Most people’s hobbies don’t get their names being listed on IMDB, but Satinder Garcha isn’t ‘most people’. You’ll see his name mentioned in Under the Turban, a documentary that he took five years to make. Debuted at the United Nations Association Film Festival in 2016, it follows Garcha and his daughter’s travels around the world visiting various Sikh communities as they attempt to answer the question posed by his daughter that inspired the entire project: “What does it mean to be Sikh?”
Most people don’t make their fortunes in Silicon Valley in a manner similar to Mark Zuckerberg, either. But as you can tell by now, Garcha isn’t one for following such norms. In 1995, he co-founded people.com and sold it five years later at the height of the dot com bubble.
Whatever Garcha touches seems to turn to gold. Today, he is a successful property investor and hotelier known for developing luxury residences and boutique hotels such as The Vagabond Club, Duxton Reserve and Maxwell Reserve (the latter two were formally branded as Six Senses hotels, and both contracts were recently terminated). He’s toying with the idea of making them into co-living spaces that have elements of members’ clubs. It boils down to rethinking hospitality, and perhaps redesigning the use of space. “I have always been into design, even as a child,” he says. “Design is in everything. In computer programming, when you write code and software, 80 per cent of the time is spent designing the model, and 20 per cent coding.”
Despite previously being a Silicon Valley upstart, Garcha brings a surprisingly old-fashioned take to his hospitality properties, and has a penchant for converting heritage buildings. “I may not have been in the industry for that long, but my gut feeling is that the essence of hospitality hasn’t changed. It’s one of the world’s oldest businesses, except that 200 years ago, hotels were just little inns. I like to use the term ‘old world hospitality’ in my hotels. Now, there’s a lot of talk about technology and hotels being contactless. But humans are social animals, and the essence of the human touch has to be there. Technology cannot replace that.”