Though certainly not the only example of a hospitality veteran launching his own brand, MPS Puri, the mastermind behind Nira Hotels & Resorts, the boutique luxury hotel management group he launched in 2009, has his own unique take on what appeals to the elite traveler who likes to tread off the beaten path.
Travel Editor Tova Syrowicz recently caught up with Puri to find out what sets his properties apart, and what fans of the fledgling brand have to look forward to in the coming years.
Elite Traveler: What’s your professional background?
MPS Puri: I’ve been in the hotel business for more than 40 years—on various continents and for some of the world’s most highly regarded hospitality companies. I was very fortunate to be a part of the reopening team at Raffles in Singapore. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be part of that historic event. I stayed with Raffles for 10 years and learned a tremendous amount about customer service. From there, I had the opportunity to work at the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore during its opening, which was part of The Fullerton Heritage project. It was another once-in-a-lifetime experience to witness the milestone event in Singapore’s hospitality industry.
My experience working at Halekulani also had a strong impact on my career. The renowned resort has a very strong commitment to guest service brought to life by local Hawaiian staff through the concept of “Aloha.” I learned a great deal about authentic, regional cuisine and dining experience at La Mer, which was the top-rated restaurant in Hawaii.
Later I went to Miami and was responsible for opening and operating The Setai in South Beach as general manager, which was another career highlight.
ET: What prompted you to launch your own brand, and did you always have a vision for a brand/group, or did you fall in love with one property and expand organically from there?
MPS Puri: When you receive an “Ivy League” education, as I feel I did while working for venerable institutions such as Raffles, The Fullerton, Fairmont, and Halekulani, you learn from the best. I learned the best practices from the best brands and created my own vision for the Nira brand.
ET: What’s the most important lesson, positive or negative, that you’ve carried over from your vast hospitality experience to your own brand?
MPS Puri: For more than 40 years, I have worked for the world’s finest hotel companies and I’ve had the opportunity to put into practice many innovations in customer service. Nira is built on that guest-centric philosophy, but is raising the bar even higher on guest service and satisfaction. That commitment to the guest overrides everything else. In everything we do, we are saying, “It is an honor and privilege to be your host.” After all, we are first and foremost in business to serve our guests…it is an HONOR to serve them.
ET: Where does the name Nira come from?
MPS Puri: Nira is a Sanskrit word meaning Pure. Nira is pure, honest, and sincere.
ET: Can you tell me a little about each of the three properties that you have opened to date?
MPS Puri: Each destination has something amazing to offer, taking the most authentic experiences of the region to life. The Shanti Maurice is on the unspoiled south of Mauritius, situated on one of the best beaches on the island. With the most extensive collection of private villas, Shanti Maurice offers stylish and elegant escapism. Nira Alpina is in the heart of the mountains and the epitome of a Swiss chalet. Nira Caledonia is a blend of Bohemian chic with contemporary comfort and period features to make it the ideal Edinburgh retreat. All of these locations are slightly off the beaten path, ideal for independent and discerning nomadic travelers.
ET: What elements differentiate them/the brand from others in the luxury hotel market?
MPS Puri: There are currently three resorts in the Nira Hotels & Resorts group that are very diverse. Shanti Maurice has one of the largest spas in the Indian Ocean and a very comprehensive Ayurvedic spa, Nira Alpina is the only true ski-in/ski-out experience in the St. Moritz area, and Nira Caledonia is in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Edinburgh. However, at each property, it is the core values of Nira that stand out. Those values are excellent service, relationships, and value for money. And because I have spent most of my career in food and beverage and initiated concepts like the Raffles Culinary Academy and the Raffles Hotel Wine & Food Experience, all Nira properties will share an ongoing commitment to culinary arts.
ET: Do any of the properties have a “top suite” product?
MPS Puri: Our Shanti Villa offers the most prestigious guest accommodation on the Island of Mauritius, covering 800 square meters. It features a private swimming pool with built-in Jacuzzi, outdoor rain shower, dining pavilions, a living room, two bedrooms, three bathrooms and a butler’s room.
ET: What’s your repeat business like?
MPS Puri: We are a relatively new company so it’s too early for us to have a strong repeat clientele, but welcoming returning guests is certainly a priority for the brand.
ET: Are there any new openings on the horizon for Nira?
MPS Puri: Our focus will continue to be in Europe, the Indian Ocean, and in Africa. In Europe we are working on projects in Italy, Turkey, and Greece. We are also currently developing Nira Sathwa in Seychelles. This property will have 75 rooms and villas, two restaurants, two bars, and an extensive spa.
ET: What’s the five-year plan?
MPS Puri: “What makes God really laugh is when you tell him your plans.” As of now we want to continue to grow the company, working with good people. It is important to me, and personally very rewarding, that we nurture good people.
ET: And the 10-year plan?
MPS Puri: It is too early to tell.