AAHOA spotlight: Ishwar Naran, President and CEO, Premier Resorts and Management, Inc. (PRM)
By Kate Viana
Though his considerable success would suggest otherwise, Ishwar Naran never intended to join the hospitality industry. After earning a degree in civil engineering from India’s University of Birla VishwaKarma Mahavidyalaya, Naran found his way to the United States, where he hoped to start an engineering career.
Instead, he became a hotelier.
Naran was one of AAHOA’s earliest members and became one of the first-ever lifetime members of AAHOA in 1992. Two years later, he founded Premier Resorts and Management, Inc. (PRM). Throughout the ensuing three-plus decades, he developed, acquired and managed more than 30 hotels. Without a hospitality-industry background, he says, getting started was a challenge.
“I never really had a mentor, but I did have my business partner and brother-in-law, Mohan Bhoola,” Naran says. “He inspired me and helped me succeed in this industry, [and]taught me… about the business.”
Today, Naran is PRM’s president and CEO, overseeing acquisitions, development, operations and sales. His son, Samir, is second in command as executive vice president. Together they manage an impressive portfolio of properties throughout the southeastern United States.
In May, after 16 years as a Best Western franchisee, Naran was elected to the prestigious Best Western Hotels and Resorts Board of Directors. He currently owns four Best Western properties (three in Florida and one in South Carolina) and has served in an advisory capacity within the organization throughout his membership.
“After joining [Best Western], I found that I really enjoyed the fact that it was a membership organization,” Naran said in a statement earlier this year. “Serving on the board of directors will allow me to give back to Best Western and to the industry that has been so good to my family.”
After so many years in the business, Naran has a lot of wisdom to share. He underwent financial trial by fire during recessions in the 1980s and early 1990s, which taught him the value of prudence even when business is on the upswing.
“I have been fortunate to never hit bottom in this industry,” he admits. Even in the 2009 recession, which he calls “the worst time for the hotel industry in the last 40 years,” his company stayed solidly afloat. “I survived because I never over-leveraged my properties.”
He also believes that having a strong work ethic, staying focused on priorities and keeping things organized have been key to his success. Early in his career, Naran says, he had several unsecured personal lines of credit. “When the savings and loan crisis [of the 1980s]occurred, I had to repay them,” he remembers. “It was a tough time, but I was able to overcome the situation through hard work and determination.”
Soon after the crisis abated, he joined AAHOA and has been a proud member ever since.
“AAHOA has become a very strong, powerful organization within our industry,” Naran notes. “The organization provides countless benefits to its members, including education and industry training programs… and a consistent focus on protecting our industry and our members.”
The association has undergone a dramatic transformation since its founding in 1989. Where its creators were looking mostly to combat discrimination by financial institutions against Indian-American hoteliers, today’s AAHOA is an established industry group and strong hotelier advocate at the local, state and federal levels.
It’s also an organization that actively promotes the engagement of its young professionals and highly values the wisdom and experience of its first-generation members – something Naran strongly encourages. “Get involved,” he urges young hoteliers. “Find a mentor. Contribute to the organization, [because]it’s up to its future leaders to remain active and participate.” ■
Kate Viana is communications manager at the Asian American Hotel Owners Association and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.