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Prashant Kalra is the Founder and Managing Director of Primo Privilege. In this interview with Bar & Bench’s Aditya AK, the former Amarchand Mangaldas lawyer talks about his days at the erstwhile firm, switching professions and much more.
Aditya AK: Why law?
Prashant Kalra: I’ve always been a very argumentative person. As a kid in school, there were two things that I was extremely passionate about: music and debating. So in addition to playing guitar and drums for the school band, I joined the school’s debating team where I gained some confidence with public speaking.
Obviously, at this stage, I had no idea what becoming a lawyer would entail. All I knew was that I liked to argue and that lawyers made lots of money by arguing. The fact that my CBSE marks wouldn’t matter if I could score well on the entrance test was a bonus! So I sat for two entrance tests, NLSIU and NUJS and managed to clear the entrance for NUJS. That’s how my journey in law began.
AK: How was the experience working with the erstwhile Amarchand Mangaldas?
Prashant Kalra: From briefing a Senior Advocate on a private jet and staying in the fanciest hotels to manually paginating over 1000 pages overnight in the peak of summer without air conditioning, I had the opportunity to experience every extreme that the legal profession has to offer.
Big law firms often get a bad rep for not being a good place to learn because of the sheer size and volume. Many people have commented on how easy it is to get lost in a big setup. For me personally, I was fortunate enough to not just be given the work but to be taught and trained by some of the best names in the business, both inside and outside the firm. My experiences at AMSS taught me some valuable lessons about hard work, humility and professionalism that help me in my current job role as well.
AK: What prompted the shift in career? Was this part of the plan or did it just happen?
Prashant Kalra: In all the time I spent in law, one thing became very clear to me. The most successful people in the profession were the ones who loved their work to the point where they looked forward to working 7 days a week. As a young lawyer, I obviously aspired to be in that league some day but it became pretty clear to me that the journey to the top wasn’t something I was willing to undertake.
It took me 6 years to come to this realization but it hit me that unless I was willing to climb my way to the top and spend the better part of my life in pursuit of that goal, I would be wasting my time. So I started focussing on the one thing that I would like to pursue for the rest of my life which was food and hospitality.
My family had been in the hospitality business for 3 generations before me. During my time at AMSS, my bosses and colleagues always turned to me for advice on restaurant recommendations for personal or client dinners. I was sort of known as ‘the food guy’ in AMSS and that was a badge that I was proud to wear. So I started focussing on finding a way to make food a profession, which is what I did in 2012 when I left AMSS.
AK: Tell us about your first foray into the hospitality sector – Delhi Food Tours.
Prashant Kalra: Playing off our passion for food and showcasing what Delhi has to offer, DFT was our first experiment in the food space. My wife Ayesha and I thought it would be fun to take tourists out to local hotspots for food tastings. So we started a culinary tour business where we took guests out to 4 or 5 different small local restaurants sampling a little bit of food at each place. We called it a food tour of India within Delhi, since we were able to showcase food from across the country.
In 2 years, we served over 500 guests from 40 Countries and even bagged 2 Tripadvisor awards, making us the City’s most awarded culinary tour in 2012-2013.
AK: What was the inspiration behind Primo Privilege? How did it happen?
Prashant Kalra: Primo Privilege was created in May 2014 with one goal: to become the City’s most powerful privilege card.
During our DFT days, we made a lot of friends at different Embassies and High Commissions who started asking for our advice on where to shop, eat and more. So we thought it would be interesting to create a synergy between brands and the international clientele through a privilege program. A few months later, we had paperwork from all of the city’s major Diplomatic Missions and Expat Clubs officially recommending Primo Privilege to its members. With support from the international community, we were able to sign on the city’s best brands who offer exclusive discounts to our members.
In 15 months, we gained over 1,200 members and exclusive partnerships with over 70 of the City’s best brands including the Imperial Hotel and many more. In fact, we were very fortunate to have found support from the legal fraternity across the board. Our members include respected names like Shardul Sir, Pallavi Ma’am, Mr. Neeraj K. Kaul, Mr. Amit Sibal and Mr. Siddharth Aggarwal as well as a lot of the younger law firm partners and successful independent practitioners.
Our members include respected names like Shardul Sir, Pallavi Ma’am, Mr. Neeraj K. Kaul, Mr. Amit Sibal and Mr. Siddharth Aggarwal as well as a lot of the younger law firm partners and successful independent practitioners.
AK: Does your legal knowledge come in handy even today?
Prashant Kalra: Absolutely! Our contracts, membership terms and conditions, non-disclosure agreements were all prepared in house. While conducting negotiations, I rely a lot on my legal training on trying to get the best deal possible for our members.
AK: What do you love the most about what you do?
Prashant Kalra: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s why I got into hospitality and that’s what I love most about what I do. The opportunity to create something that is your own and to have a small positive impact on other people’s lives is something that we’re most proud of.
AK: What do you miss most about being a lawyer?
Prashant Kalra: I do miss the camaraderie of the AMSS office. I was fortunate enough to have met some amazing people during my time there. From our Court Clerks and admin staff to my colleagues, teammates and senior partners, I had a very good rapport with most people and I do regret that I’m not in touch with them as much as I’d like to be. Friday drinks (sometimes Monday drinks too), the morning Chai and the opportunity to learn from the best are some of the things I miss the most.
AK: What advice would you have for lawyers looking to take the path less travelled?
Prashant Kalra: If law is not for you, staying in the profession is counter-productive. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of doing what you love and loving what you do. Decent lawyers have often quit law to become the best at something they’re truly passionate about. We’ve all heard success stories of lawyers who’ve moved on to dominate politics, art, music, food, writing and much more. It’s never too late to make changes.
As a special gesture for Bar & Bench readers, one can sign up for membership to Primo Privilege sans the vetting process. Use coupon code “BARANDBENCH” for Rs.1,000 off on the membership cost.