Diversifying family business to new heights

Sonica Malhotra — Director, MBD Group

Thirteen years ago, Sonica Malhotra Kandhari helped her father Ashok Kumar Malhotra, a big name in publishing, diversify into the hospitality business, starting with MBD Radisson, Noida’s first five-star hotel.

Born in Jalandhar and brought up in Delhi since she was five, a Delhi University Rank Holder, she studied B. Com at Jesus and Mary College (Delhi University) and later pursued an MBA specializing in Finance from International Management Institute, New Delhi. She has also attended a program in Leadership Development (PLD) from Harvard Business School, Boston.

Sonica says that for her, education is an ultimate stress buster. She got married in her second year of graduation and thereafter completed her post-graduation and leadership program. She feels that continuous learning is about the constant expansion of skills and skill-sets through learning and increasing knowledge. She recommends that one should keep enhancing the professional skills and come rejuvenated to take on new projects and assignments throughout the life.

High point in career

“The diversification into Hospitality has been the vision of my father Mr A.K. Malhotra. In these past few years, MBD Group has successfully established itself in the hospitality industry through its maiden venture, “Radisson Blu MBD Hotel Noida” (Delhi NCR). The second venture of the group is the “Radisson Blu Hotel MBD Ludhiana” which is the first 5 star deluxe hotel in Ludhiana, India.

For design and architecture of some of the prestigious upcoming projects MBD group has taken on board  “The Steelman Partners”-famous for designing some of the best casino hotels & resorts  like The Grand Venetian and the Four Seasons at Macau, Plaza in Las vegas, MGM, Harrah’s, Wynn,  Swiss Casinos, Sheraton and Hyatt. The well-known interior design consultant “Papiri” has also been engaged.

Most challenging assignment so far

“The greatest challenge that we faced was to bring innovation into the group without losing out on the MBD Legacy. We invested time and had put in great efforts to implement new systems, HR procedures, organizational restructuring for sustainable growth. We are also very proud of the fact that we have retained a lot of the key employees and talent in the company, with some employees being more than 40 years old in the company.

When we lost our father, we not only had our own personal grief to deal with but also had a larger responsibility of MBD Group , as well as the need to protect what he had given his life to build up. It was a very critical time for us, yet, we did not let this discourage us. We were successful in directing our multiple business verticals through many pitfalls.”

Greatest inspiration              

“My elder sister Monica Malhotra Kandhari is my best friend, she’s my pillar of strength and motivation. We have a great level of understanding between us. We also trust each other a lot and do not allow anyone or anything to come between our relationships. In some cases even though I may have a different opinion but I would go by Monica’s  judgment, as she has better knowledge of certain things and same is the  case with her, on matters on which Monica feels I have a better understanding she would leave the final call to me.

My father Mr Ashok Kumar Malhotra started working at the family book shop, ‘Malhotra Book Depot’, while he was still in school. He was a leader; he was an institution in himself where he was a teacher as well as a student.  I have always looked up to him and some way or the other tried to be like him but I don’t think I will ever be as great a person as him. My mother has always ensured that her daughters are brought up to be strong individuals with independent thinking and yet be much grounded.”

Most important milestone in life

“In the initial years of my career, as we were the daughters of the chairman of the group, it did take us a little while to establish our credentials and ability. It was a bit difficult initially, but once we proved ourselves, the acceptance was far greater.

I remember when we were opening our first hotel. It was big project, the blue eyed baby! I was excited for sure but nervousness wasn’t missing either. Yet not for once did my father make me feel overwhelmed with the responsibility. Instead, he just told me to go ahead and give it my best. Even today, when I’ve been a working for more than a decade and I still find out new things every day, things that make me energized and excited. “

Women are the better halves. What does it mean?

“I don’t believe in this at all. I think each individual succeeds or fails, more on the basis of their own mental and emotional make-up.”