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PERSONALITY PADMAJA KUMARI MEWAR

eternal mewar... and the princess KAMAL GILL

Padmaja Kumari Mewar, the royal princess of Mewar, has been featured by The New York Times. She has been written about and photographed by any number of leading international publications. But this charming blue blood prefers to be known as a professional hotelier 12

PADMAJA KUMARI MEWAR may have been born into a royal family which traces its lineage back 1,500 years through 77 generations, but she displays the same entrepreneurial streak that her father and grandfather did. From a privileged world of wealth, this royal princess has made the transition to the world of hospitality business with ease and flair. She says, “It started with my grandfather who converted Jag Niwas Palace into what we now know as the famous Lake Palace Hotel way back in the early 1960s. The HRH Group of Hotels was my father’s brainchild. I represent the third generation of heritage hoteliers from the House of Mewar.” Today, the HRH Group is India's largest and only chain of heritage palace hotels and resorts under private ownership. The nine hotels, both heritage palaces and retreats, boast of over 200 exclusive rooms. The proverbial golden spoon exists, but Padmaja prefers to chalk out her own destiny. “I have not been brought up to believe that because I am born a royal, I do not have to do any work. My dad is open to the modern way of life. I completed high school at Northfield Mount Hermon School in western Massachusetts. I picked up my degree in International Relations from Tulane University. I worked as an events coordinator at Burlington Capital Markets in New York and from there, to the Four Seasons New York, where I worked for over two years. I joined my father a few years ago, after my stint with Four Seasons.” She is, indeed, focussed on business

development for the HRH Group of Hotels, which enjoys a niche hi-end positioning on account of the fact that the heritage properties are genuine palaces of Maharajas, with original artefacts, a throwback to a royal era with legendary hospitality. She qualifies, “We want people to appreciate our heritage product which offers timeless luxury and modern amenities. We don’t compromise on technology on properties that are 200 years old.” She is clear on the positioning of the hotel group. “While everyone bandies the word ‘authenticity’ these days, guests can easily sense the difference between a new hotel modelled on the lines of a palace and a genuine 200-year-old palace which is converted into a hotel. Our kind of authenticity is timeless as history and tradition is palpable everywhere.” Bringing luxe to the heritage hotel group is another key consideration that Padmaja constantly works upon, as the recent renovations of the group’s two flagship properties–the Shiv Niwas and Fateh Prakash Palaces in Udaipur–demonstrate. The work entailed restoration of the property's magnificence and overseeing a team of restoration architects, interior designers and engineers. Exquisite, original wall fittings from the Mewar School, opulent Venetian mirrors and chandeliers, and traditional terrace suites blend subtly with jacuzzis, plasma TV, Wi-Fi, en suite ayurvedic massages, beauty treatments and a spa. “We must anticipate current trends, while creating our exclusive space in the global

INSPIRATIONAL DESIGN IS THE ULTIMATE LUXURY


“While everyone bandies the word ‘authenticity’ these days, guests can easily sense the difference between a new hotel modelled on the lines of a palace and a genuine 200year-old palace which is converted into a hotel. Our kind of authenticity is timeless as history and tradition is palpable everywhere.”

August 2009 | www.lifestyleliving.in

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PERSONALITY PADMAJA KUMARI MEWAR

market. We must know our history, be aware of our traditions and culture, but at the same time, we must evolve with the times,” she informs. Padmaja is now Joint Managing Director of the hotel company and travels extensively to promote the chain. She informs, “With regard to business, we are open to expansion, but we don’t believe in numbers. We went to Russia a couple of months ago to target a niche audience from Russia. In fact, Russia’s May issue of the National Geographic Traveler is where we got featured. Our customer is one who appreciates culture and heritage. I am visiting Israel to synergise with a select audience. We are cautious in our approach and we keep our size in mind–we have a limited inventory. Also, business synergies are very important to us. We are consolidating at

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this moment.” The human connection is very important to Padmaja. “Hospitality is a way of life for me. Even as a young child, I was taught that with privileges, come responsibility. Thus, I have been taught by my family to take forward our heritage of being “custodians” over the region surrounding the city of Udaipur in India. My late grandfather, Maharana Bhagwat Singhji, set up a charitable foundation in 1969 to preserve the region’s heritage and develop a better local educational infrastructure. My father, Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, added health care and support for regional crafts and arts. We have recently involved the Getty Foundation in our preservation initiatives. I am forging new associations with local NGOs, such as Alakh Nayan Mandir, a medical

institution dedicated to eye care, and Seva Mandir, a group advocating women’s rights,” she shares. Speaking about the challenges in her life, she is candid in her view that her ability to take life as it comes is one of her biggest assets. She asserts, “In a challenge, you keep thinking constantly. It pushes me to work harder within the resources we have. One of my biggest challenges is to keep alive our rich heritage and make it meaningful and relevant for 21st century global citizens. Towards this end, we are driving the 'Eternal Mewar' vision, which provides a seamless experience of heritage tourism, edutainment, adventure and spirituality to guests at the City Palace Complex in Udaipur. An instance is the Mewar Sound & Light Show at the museum, the Audio Guide Service at Crystal Gallery and The City Palace Museum and the Mewar Solar Cell. In the years ahead, Udaipur will continue to be known as a heritage city with sustainable developmental programmes.” On her style of management, she asserts, “I am a practical person–I see things realistically. I never let go of realities, especially during implementation of ideas. I make my expectations clear and in concurrence with my colleagues... after that, my tolerance level is low. I try to work towards being a fair person.” So, is she a workaholic? Padmaja quips in reply, “When I am in Udaipur, I am 100 per cent here, and when I am not, I am still 80 per cent here. It helps me achieve more. I am not dysfunctional and depend on myself.” Padmaja, however, puts in a 12-hour workday easily. “There’s so much to do and sleep appears a waste of time. I am usually up early mornings to study mathematics. It’s an indulgence I allow myself. There is a sense of certainty with them. It’s a strange, inexplicable attraction,” she confesses, adding on a lighter note, “At the end of the day, I qualify as a nerd.” And how does she relax? “I have just started writing for a children’s magazine–I like to be simple and direct. I enjoy music and spent a lot of time in New Orleans some years ago. I love to travel. My favourite destination is Greece, without a doubt. The country has a special place in my heart–I made some wonderful friends there and the human connection makes a huge difference. I am also totally involved in the activities of Eternal Mewar and these activities bring me great joy.”

INSPIRATIONAL DESIGN IS THE ULTIMATE LUXURY


August 2009 | www.lifestyleliving.in

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Padmaja Kumari Mewar, the royal princess of Mewar, has been featured by The New York Times. She has been written about and photographed by a...

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