In an exclusive interview with Payal Kapoor, the visionary and interior designing enthusiast, she shed light on her career journey. Here’s more to it.
Decision Maker: How would you describe your early years and educational background?
Payal Kapor: During the initial years of my education at the famed Carmel Convent School, New Delhi, I was framing my foundation. This excluded one year when I shifted to Mumbai as my father was transferred there to the post of naval officer.
I completed higher education in interior design from the Polytechnic College for Women for almost 3 years and then completed hospitality courses in hotel and commercial design. By 1987, I had graduated and gained experience working at two organizations before starting my design firm.
Decision Maker: What was your entrepreneurship journey like, in a nutshell?
Payal Kapor: My entrepreneurial journey began at a leading interior designing firm in New Delhi, where I fetched diverse experiences related to the intricacies of interior design and nuances. After that, I was associated with other firms that helped me seek an exponential understanding of site-civil interiors and furniture designing.
After seeking around 3 years of experience from these firms, I planned to commence my entrepreneurship journey with the launch of ‘Visions’ in 1990. Though it was critical at the start as I had fewer links and connections and a lack of ideas to work on projects due to the absence of experience in the business background.
Perhaps, I found another way out and took up every small assignment that I came across to step up the business ladder. Commencing my every task with complete dedication, honesty, and the urge to cope with deadlines helped me acquire further growth and success!
Decision Maker: What were some of the challenges you faced breaking into entrepreneurship?
Payal Kapor: As with every other business, the interior designing field is filled with many challenges and roadblocks. Due to no prominent godfather or godmother backing me, my expertise and experience always helped in leading ahead in the interior designing field.
I had relatives and connections associated with other fields, such as engineering, medicine, services and the corporate sector. As the sole member in my circle to approach the entrepreneurial journey, it was challenging and thrilling!
As it was a male-dominated industry, there were multiple claims about venturing into the male-dominated profession as I had to travel to multiple locations for project purposes. I even came across some unprofessional clients who lacked timely payments, and a few of them never even paid after the completion of projects as well. It was indeed disappointing as I was just in my twenties then. Not receiving money despite hard work and facing criticism was quite demoralizing.
I always made it a point to seek learnings from every good and bad experience and reaction of clients to evaluate various personalities across my work journey. Meanwhile, I also developed various interpersonal skills and the art of handling various types of clients and situations differently. I practiced patience and determination while retaining my self-respect to walk the path with my head held up high. This evolves you as a thorough professional to manage any situation with determination.
Decision Maker: What was your moment of epiphany that set you on this path of what you do today?
Payal Kapor: Well, to mention, there are a few. The first one dates back to 1991, when I started my first-ever self-owned hotel consultancy project. It was the project of The Imperial Hotel, Janpath, New Delhi, that marked my first milestone. Post that, the other significant ones include:
- The GD Goenka School, Vasant Kunj
- USI building for the President of India
- The Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur
- The Palace On wheels
which were the absolute highlights until today.
My motto was always to experiment with my interior designing projects and avoid working on a specific type of project. I preferred taking up new challenges and gradually overcoming all roadblocks to create that ‘Proud’ moment for myself. This further helped me in gaining desired recognition from all over.
Decision Maker: What would you consider as being the most momentous accomplishment of your career?
Payal Kapor: The Palace on Wheels is by far the most widely acknowledged and premium luxury train project to date. It was a sheer experience to convert the meter gauge into the broad gauge as it was a multi-million project demanding expertise.
I was chosen from the entire country to win this mega project and complete it successfully. This was an achievement for India as it derived the position of The Royal Scotsman Train and gave the No.1 position to the Palace on Wheels Train.
It was initially ranked 10th, offering this luxury train the desired coverage along with its bespoke décor that embarks on India’s rich heritage and cultural significance. This was the driving force that helped me acquire high success in my field.
Decision Maker: Who are the people you draw inspiration from, your role models?
Payal Kapor: Most admirable personalities for me are the ones who hold a strong character of humility amidst the whole of fame, luxury and riches. People who believe in giving back to society and stretching a helping hand to them are commendable.
I hold deep gratitude for the Royal family of Jodhpur, mainly Maharaja Gaj Singhji, Maharani Sahiba and their beloved late Uncle Thakur Raju Singhji. I have learned much about life from them while completing my project at Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur for 9 years. I also appreciate and highly respect Mr. Ratan Tata for his conduct and how he values the people around him!
Decision Maker: What fuels you to do what you do every day?
Payal Kapor: I am someone who likes to take up new challenges and risks as it enthrals me to stay motivated and keep the thrill alive. It is a great pleasure to take on new turnkey projects with close deadlines. The conventional and stereotypical projects are quite boring to me. Besides hotel design, I have been associated with designing ships, trains, aircraft stimulators, and other exhilarating projects from Europe and the US.
Despite multiple hurdles and challenges, I have always been passionate about my profile. Even in moments when I was not very thrilled about a few things, exploring small aspects and things helped in keeping my excitement levels high. No matter how hard the time is, the show must go on!
Decision Maker: What is your definition of success?
Payal Kapor: I feel that success is subjective! For me, it is more about gaining a name, fame, recognition and appreciation in everything I do. I am thrilled to achieve all this without any reference, recommendations or endorsements from anyone. It has gradually enabled me to grow and adapt to the recent market trends and take a high flight despite the glitches in the way. This is what success means to me!
Even though the monetary part plays a crucial role in the whole thing, the importance of honesty and hard work is undeniable as other essential elements of success.
Decision Maker: Illustrate your ideal “me” time.
Payal Kapor: Ideal ‘Me’ time for me is connecting with my own ideologies, thoughts and facts while calmly enjoying the scenic nature. It is blissful for me to gaze for hours aside from the lake and hills. I feel immensely contended and happy with the freshness of flowers, pristine air, and soothing weather.
Though I get lesser moments of such value, I embrace every second of it. In my spare time in Delhi, I usually sit aloof, listen to music and do nothing. At other moments, I also prefer visiting the spa as it’s a wonderful luxury I love indulging in!
Decision Maker: What advice would you give to professional women?
Payal Kapor: Working women must respect their work and embrace the art of balancing home, life, work and everything else in life. I feel that time management is important to organize your life. Women must learn the art of outsourcing and delegating tasks in a timely manner to divert their responsibilities.
Above all, women must nurture self-love, self-trust and dedicate a few moments for self-care and moments to spend with friends. They should learn about letting go of the situations, laughing and handling situations beyond their control.
Remember that you cannot impress everyone, and compromising your dignity should never be acceptable in any situation. You should learn about your worth before anything else in life; that is the real gist of your existence and growth!