In a League of His Own
Well-known hotelier and creative whiz, Keshav Suri on his plans for Kitty Su and why local will always rule over global
Jagmeeta Thind Joy
It’s celebration time at Kitty Su housed in The Lalit Chandigarh. The new age nightclub completes two years today. As the plans for the special night get underway, there’s a special guest in town, who happens to be the host too. Sounds confusing? Not if we tell you, we are talking about Keshav Suri, the executive director of the Lalit Group of hotels.
Arriving in Chandigarh early Friday, Suri has been on his feet, in meetings, inspecting the hotel, giving media interviews and packing in a visit to a local radio station. “Chandigarh is special to me in many ways,” says Suri as we ask him about his fondest memories of the city. While his mother, Dr Jyotsana Suri, chairperson of The Lalit Group of Hotels, is an alumna of the Lawrence School Sanawar, Keshav remembers all the stopovers he and his family would make in Chandigarh while on their way up to the hills. “My aunt also lives here. I remember visiting Hotel Mountview many times and digging into their hot chocolate,” reminisces Suri who unfortunately lost his father, Lalit Suri, founder of the group, in 2006.
But he has used his experiences in travel and hospitality well to take forward his father’s legacy. With each passing year, not only has The Lalit chain of hotels spread wings but has also reached new milestones. The latest in the kitty is The Lalit Mangar, an eco-friendly resort in Haryana and The Lalit London, a new luxe boutique hotel that formally housed St Olave’s Grammar School.
But it is Kitty Su, a brainchild of Keshav Suri, which has turned out to be quite the game changer. It gave the brand a refreshing new avatar and also brought in a younger audience. For the unaware, the Kitty Su nightclub is a tribute to its namesake, a fictional character created by Suri himself. “It was a story that I wrote and the club is themed around that,” said Suri who is already working on fresh plans for Kitty Su this year.
“Apart from Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh, I am looking to open in Bengaluru and Kolkata. We have taken Kitty Su pop-ups there and have had a tremendous response,” informs Suri who also wants to launch Kitty Su virtually. Clothing and merchandise is already available.
For someone who was closely involved with theatre and grew up dreaming to be an actor, it comes as no surprise that Suri would like to make a film on Kitty Su. “While I dreamt of becoming an actor only briefly, I really see myself as a producer or director. I think the story of Kitty Su would make sense as a movie,” said Suri who has also directed a conceptual short film, ‘White Horse’ (an anti-drug film) that plays out at Lalit properties.
And speaking of the hospitality industry, Suri, who closely oversees the group’s food and beverage section as well, believes that food fads and trends come and go. “The customer today is more interested in knowing where the ingredients are coming from, the freshness, the quality and that’s what we are also emphasising on,” he lets us know.
Spearheading ideas like ‘grow your own’, many of his hotels have their own green patches. “We believe that the customer wants good service and quality. Customers are aware of carbon footprints and question everything. There is an increasing tribe that doesn’t like wastage in buffets and wedding. We reciprocate that. A conscious customer means a conscious business,” Suri explains.
Given that his entire family – his mother and two sisters – are all involved in the family business, dinner table conversations regarding work are inevitable. “The service industry is a 365 days a year, 24 hours a day job and while we try not to discuss work back home, it always does end up happening,” says Suri who credits the strong network of women in his life for his success. “Be it my mother, my aunts or my sisters, I have learnt a lot from each one of them. I consider myself lucky,” shares Suri whose sense of style adds to his affable personality. And he sure knows how to throw a party!
(This interview first appeared in Life in Chandigarh)