Promoter and director, The Tamara
Education: MBA from Columbia Business School, New York City
How she is changing the way the company works: Making inroads into various sectors, including hospitality, retail and ecommerce. With a well-planned strategy in place, she is ready to take on serious competition
It’s difficult to pin down Shruti Shibulal: Managing homes in two countries, the United States (New York) and India (Bangalore), and juggling work commitments while zipping across different time zones. And, unlike most 29-year-olds, Shruti has firmly set her sights on the endgame. Her weapon: ‘Napoleon’s Glance’, a lesser known military strategy.
While she was pursuing her MBA at the Columbia Business School in New York, Professor William Duggan introduced her to Napoleon’s Glance, an exercise that helps translate one’s passion into long-term strategic goals. “We had to identify what we were passionate about and trace it to where we wanted to be in the far future,” says Shruti, daughter of Infosys co-founder and former CEO SD Shibulal, who ranks 99th on the Forbes India Rich List. “The idea was to take one small step at a time, but to always maintain perspective on the larger picture,” she says.
Those lessons from Columbia help her today as she heads the Rs 80-crore hospitality development project in Trivandrum under Tamara Real Estate Holding and Development. “I took on the role of director for the Trivandrum project in January. It’s exciting because it concerns real estate development, something that I have not done before. There is learning at every level,” she says.
Tamara is part of the Shibulal family’s Innovations Investment Management (IIM), which has diversified interests in hospitality, property management, project management, investment portfolio management, plantations, farms and education.
Senthil Kumar N, director and CEO of IIM, works closely with Shruti and praises the shrewd entrepreneur in her. “She’s a quick learner and a people’s person. She handles people-related issues with maturity and sensitivity. Apart from being a good decision-maker, she is also committed to her work,” he says.
Shruti’s first luxury-resort project, The Tamara Coorg, has been operational for the last two years and managed to break even this year. Reports suggest that the property, tucked away on a 170-acre coffee, cardamom, pepper and honey plantation on the eastern slopes of Karnataka’s Kabbinakad hills, earned Rs 7 crore in net revenues. Other projects in the pipeline look promising as well. The Tamara, a business hotel spread across 1.45 acres on the Trivandrum-Kollam bypass on NH 47, is expected to be completed by 2017. Work on luxury resorts in Kodaikanal (Tamil Nadu), Guruvayoor (Kerala) and Muhamma (Alleppey) will begin shortly.
By Shruti’s own admission, she is a city girl and a perpetual nomad. That explains why she has not lived anywhere beyond five years at a stretch. After her schooling at the National Public School in Bangalore, she completed her under-graduation at Haverford in Pennsylvania in 2006. “I was adamant about moving to New York after college. I landed an internship with Merrill Lynch’s private wealth division there and translated that into a job,” says Shruti.
She returned to India in late 2007. Despite her enviable business lineage, Shruti pursued her own entrepreneurial goals. “I wanted to work on something of my own. Someone once asked me: ‘If there was something I could do, what would that be?’ I said I would start a restaurant since I like food. I like making people happy, and thought that it would be gratifying,” she says.
In 2008, she teamed up with Bangalore-based celebrity chef Abhijit Saha to start Avant Garde Hospitality (AGH). Says Saha, “For me, getting the right partner was very important because food and beverages is a business that requires a gestation period. You need a sense of calmness when you start as an entrepreneur and she had that quality despite her young age.” At present, AGH runs two fine dining restaurants in Bangalore under the brand Caperberry, which focuses on molecular gastronomy, and Fava, a Mediterranean restaurant and lounge bar. Shruti no longer serves on AGH’s board, but IIM remains a 50 percent stakeholder in the company.