Vivek Chadha graduated as a civil engineer in 2010, but after just one year in industry he knew he wanted to join his father and build a property empire. “Dad had established a portfolio of commercial and residential properties but I saw an opportunity to diversify into hotels,” explains Vivek.
Aged 23, and with just twelve months experience as a shadow civil engineer under his belt, Vivek built his first hotel; the Holiday Inn in Watford.
Today, Nine Group employs over 600 people and has thirteen hotels in its portfolio including IHG, Hilton, Marriott and Accor Properties. Vivek runs the hotels side of the business while his father Gursharan oversees commercial and residential investments.
Vivek’s enthusiasm for the hotel trade is palpable. “It’s a great real estate class”, he says. “Of course there are inflationary pressures but people are still spending and the top line is growing. I’d say hotels give you the best valuations in the property market.”
Was it a risk diversifying into hotels? “Yes, of course,” says Vivek. “My risk appetite is higher than my father’s. Initially that caused conflict but it became less of an issue when we defined responsibilities.
“Dad has lived through three recessions and he reminds me about that a lot! But it’s good to have balance. I always want to go at a thousand miles an hour; he slows me down to 500, which is probably about right. I think in a family business you can take a bit more risk because you have moral as well as financial support for your decisions.
“Banks need to understand how the family works and makes decisions,” says Vivek. “It is important that banks understand the family aspirations for the next 20 to 30 years for them to understand the business dynamic, where the growth will come from and the finance requirements.”
Despite having his own place Vivek spends a lot of time in the family home. “Running a business with Dad has definitely made us closer,” says Vivek. “I would say work is about 90 per cent of what we talk about over breakfast, at weekends, even on holidays but neither of us resents that.
“We spend a lot of time discussing whether we should consolidate our position or invest for the future,” says Vivek. There are no prizes for guessing who favours which course of action.