Who are the team behind the first Soho House in Asia? Emma Bartley travelled to Soho House Mumbai to find out
Pauline de Muizon, events programming manager
This is a very intense place and when I first came here at 21, I didn’t like it. But then I got an urge to come back. I got an internship and I was hooked. The job with Soho House is a perfect fit for me. There’s so much happening in India right now that our events programme can be really exciting. I’ve asked the founder of the space start-up Earth2Orbit to do a rooftop talk on residential space projects. And I want to feature the amazing alternative ways of healing that the Indian culture has to offer like naturopathy, hypnotherapy or ayurveda. There’s another attitude to life here; people just surrender and they are very relaxed about deadlines, which makes a project like this challenging at times. But sometimes in such a hectic city it feels good to surrender. There’s a saying that Mumbai is a city and Bombay is an emotion. And for me ifs true.
Priya Sharma, membership manager
My background is in fashion and when I first connected with Soho House I was hoping they might collaborate with my fashion brand. It was a big surprise when I was offered a job in membership. But I said yes, mainly because I think Soho House Mumbai could be a game-changer for our creative scene. We are a classist society with a lot of clubs where only certain people can afford membership, whereas we’re looking at creative people at all levels of society.
There wasn’t much brand recognition here at first, which made for a slow start, but we’ve got a great members list now including artists, designers, musicians, bloggers, a scattering of Bollywood people. I see the House mostly as a social space though: we’ll have a few people with laptops and a few meetings but it’ll be more dinner, drinks, a place to go after work.
Jihaan Advaani, U27 membership manager
We’ve had our Under 27 committee in place for more than a year and they’re working really hard for us already. Anything we ask of them, they will do it: they’re obsessed. I think ifs because there’s nothing else like this anywhere in India. Mainly because we’re not looking for the rich kids, it’s about people who are really creative and deserve it. Only about 15 per cent of them have been to other Houses around the world so they’ve come in with no expectations and their first impression of the House was through us. Now that we’re able to do tours of the space that’s another draw. Some of our U27 members might just be shacking up in a small rental apartment so being able to come here is great.
Rosh Mehandru, member relations manager
Now that Mumbaikars are starting to understand what Soho House is and influencers are putting it on social media, there’s a real buzz around it. India has a big club culture but it’s a family club culture: the gymkhanas are a place where families come, whereas the crowd here is going to be much more eclectic and countercultural.
I’m creative myself – I host travel shows and do voiceovers and some modelling – so this role is a good fit. My ideal member would be somebody aged 25-35 who’s fun, interesting, edgy, better in person than on paper. Juhu is a great neighbourhood for us because it’s gentrified but not snobby, a bit like Williamsburg in New York.
Kannan Aiyer, P&D manager, and Vishal Parikh, P&D supervisor
Vishal I’m working on recruitment. We don’t select everyone – we’re looking for the right personality. People who are approachable, down to earth and well presented.
Kannan “We’ve interviewed more than 1,000 people and been very selective. We held recruitment events like a chef cook-off, where we set up a makeshift kitchen on the ninth floor and asked candidates to prepare omelettes. Vishal, Chef Luca, Keith [Edwards, chief P&D officer] and Joe [Eva] judged their presentation, taste, knife skills and cooking skills.
Vishal They had to eat about 40 omelettes. But now our kitchen team is almost full.
Kannan I’m happy because we’ve made a lot of good hires. There’s already a strong hospitality culture in Mumbai so that helps.
Luca D’Amora, head chef, Cecconi’s
I’ve been designing the kitchen for Cecconi’s and The Allis. It’s based around a wood oven, serving an all-day menu in both. Indians have their own version of ltalian food – a popular dish is called “pink pasta” – so Cecconi’s will be something you can’t get anywhere else. The menu will be familiar from Cecconi’s around the world, and I’ve created a few dishes in that same new Italian style, like salmon with lemon mashed potato and rocket sauce. The Allis has a more casual feel with salads, a pizza, a burger, a club sandwich and Indian snacks like chaat. I’ve worked on a launch before but Soho House is different: very serious, very professional.
Simran Savlani, private hire manager
Our main events space here holds around 150 people; with that sizing we won’t get that many big corporate events, but I think it’ll be popular for birthdays and private events. We’d also like to be able to accommodate components of lndian weddings, like the Mendhi, which is the henna party.
I’m originally from Hong Kong and heard about Soho House while working on another opening in Bombay, trying to learn more about hospitality (I was in sales and marketing before). Something I feel strongly is that we’re helping you to bring Soho House to your event rather than it being just the venue. So we’ll help with the look and feel of the space; we’ll focus on the feast elements of Cecconi’s, and offer DIY drinks carts for people to assemble their own House Tonics. We want them to feel involved, part of our community rather than simply a guest.
Laurent Sola, director, Asia
l’m a French national in love with Asia. I was here for years before I joined the company,
at The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, The Metropolitan Bangkok and Cocoa Island Maldives. Bangkok has been my home for 14 years, but I’m now splitting my time between Hong Kong and Mumbai. I was involved in the Soho House Istanbul and Soho Farmhouse openings, but Mumbai has been a different kind of challenge as we learn how things work in India.
For me one very interesting aspect of this House is the restaurant. We’re trying to do what we’ve done with Malibu Kitchen or Nava back in the US and create an Indian variety of food that we can share with our properties around the world.