Talash Hotels Group was founded by Sanjay and I in 2007. Prior to this we came from a very competitive sales background, we were now very ambitious and eager to invest our hard work and earnings into a business of our own. Richard Branson being a huge inspiration to us, we made sure to keep one of his famous quotes in mind through our business journey, “Take a chance, it’s the best way to test yourself, have fun and push boundaries”. From our very first acquisition, Falstaff Hotel, we now have a growing portfolio of 13 hotels and an extensive amount of property.
Sanjay and I have come from a very modest background where our father was a factory worker and our mother was working in an unskilled job in a local hotel. From a young age watching our mother and father struggling in their highly demanding jobs for a “next to nothing” pay packet, made Sanjay and I promise each other we would one day buy a hotel of our own so our parents would never need to struggle again. And this is where our journey began…
At the ages of 10 and 13, we had begun to start looking for ways to make money. At these young ages, our first business was Car Boot Sales, we would go into local auction houses and purchase ex-catalogue toys and sell them at the local car boot. Not being able to drive at these young ages, our father would drive us around. At the age of 15, Sanjay started working at the local hotel in which our mother worked, and I went on to get a job at Pizza Hut, we were both working as many hours as our bodies let us. All we had was the end image of one day having an empire of our own, which has fulfilled our motivation to keep on going.
At the age of 18, both Sanjay and I purchased our first buy to let property. Sanjay moved to London to study Business Studies at the University of Westminster, after 3 months of him being there a business opportunity came to him, there was retail unit going for a very low rate, he thought it would be perfect to rent out for very reasonable rates for the first 5 years. The struggle we had seen as children was nowhere near what we were now about to go through, this was now real life! Sanjay tried to sell various merchandise but was unsuccessful, and then he stumbled across a company closing down which had been selling quality evening wear. He proposed a deal on a sale and return basis, and it took off to a great extreme. Once the business became stable, Sanjay started to look for auction properties in London and began a property portfolio. During this time, I was starting up a retail unit in Coventry selling similar merchandise as Sanjay as well as Asian high-end evening wear. I would regularly travel to India to meet with top designers and purchase their last season collections in bulk. Using our sales backgrounds and the experience Sanjay had gained in London, we made sure we made maximum profits and more from this merchandise. I also started to build a buy to let portfolio within the West Midlands. At the age of 21, I purchased a great property which was able to change our fortunes. The property was brought through a private sale from the University of Warwick, we sold the property within 3 months of purchase gaining a very substantial amount.
In 2007 this is where our dream at the age of 10 and 13 became a reality. We now had our deposit to purchase our first hotel, Falstaff Hotel in Leamington Spa. We brought this hotel during the market peak. We were desperate to buy our first hotel and see our dream come true, there was a limited amount of hotels on the market at the time but then we came across a 63 bedroomed hotel in Leamington Spa which touched our hearts at first site. This was late 2007, by the beginning of 2008 the signs of a major financial meltdown started. We found ourselves in a very challenging situation, at the start of 2009 the bank gave us a one-day notice and removed our overdraft. Just like that! The Bank then arranged an emergency meeting in London. It was then they then made the decision to put our Company into Business Support, as the hotel started to decline in profits. They also insisted on a re-valuation, to our horror we had lost more than 50% of the value due to the recession. Our trust in ourselves, in our business and in our faith kept us going and believing.
It was now time to make some drastic changes. Firstly, we had to cut back on staffing costs and then to analyse each and every cost to make sure we were maximising profits from every angle possible. A great advantage which we had and what you may call a “saving grace”, was the fact Falstaff Hotel was located in central Leamington Spa. This meant the demand was there for the rooms.
By 2010 we were faced with a great opportunity to purchase the Allesley Hotel in Coventry. Originally the Allesley Hotel was on sale for £5.5million, it then came on offer to us for £1.8million. This has always been a very iconic hotel in our hometown, we knew this was an opportunity we could not miss. For a start, it was in our hometown, and the banqueting space was phenomenal, able to hold up to 1000 people we knew with our expertise and vast knowledge of the Asian community we could make the hotel a high success. It wasn’t easy; there was very little funding available as the faith in regional hotels had been completely broken because of the amount of failed hotels. We knocked on over 20 lenders doors, literally begging for a loan but unfortunately, everyone said no. We then approached Santander and asked for the manager to come and see us on site. Sanjay and I arrived 30 minutes earlier than the meeting time; the car park was totally empty, as we arrived inside we were welcomed by over 30 buckets collecting rainwater because of the roof being in such disrepair. Both looking at each other we found it very hard to keep positive thinking there was no chance any Bank would lend due to the hotel’s conditions and finances. However, Santander provided the miracle we thought we wouldn’t see and said yes! However, with a risk attached of Additional Assets from our Personal Assets.
We then went through the struggle of refurbishment; it was a challenge to say the least having a minimal budget. Sanjay continued to run his retail unit in London to be able to support Falstaff Hotel as it was still in Business Support. He would then come back on the weekends to help with the events taking place. We were literally working round the clock, most weekends meant working 21 hours non-stop each day. We would be coming home after an event at 3am, to return the next morning for the next event at 6am. The first 12 months meant us over-seeing everything. From room lettings to marketing the hotel, to taking enquiries for events, to then meeting the client, doing the show around and signing the deal, the then being there on the day and dealing with everything operationally. This helped us keep costs to a minimum, we were evening going to local supermarkets to purchase soft drinks instead of getting them delivered, every cost was analysed and we made sure we would do what we could to keep them down. We are proud to look back and see the first 12 months, even while the refurbishment was ongoing we made a substantial profit. Through this family life was neglected, never being home and seeing any friends or family left a big hole in our hearts, but we knew it wouldn’t be forever, and we knew our family and friends would understand and be proud of us. Our hunger to see our business go from strength to strength kept us going.
After this great success, we realised what we can do as Entrepreneurs. On the back of Allesley Hotel we then purchased Barons Court Hotel, 103 bedroomed Hotel on the verge of closing due to costs being higher than the income. It still makes us very emotional to think back to the day of completion, we had staff coming and hugging us in tears so thankful for us saving their jobs. And that was when it touched us, more than a business to make our family comfortable in life, we were providing opportunities to allow others to keep on providing for themselves and their families. Our main objective has been to make sure employees feel secure in their workplace.
In 2013 we purchased Honiley Court Hotel and Chimney House Hotel both were brought out of administration and on verge of closing. 2014 allowed us to add Risley Hall Hotel and Spa into our portfolio. In 2015 we added Huntley Arms Hotel and Quorn Country Hotel. 2016 gave us the great opportunity to add Stoke Rochford Hall Hotel and Golf Course, this has become our flagship hotel. In 2017 we have acquired our first group purchase of four Mercure Hotel; Telford, Wigan, Wolverhampton and Chester.
Sanjay and I have always tried to maintain an excellent balance between work, family and closest friends, who have provided us with a solid network support when most needed. Being brothers, many questioned how we would be able to work together on a daily basis, but we are proud to say our brotherly bond has made us even closer and able to succeed so well in business.
Ravi & Sanjay Kathuria