Since launching our mentorship programme, back in April 2020, The Growth Works has been keen to learn more about the mentors and mentees who make up our network. This profile series offers a glimpse into the minds of industry leaders who are generously sharing their time and expertise with our mentees, as well as shining a spotlight on the upcoming talent within our industry.
Name: Mihir Thacker
Why did you get into hospitality?
I grew up in India and my father had several friends who were in the hotel industry. It was always fascinating to go with my dad for lunch or dinner with the GM. You know the GM seemed to have this magic around him. Everyone would go up to him, you get seated for fine dining, he knew everyone and everyone wanted to know him and it was quite magical in that sense. We’re looking at the early eighties when you start going out with your father and your mother and they take you for dinner and for brunches and you see what’s going on. It’s very fascinating. And that is one of the reasons that got me interested in the hospitality industry.
The second is people; it’s a people’s business. I like people, I like interacting with people. What better way to do it than through hospitality? You get to meet different cultures, work with different people, you satisfy your urge to travel and explore. It all kind of came together.
Plus my grandma was an innkeeper, the traditional family style run hotel. She remains an inspiration and I wanted to follow her footsteps I guess. She & my grandfather bought a hotel in the 1950’s at a resort destination outside Bombay, it was owned by a British family that left India. I spent my vacations there with her, it was interesting to watch her run a hotel.
What are your career highlights?
I think there have been several highlights but if I were to pick one turning point I think it was when India was going through a liberalisation process and the government decided to divest out of government owned hotels and I advised a family office in the acquisition of the asset in New Delhi. Coincidentally the guy who bought the hotel was my roommate at Les Roches, to date we remain the best of friends.
We worked with him to bring Shangri-La to manage the hotel in 2003, this was the first managed asset outside of South East Asia for the brand. That was very interesting to bring Shangri-La into India. And then this launched my career with Shangri-La where they said ‘hey, we like what you’re doing. Can you head up strategy and development for us in the Middle East, Africa and India. And I went on to launch Shangri-La first ever development office outside of their HQ in Hong Kong.
What is the project you are most excited about right now?
Actually it has nothing to do with hospitality. My family, we’ve launched a charitable trust which is funded by our family members and we incubated a school. It’s opened and run for the benefit of underprivileged children who don’t have access to formal education. We started on a smaller scale. Now we have over three hundred students. The school is one hundred kilometres from Bombay and it’s in a more remote, tribal area. The children who go there are also children from the surrounding villages. It starts from kindergarten right up to grade 10. That is my passion project. But it’s nothing to do with hotels, nothing to do with hospitality.
What are you most looking forward to after the pandemic?
I haven’t seen my parents. They live in India, so physically I haven’t seen them. Obviously you see them through the screen but I will look forward to meeting them and other family members as well as friends who are scattered all over the world.
I think for a lot of people what they are worried about is a sense of vulnerability. We need to really stay in touch with the people who matter in our lives. Fortunately we are a close family, I have known my close friends right from when we were 5-7 years old, that’s a lifetime, about 40 years now!
Why did you join The Growth Works mentorship programme?
When I came back to India I didn’t have any structured guidance, so I sort of stumbled my way around according to what I thought was the appropriate way to do things. But along the way I was fortunate to have two or three individuals at various stages of my life who have been in a role of a mentor. If it wasn’t for them, their guidance or their 100% backing or their faith, I would not have been able to do half the things that I have been fortunate to do.
It’s important to share experiences and help other individuals move along and try and shape their career. And that you learn from them, I mean, you can’t force your way into your mentees’ way of thinking, you can only develop perspective from your experience. Let them take what they want. Some take a lot, some take nothing, some take a bit. It’s up to the individual what you take and put out.
I think having a structured programme, giving younger professionals an opportunity to interact with people who have a little bit more experience, in a structured manner and providing access to those experienced individuals is a great idea.
What are you looking for in a mentee?
I think more than anything, it’s important that you have a passion for it. That’s a real plus. I think you’ve got to want to do things and get ahead in your professional life and be focused enough to ensure that if you are reaching out to a mentor, you’re not wasting your or your mentor’s time. If you go down this route and five years later you figure out that this is not what you want to do and you want to run a dive centre in Fiji, so be it. But in those five years, you will stay focused and committed and have reached out to people who helped you along the way and do justice to that because people are investing their time into it.
Tell us one thing you’ve learned since you joined the programme/from a mentee.
I was speaking to someone today who is studying at Les Roches school; she wants to go into revenue management. And I think the one thing I have learned is that unlike when I was growing up, the young professionals today are far more outspoken and they are reaching out to you for a straight up conversation and I think that’s something which is refreshing and very interesting.
They’re a lot more confident than, at least when I look back at my career, than my peers were at their age. And they know a lot. They’re a little bit more aware of what they want to do. And they’re more aware of what they don’t want to do. That’s important. I think it’s more important to know what you don’t want to do.
Would you recommend The Growth Works mentorship programme? Why?
I would definitely recommend it and I think it’s important because we’re able to bring across a cross section of professionals who are able to guide and shape the younger professionals. I talked on a topic which was related to investment and ownership during this time. You have someone speaking next on sustainability, someone else spoke on another topic and I think those topics are all relevant. It really depends what people want to take away from it. But I would definitely recommend it.