JK Mohanty, MD, Swosti Group & Chairman, HRAO
One of the enduring legends of the hospitality industry, JK Mohanty was never a job seeker. Right from his kid days, the entrepreneurial instincts were wired into him. He was always willing to take the path less trodden and earn his stripes- a streak that clearly distinguished him from the archetypal longing for a secure government job or a career in medicine or engineering.
Armed with a graduation in humanities from Delhi University and later topping it with a special training course in hotel activities from Cornell University, USA, Mohanty started the Swosti Hotel (now Swosti Grand) in the bustling Master Canteen locality overlooking the Bhubaneswar railway station in 1984.
During his days, there was no Softbank or an array of venture capitalists or Angel investors to help his entrepreneurial dreams to reach fruition. Mohanty recalls, how his mother mortgaged her jewellery worth Rs one lakh to provide the seed fund to propel his ambition and mission. “The money was both a blessing and seed capital to me”, Mohanty recounts.
“For me she was a greater entrepreneur who took the risk of mortgaging her jewellery at that time. My father, who was in the construction business, too was a very hard worker whom I never saw taking a leave from his responsibilities. Seeing them in front of me I got the inspiration of dedicating myself and contributing in a manner where the society would benefit in general. My passion for good food and luxury living motivated me to be in the hotel business and in 1984 I started my career”, he adds.
In the 90s, Odisha faced an acute shortage of a convention hall. Due to this constraint Odisha was not able to host any major conclave or seminar of national or international stature. Mohanty wondered if other states could install massive conferencing facilities within their hotel premise, then why not Odisha? With the germ of this idea, Mohanty went on to build Swosti Plaza, later rechristened Swosti Premium, his second deluxe property in Bhubaneswar. Swosti Premium, since its establishment, has hosted some of the most sought after events of national and international import. More recently, it was given the tag of a five-star hotel property. Beyond Bhubaneswar, Mohanty has diversified to Gopalpur where in 2004, he took Tata Steel’s property on lease and built the Swosti Palm Resort. He has also tapped another tourist hotspot Chilika, setting up a luxury resort there snuggling up to the greenery around and attracting tourists to spend moments of a retreat.
For all his achievements, Mohanty remains the humble entrepreneur next door. His accomplishments haven’t been limited to building sprawling hotels. Mohanty has been at the forefront of the hotel and hospitality industry, ably articulating its concerns and woes. He has been serving as the President of the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO) – Odisha chapter for over a decade now. As an exemplary leader, he has been drawing the government’s attention to the shortage in hotel rooms and plush properties, lack of ample outreach efforts for promotion and exorbitant land rates that is shunning investors. Lately when the state’s eastern coast at Puri was pummelled by Fani, a catastrophic cyclone and hotels across categories ran out of operations, Mohanty urged the state government for swift action. HRAO under his leadership was also shot off a missive to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking for a special package of Rs 3000 crore package to restore the battered hospitality industry in Odisha.