“If I’m going to consume something, I’d prefer if it was created with honesty and great intention.” Suraj Melwani, Bisma Eight
Suraj has long been fascinated by good, pragmatic design having spent time in New York City at Parsons School of Design. From there he went on to conceptualize and distribute a contemporary clothing and lifestyle brand sifrsite.com out of Singapore. Having set up two stores as well as a collaborative independent department store in PACT visitpact.com, Suraj then crossed over into developing a hospitality outfit with his family based out of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia with the aim of upping the ante in food, beverage and accommodation offerings in the city.
THC: What inspires you and why?
SM: I believe in always doing things better. If you have to do less things, just be sure to do them better. It’s a way of life for myself and a thinking process we apply to all our projects. If I’m going to consume something, I’d prefer if it was created with honesty and great intention. Writing or cooking, I prefer shorter, more concise sentences and fresher, but less ingredients.
THC: How did you get into your industry?
SM: It was an abstract progression for us. Our family were in the garment business, I ran a clothing line out of Singapore sifrsite.com and studied design in New York back in ’04. My partners were and still are also passionate about design, lifestyle, hospitality and somehow it all converged together in 2013. It’s funny how things come together but our squad are truly competent in running a business and identifying the right people for the roles we aren’t as savvy in. That is what we did and it’s worked out well for us. I’m happiest about our team’s synergy after our maiden year.
THC: What are you working on right now?
SM: A great mix of things. My partners are aboard on the food & beverage train right now while my Father is big on permaculture and farming, and I am really into open spaces and wasting the day away under the Balinese sun. You may see a hybrid of sorts in the heart of Ubud very soon. A large open space where you can kick a ball around, sip on cocktails under a teepee and learn a little about our ecosystem. There’s something about easy food and open spaces that resonates with people. We also just got done with a little all day dining spot in Folk Ubud folkubud.com and a fun dive bar in No Mas nomasubud.com.
THC: How do you see your space evolving?
SM: While I think each space will continue to produce better food and drink, better service, I’m looking at the bigger picture. I try not to focus on the nitty gritty but rather approach the business from a holistic viewpoint. I like the way we are evolving with bringing in more experienced people and exposing them to newer people in the industry. I’m really pleased with the way we’re investing in knowledge and skill. I just hope we can get people to evolve that into passion. We have a new hospitality mentor in from Australia and you can see what a difference it makes to the local people.
THC: Who’s your hero or icon?
SM: No heroes or major icons but I love what Loh Lik Peng is doing with Unlisted Collection. Pragmatic, sharp, fast and a long-term player. He’s a builder that I look up to.
THC: Where’s your favourite spot around the world?
SM: This may be laced in bias but I do love spending time in Ubud, Bali. I love what the city and it’s surrounding areas are turning into. We have a fantastic food and beverage scene that is continuously growing. We’re also getting a lot of people visiting the hotel to sample the local dining scene. It’s a common short break that a lot of people in the region are taking. I’m happy to be part of such a progression. Ubud’s known for it’s culture and aptly enough for it’s craft. No better place in Bali then Ubud to be the island’s main dining destination.
THC: What’s your favourite injection of culture into a brand?
SM: People. People make for the best injection of culture into a brand. When you’ve got talented people from all walks of life who you can see eye to eye with, it’s pretty amazing what you can do. We’ve invested in people, and we’ve come out with 3 locations in 3 years so it looks like we made the right call on the culture tip.