They say it takes two to tango. One look at the phenomenal success of Jui and Ratan Sharma proves this adage true. Ratan is the chairman and managing director and Jui an executive director at Triton Hotels & Resorts, the company best known for bringing two of the most luxurious and elusive hospitality brands to India — Fairmont in Jaipur and Raffles in Udaipur. Riding high on the success of completing a decade of the former and a year of the latter, this enterprising couple is all set to expand their net.
“Our family has been into infrastructure construction for many years, but it was my father who diversified into building small hotels, which he’d run himself. When I joined the family business in 1998, I started looking after this aspect of the business,” explains Ratan, as he joins us over a Zoom call amid a hectic travel schedule, his partner in life and work the picture of poise beside him.
“I soon realised that running the hotels severely restricted our growth, as it left us with no time to do anything else,” Ratan adds. “I felt we must develop the property, but hand it over to renowned names in the hospitality segment to run.”
When his father was developing a new property in Kukas on the outskirts of Jaipur, in the early 2000s, a forward-thinking Ratan made the bold move of inviting an international hotel chain to run it.
“Ours was the first such international tie-up in Rajasthan, and people were shocked at our choice of location in the middle of nowhere. But our vision was clear. We chose it because it was located near the Amber and Jaigarh forts, both major tourist attractions on the golden triangle circuit.”
Aware of the simple truth that branding makes all the difference, he approached a number of established names. Le Meridien was destined to be their first partner. They opened in 2003, and the “gamble” paid off when they recovered revenues, expected in the third year of business, in the first year itself. The success of this hotel brought the Sharmas to the notice of more hospitality giants, and soon, others came knocking at their door.
Fairmont Jaipur, the first Fairmont hotel in India, opened in 2012 and soon became a popular luxury wedding destination. Similarly, Raffles Udaipur — the first in India and one of only 15 in the world — opened to much fanfare in 2021.
“Everyone loved what we did with the Fairmont, right from our unusual choice of paint to mimic the lime plaster finish of traditional palaces, to the tasteful interiors comprising intricate and aesthetic elements sourced from local vendors,” says Jui, who was closely involved with the design aspect of both properties. “Our architect, Clive Gray, is from England. But he did in-depth research to recreate the grandeur of the Indian palaces of yore, and his tremendous attention to detail really shone.”
Though she thoroughly enjoys the process now, Jui was not trained in this sector. She became closely involved in the hotels after the birth of their first child, when the Fairmont was being developed, and has continued to oversee certain aspects of the business ever since.
Originally from Akola, Maharashtra, Jui spent her formative years in Kuwait, fleeing with her family during the Gulf War. After her sheltered upbringing abroad, resettling in the bustling city of Pune was a difficult transition. Yet, she soon made lots of friends and fell in love with the place.
The couple met while studying in Pune, when quiet and shy Ratan noticed a bubbly and vibrant Jui in a car with her friends. Immediately taken with her, he asked his friend to invite her for their next social gathering. The rest, as they say, is history. “We are complete opposites! I have a highly excitable personality, and he’s calm and cool. We are like the plus and minus signs in a battery!” laughs Jui.
Their distinctive personalities, though, were instrumental in strengthening their bond over the years. Highlighting their commonalities, she adds: “We are both disciplined and organised when it comes to our work and prioritise it over leisure. We function like a Venn diagram — we never overlap with each other’s work, and where there’s common ground, we try to communicate with each other.”
Juggling their various roles as life partners, entrepreneurs, parents, children and friends does not come easy. Ratan, who’s always on the move, says, “It’s hard to balance everything, but when it comes to making tough decisions that concern the family, I’m there. Jui initially spent fewer hours at work, but as the children grew up, her participation at work consequently increased.”
Demands of work never dissipate, but Jui and Ratan also find time to unwind with their two sons and close group of friends by taking short breaks. Highlighting their love of travel, Jui says, “Before the pandemic, we’d take long breaks overseas, but we started exploring our country since Covid hit. I believe we should spend money in our own country and give our hospitality industry and economy a boost. We recently visited a beautiful homestay near Udaipur and went to Jim Corbett National Park, too. There’s so much to see in India.”
Other than her love for exploring new places with her family, Jui is a wine connoisseur, yoga enthusiast and an avid supporter of handloom garments, which she buys exclusively from Indian designers to support the country’s economy. Another passion project of hers is Bhavani Vidyalaya, a school in Jaipur for children who are in the autism spectrum or have other special needs. Though she currently contributes in whatever capacity she can, she hopes to own a similar institute one day.
Ratan is a fitness buff who makes time to work out at least five times a week and is conscious of his eating habits, as well. Above all else, though, he’s a workaholic who’s equally passionate about his many business projects.
Next on the cards for these hoteliers is the new Raffles property set to open near their Fairmont one in Jaipur. Raffles Udaipur is also being expanded in anticipation of it becoming a favoured wedding destination. With a number of other projects in the pipeline, things are certainly looking up for the Sharmas.
Photos: Abhishek Khandelwal; Creative Direction & Styling: Amber Tikari; Hair & Makeup: Kanupriya Dular
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s February 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!
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