This New Book Is The Perfect Antidote To Prince Harry’s ‘Spare’


If you are looking for something a bit more uplifting, inspirational and considerably more introspective than Prince Harry’s Spare, there’s another option hot off the presses this week. Like its near namesake, A Bridge Not Too Far may someday be good fodder for a movie, which is surprising since it is, in essence, the autobiography of a hospitality industry CEO. That’s because, in addition to sharing pearls of wisdom, it brings the reader inside for a self-critical and candid look at the ups and downs of the author, Deepak Ohri, who, while you may not know his name, you likely enjoyed some of the innovations he has popularized.

Ohri has long been a force in travel and hospitality’s transition from hard product measured by where the marble comes from and thread counts, to experiences that leaves one in awe. His most recognized accomplishment is making al fresco restaurants atop skyscraper rooftops a major thing. Like much of his journey, it wasn’t easy. He overcame both logistical challenges and friends of the building owner, who said he was wasting her money. What happens when it rains? Two decades later, driving big revenue from spaces previously reserved for air conditioning units and other mechanical devices has become an ATM for landlords and a de rigueur part of the business.

Like the Duke of Sussex, this is Ohri’s first book. However, pre-release, it is getting considerably better reviews. It already caught the attention of marketing icon Dr. Philip Kotlar, who tabbed A Bridge as recommended reading. Publishers Weekly says, “Readers of upbeat CEO memoirs will welcome Ohri’s candidness and clear-eyed advice.” Brett Tollman, CEO of The Travel Corporation, adds, “In A Bridge Not Too Far, Ohri writes honestly about the experiences that shaped him, both positively and negatively. This book is a must-read for those who aspire to be innovative thinkers.”

While Ohri plays in the uppermost reaches of luxury, he didn’t grow up in palaces and castles. The son of a civil servant, he was raised in a modest one-room apartment in a lower middle-class area of Delhi, India. However, A Bridge is much more than the typical story of accomplishments and plaudits on a CEO’s pathway to the corner office. It delves into Ohri’s struggles against racism (“This incident spurred me forward to find a way to break this cultural stereotyping. I couldn’t let it defeat me.”), his failures, and the hard reality of having to return to India, humbled after losing everything.

He recalls, “I was looking forward to an evening of relaxation with a single-malt whiskey. Instead, when I got home, it was as if someone had dropped a bomb on everything I loved. I had lost everything: my beloved car, my beautiful house, and millions worth of investment. I was still trying to register that this wasn’t all a nightmare, and I would wake up realizing that I was still living the high life. But the padlock on the gate to my home was enough evidence to show me that I had to face the harsh truth. I called up the friend who had encouraged me to invest millions in this venture, but he was not supportive. It was not what I’d expected at all.”

Of the many lessons, a key one is belief in oneself and dogged perseverance. Another is that profits matter. His focus on the high-end was out of necessity. At the time of creating Mezzaluna, top Bangkok hotels were lucky to get $150 per night for a room. His 2006 Million Baht Dinner (about $29,000 a plate), cooked by a line-up of six Michelin chefs he spent over a year cultivating, generated publicity from the likes of The New York Times, ABC News, CNN and Time Magazine. It also created a waiting list of patrons wishing to get to the playground Ohri created at the top of State Tower, where dining tabs tripled room rates.

The author tells me, “My favorite part of the book was about my apprenticeship in the U.S. when I arrived in 1996; it was my first trip there. I had to learn everything, and I really like how this chapter connects with the last one, where I come back to America and teach MBA students. This is my bridge not too far.”

His early experience working as a regional manager for a casual dining chain was far from the Bangkok skyscraper where his dining concepts have captured four Michelin stars and created the famous Sky Bar, copied by many and seen in millions of social media postings and several movies. “We would go through bags of wet and dry garbage, inspecting the contents. At each outlet, a lot can be gleaned from the contents of a garbage bag: whether the quality of food is below par, there is pilferage, the amount of waste, or any other issues,” he writes.

Ohri says the inspiration for writing the book was his late father. “We both shared the same truth in life that becoming successful and remaining successful requires a lot of pain. One cannot achieve success overnight, but it requires a lot of work that people do not see. Remaining successful is also very hard because it requires constant self-discipline and focus. The book’s goal was to convey that hard work and determination can get you far in life, no matter the obstacles and circumstances. I want people to understand that being a successful entrepreneur is not about where they work but how they think. Anyone can be an entrepreneur in their own life no matter what life brings.”

One of his biggest missions is to help the next generation. At Florida International University, he co-designed and co-created its breakthrough Luxury Incubator MBA course. He is already hard at work on his follow-up to A Bridge and a new concept launching later this year. He says, “The next book I am working on is about happiness, but not as we know it. I started my company Luxury Atelier Maison Happiness, but I do not teach happiness. I consider myself a GPS to happiness; I guide people to their own happiness. The new book will show that happiness is very individual, and each person needs to discover their own and not rely on stereotypes.”

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