For most people, it could be only a dream living again in their childhood homes that bring back fond memories. But Girish Jhunjhnuwala, founder and chief executive of Ovolo Group, did just that and built up his career.
The Hong Kong-born Indian entrepreneur used to live in a residential building on Arbuthnot Road in Central with his family during his childhood and youth before leaving for the United States for his tertiary education.
It was scary and difficult to venture out of the family business, especially when trying something new. But I just know one thing that I can’t give up. I’ve to keep going and keep trying
Girish Jhunjhnuwala, founder and chief executive of Ovolo Group
He came back to Hong Kong to help out with his father’s watch manufacturing business after graduating from the University of Southern California. Ambitious, he then headed north, setting up watch factories on the Chinese mainland.
But, the watch industry soon went into a downturn, forcing him to sell his factories on the mainland and quit the business in 2002.
With the funds secured, he was keen to set up a new business, and found a building on Arbuthnot Road, right opposite to where he used to live, up for sale.
“It just happened by chance,” Jhunjhnuwala recalls. “I happened to be on the street where I was born and brought up. I found the building put up for sale and property prices at that time were quite reasonable. I was able to fork out the money.”
He refurbished the building and turned it into a serviced apartment initially. In 2011, he decided to transform the serviced apartment into a boutique hotel, giving birth to Ovolo Central, 2 Arbuthnot Road.
Jhunjhnuwala went on to set up the group’s headquarters in Hong Kong on the same street. In fact, it’s in the same building where he was born — the Universal Trade Centre at 3 Arbuthnot Road.
He got the idea of venturing into the hospitality sector as he “felt tired” of big-chain hotels when he was in the watch industry as he had to travel a lot for business.
“I don’t like these hotels as they charge you for everything, such as items in mini-bars in the room, snacks and breakfast,” he says. His goal is to create a freer and friendlier environment for business travelers.
But, before Jhunjhnuwala stepped into the hospitality industry, his father died. “I’ve learned a lot from my father about business,” he says. “He always told me one thing which is to be patient, and good ideas take time. So, we have to be patient.”
“It was scary and difficult to venture out of the family business, especially when trying something new. But I just know one thing that I can’t give up. I’ve to keep going and keep trying,” he says.
Jhunjhnuwala is a member of the global network of young chief executives, the Young Presidents’ Organization — a platform for young executives to connect and share their experiences and challenges. Many of the members come from the second generation of the founders of some major companies, just like Jhunjhnuwala.
“I could always meet like-minded people there and we’re able to discuss things. In fact, they don’t offer suggestions or advice in detail. But, they’re able to hear me and support my thoughts and what I believe in. That’s a big help for me,” he says.
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