Why is Sant Singh Chatwal famous

Updated: Feb 27 2005, 05:30am hrs
Sant Singh Chatwal jumps at the offer of kichdri and jeera aloo for lunch at the Taj Palace. So what if hes the owner of the $750 million hotel chain Hampshire Hotels and Resorts Bombay Palace and has lived in America for 25 years My tastes remain the same and I feel strongly rooted to my land of birth.

Mr Chatwals visit to India last week had a fascinating purpose: to facilitate Senator Hillary Clintons visit to India. Though private, the visits significance cannot be underestimated, says Mr Chatwal. It could give a boost to the economic growth of the country.

Besides, she could be the next US president. A recent American survey revealed that her people are finally ready to accept a woman president and Senator Clintons name tops the list of probable women candidates.

Meanwhile, in her three days in New Delhi, she met the Prime Minister, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other senior leaders besides corporate kahunas like Mukesh Ambani and Anand Mahindra.

Senator Clintons visit is not for any personal purpose, he clarifies. I wanted her to see the changes India was undergoing. Anyway, its not a secret that the Clintons feel much for India and are emotionally attached to this country. My only selfish motive is to see India grow stronger, as it will give us a better image, adds Mr Chatwal, one of the biggest fundraisers for the Democrats. Senator Clinton came to my home in New York last week and declared she was on a diet. But it didnt seem so. She ate the chicken tikka and also the rasmalai, her favourite dessert, he chuckles fondly.

Mr Chatwal clearly remains undaunted by the defeat of the Democrats in the presidential elections. He concedes humbly, If it hadnt been for Bush Senior the seasoned politician and strategist George Bush would have never made it. Also, John Kerry did not have the charisma to pull it through.

His White House connections apart (besides the Clintons, he is close to many other congressmen and senators), his hotel business is also sitting pretty. The king of Indian curry boasts of hotels in major metros around the world Montreal, Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Beverly Hills, Houston, Budapest, Hong Kong and Kaula Lumpur and now plans to open two in India, in Mumbai and Jaipur. Well be kickstarting the project in a couple of months, he says.

His sons Vikram and Vivek Chatwal are with him. Vikram, for one, has upgraded the old chain and opened new boutique hotels.

Mr Chatwals journey began in 1967 when he left Faridkot, Punjab, for Ethiopia. The hotel business was not what he had planned for, but by chance a local restaurant-owner recognised his flair for business. He left me in charge for a few months and I upgraded it to a roaring business, he recalls. I also recognised my own potential.

It was a political coup in Ethiopia that changed his life forever. He fled to Canada and then moved on to the US.

Proper planning, passion for my work, having the right people around me and having lady luck with me always are my business mantra. They say wise men learn from others mistakes but Ive learnt from my own.

What does he think of his bahu-to-be, Priya Sachdev I am so pleased. In my heart I had a desire that my sons who have been born and brought up in America should find girls from India and Vikram has made me so happy, beams a happy father.