Being of Indian origin and the first women to be appointed at the office of the secretary of AAHOA; how did you react on hearing about this?
My first thought was “Thank you” and not just for people who voted for me for the whole membership. Because when I heard Bruce, our new Chairman, announce the result, it really hit me for the first time that AAHOA members had actively put their trust and faith in me. I have been with the association for the last five years; my role was a Female Director at Large for Eastern Region. But to be elected as a Secretary and to eventually becoming the Chairwoman or Chairman. That was a huge honor because that shows that the membership was ready, and it was certainly a time for big change. I was extremely fortunate to have so many friends, family members, and supporters there to celebrate with me.
What do you think about the “Make in India” concept
I support any initiative that contributes to the overall well-being of my native country. This is where I was born and raised; came to the United States at the age of 15. I have a lot of gratitude towards India because I believe India is where it is thought that hard work is very important and if you want to achieve anything in life that’s where the beginning point is. I think it’s very wise of Prime Minister Modi to look outside India to help improve the internal economic situation. India needs external investors to bring capital into the country, create jobs, and spur manufacturing.
Why women never got considered for this position till your appointment?
When I joined AAHOA 5 years ago as a Board Member, one of my initiative was to bring women participation and engagement to the new level. And we have done it not just myself but past female board of directors and committee members. We have done many women conferences; what we were trying to do was to be where we are today. Indian women always tend to take a backside. They tend to say we will support our husband and let them take all the initiatives. We will do what are most important things in life, like take care of family, business and everything that needs to be done for the same. When I won this election first thing that came to my mind was “it was time” and I really believe that it was time for the change. AAHOA has always encouraged women; it always has been a platform for women empowerment. For the last 5 years or so as a board and women; we have really made a progress and broke the barrier. This is truly an example how membership was ready and they finally saw it. Whether you are a man or a woman, as long as you are a qualified candidate and you have a right vision for the association, why not choose a woman for the position. I think it took some time; like 27 years; but I think it also gave membership enough time and opportunity to learn what women can do, also as much as men can do. I’m honored to be the first female secretary and excited about becoming national chair in 2019. I hope that my election will inspire other women to pursue their own professional goals and not be hindered by traditional gender roles.
Why did you choose to be in Hotel Business? If not this, then what would you want to be?
Like many other AAHOA members, for me, the hotel business is first a family business. My family bought an independent hotel when I was 18 years old, and my family was in hotel business from the start, for example, my uncle and aunts; everybody was in the hotel business, so it was a very natural thing to do. I also have my own financial service business which is Wealth Protection Strategies. So I think owning a business is in our blood, and I really believe that, its Indian blood. But choosing a hotel business was more like a natural side. Once we bought it, I really enjoyed it myself, and we started purchasing other hotels afterwards when the opportunities came; I enjoy being a job creator and a business owner. If I weren’t in the hotel business, I’d probably own another type of business. The rewards of entrepreneurship are too great not to.
Yes, I own two businesses. I have three hotels (Holiday Inn in Pennsylvania, Best Western In New York and Ramada Inn in Allentown Pennsylvania), and I also have a partnership with my father in Rodeway Inn Allentown Pennsylvania. And I started my financial services practice, some 16 years ago; and I think that business and hotel business really goes hand in hand. Because what I do on financial services is more on succession planning for business owners. It gives me a different perspective from the financial market price and also gives me a perspective of being a hotel owner.
Can you share some insights about your professional achievements or recognition?
As I said, I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have a large, solid support network all my life. A lot of Indian girls hear that they need to marry well; my father always told me I needed to work hard and dream big, so that’s what I have done. I owe so much of my success to him and to the rest of my family and friends. Natural talent and intelligence will only take you so far. If you don’t have anyone cheering you on, believing in you, it’s easy to lose faith.
Can you let us know more about the hotel(s) you own and where do we find them?
My husband and I own a Holiday Inn; a Best Western in the Bronx; and a Wyndham property in Allentown, PA.
I enjoy this business so much because it’s always changing; it’s always a new challenge. There are so many variables in play that determine whether any hotel is going to be a success, and you have to make sure you take a big-picture view of things every time you make a decision. Things that seem small can become enormous just due to the nature of the industry. You have to be able to look five years down the road and make decisions that make sense for both today and the future.
How does AAHOA bring value to your hotel business?
AAHOA has more than 15,000. And, the numbers continue to climb every year. If I am somebody who owns a hotel, I can’t imagine not being an AAHOA member. Because AAHOA is not just for arriving on advocacy side, it also works on the franchise relations. AAHOA is also a part of helping independent hoteliers, bringing young professionals to help their businesses to the next levels. Getting women hoteliers out of their comfort zone so that they can get their businesses to the next levels. AAHOA is fighting for the hoteliers on the national level and state level. We do over 100 town hall meetings throughout the country; 20 regionals. We are also doing spotlights to other nations. So the amount of benefit that membership receives are really high, and the membership fee is very low, it is $159/year which is nothing. It’s like 30 something cents a day. So it’s amazing that if you are a hotel owner, how could you not take the benefits of it. Someone who is there to fight for you on state laws, local laws and national laws; franchise relations, helping you on the vendor side so that you get the best pricing for all of your products and services. And somewhere you are getting a networking opportunity because AAHOA is not just an organization, it is a big community where we have so many members. We have over 3500 members work together and they are able to network with each other. We are the voice of America’s hotel owners and we are the largest hotel organization in the world. So if you are a hotel owner, it really makes no sense to me, why you are not an AAHOA member. You should be an AAHOA member and become a lifetime member.
What have been the key activities and achievements of AAHOA in the past?
We reached 15,000 members at the end of 2015, which was incredible. Also in 2015, we were successful in getting the Small Business Administration loan program permanently reinstated. That had been a top legislative goal for about three years, and achieving it was a fantastic feeling. Every day we make things better for hotel owners all over the country by helping them solve problems, gain valuable industry education, run their hotels more efficiently and network with fellow owners.
Can you spell out your strategy to lead AAHOA, what will you focus on?
I ran my platform to win this election on “continuity of values”, and the second one “change of perspective” and what I meant by that is, we need to continue as an organization with all the values and all the things that past chairman or past board of directors and our memberships have created to make AAHOA what it is right now. We also need to have a change of perspective, having somebody like me who can bring the change of perspective would take AAHOA to the next level. My biggest priority at this moment is to retain the trust that AAHOA members placed in me when they elected me by being accountable and accessible. I plan to spend plenty of time with members, listening to their concerns and ideas, and using their feedback to shape my own approach to helping set AAHOA’s goals.
How will you make your AAHOA Office tenure memorable?
I know being the first woman officer and being in line to become the first female national chair makes my tenure unique. I’m humbled and honored by the leadership opportunity granted to me by our members. It will certainly be memorable for me. But that’s not enough. I hope that when I am no longer an officer, AAHOA members remember me as someone who listened to and understood their issues. I don’t want to be a celebrity or a figurehead; I want to give back to this association and work hard to make a difference within it. That desire will guide all of my words and actions over the next four years, and I’m excited to get started.
You have stepped in the secretary’s Chair and in time we look forward to you as the first women Chairman for AAHOA?
I would serve this year as a Secretary which would be a term of 2016-17, at the next convention which will be in next April, I would move up automatically to the Treasurer and then following year I will move up to the Vice Chair and then in 2019 is when I will take the role of Chair for this national organization. Which will be the first female as a Secretary or Treasurer or Vice Chair or the Chair of this amazing organization. So it is a 4-year term and then I will be the Ex-official.
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