When I was building my first hotel, I kept in mind a simple rule that if I had to sell the business, it should be easy for anybody to buy it. I remember going through the Oxford English Dictionary. Every night I used to go through 10 pages, and finally came up with 1,800 names. I brought it down to about 100. Then, down to 18. Then I called my close friends, about 10 of them, who were all executives in various companies, including, Arindam. I said, “These are the brand attributes, and here are the 18 names. Let’s discuss it.” A few of them were in advertising and so on. Finally, we selected ‘Lemon Tree’.
Interestingly, when I launched our economy brand, the name was an outcome of my daughter’s ingenuity. I had eczema and I went to a very well-known dermatologist who gave me some lousy medicine — cream with steroids in it. So I used it for a year, and unfortunately, I went to another doctor who told me, “Are you crazy?” But by then, my skin had thinned to one quarter of the normal thickness. So basically, I turned very red. She was a kid then, and had started calling me ‘red fox’. So when I needed a name for the economy hotel, I promptly called it Red Fox. Everybody panned it: “It will be used only by Indians. Aur woh Hindi mein kahenge lal lomdi. Can you say Lal Lomdi is a hotel company?” I said, “Bolne do. Dekha jayega.” Now it’s successful and everybody says it’s a great name.
My foray into business also forged several new relationships, one of which is the canine kind. My ex-wife loves dogs, and so do my kids. My son, who was still very young, one day came to see me in my office, which is on the first floor at Safdarjung Enclave. He claimed a very small pup, who could barely walk, had followed him for one kilometre from the park and, therefore, was naturally meant to be our pet. This was total bullshit, of course, as he had carried the pup all the way to the office. The dog was given the name Sparky, and was put under the staircase of the house.
One fine day, she disappeared. After a week, our guard Bahadur found the dog hanging around a dhaba. Once back, the bond turned personal and, finally, professional with