside and you’d get charged if you even moved something. I see that as a terrible customer experience! Has the hotelier really thought about what the customer wants?” After purchasing his first property, Jhunjhnuwala’s critical eye allowed him to truly empathize with the customer, and eventually gave rise to the concept of all-inclusivity that Ovolo employs today.
“I learned from the hotels that I stayed in, and I realized I can make a difference. Once you walk through our doors, we take care of you. You don’t have to worry about what you touch or what you open. It’s your experience.”
While pioneering the conversion of a warehouse in Hong Kong into Ovolo Southside, Jhunjhnuwala also inadvertently reanimated the surrounding area. “The neighborhood was kind of derelict,” he notes, “but when we opened, restaurants and galleries started popping up, and because of that, locals are grateful. And we are grateful to the locals for helping this happen.”
Perhaps Jhunjhnuwala’s affinity for the Ovolo Southside neighborhood, in addition to his deep-rooted respect for his customers, has led to such a well-loved and influential property. For now though, he has his sights set on revolutionizing business travel with his “Mojo Nomad Initiative”—an entrepreneurial working space helping business travelers to “find their mojo” by booking extended stays in the company of other entrepreneurs. Clearly, Jhunjhnuwala aims to transform yet another arm of the hospitality industry. And no doubt he will. After all, as he learned in his youth, time is on his side.