How was your childhood?
SD-I was born and brought up in middle
class family. Prominence to education like any
other middle class family was a dominating
factor in my upbringing. Acting and drama
enticed me a lot. Since childhood I have been
extrovert and so I always wanted to pursue a
career which will suit my aptitude. My friend
Viren Tipnis gave me first break. Later I
joined May & Baker pharmaceuticals.
How were the initial days in your job?
SD-They were great. It is always a treat
to be a part of MNC’s. I had to do business
to business selling ( B2B). The journey of
getting the first customer was extremely tiring
and frustrating but I am a very positive
person. I never lost I kept trying without
bringing my ego on the way. This eventually
helped me to get many clients. I was
rewarded with promotion in short span.
I always love to handle things and lead
from the front. I knew if I had to become a
leader I need to get specialized education.
So took admission in NMIMS and graduated
with MBA degree.
Did MBA degree made a difference?
SD-It made a huge difference. I was
immediately promoted as a regional head. I
started roaming around the country. Since I
was technically sound I would help my clients
in resolving their issues with élan. This helped
me to develop excellent rapport with them.
For any sales person it is always necessary to
have deep knowledge of the product.
When did you join KODAK then?
SD-KODAK was our competitor. After
observing my performance they gave me an
offer. However I realized that the promotion
as National sales head in KODAK was
becoming elusive and resigned and joined a
renowned plastic company named Milton. As
I was so use to working in MNC’s that I couldn’t
adjust with the policies of this company. So I
How did you enter Essel World?
SD-While working in Milton I developed
goodwill in market. Shirish Deshpande and
the attribute of Hardworking had become
synonymous in the industry by then. This
prompted Essel Packaging Ltd to absorb me.
I thought I would be handling the packaging
division of Essel group but I was shocked
when the management asked me to work with
their new amusement park- Essel World.
Mr. Ashok Goyal who heads Essel World
conducted my interview in the Essel World
campus. It was my longest interview which
lasted for almost two hours. Walking around
the park with this brainy person was a treat.
He asked me concepts to promote its sales.
He not only liked my concepts but also took
my criticism positively. I experienced his
How were the initial days in Essel
SD-My profile changed from selling
products to selling concepts. It was an
altogether a new job profile. It took me a
month to understand this huge park. I
travelled to study all the amusement parks of
the world. Thanks to our management who
encouraged me to take the world tour. There
is hardly any ride of any park which I have
missed! Though they were study tours but I
loved the entire experience. This helped me
to innovate and make Essel World a world
class amusement park. Today I can proudly
tell you that it is India’s largest and most
When Water Kingdom started? How
was the response?
SD-Essel world’s success boosted us to
start a new venture which was Water Kingdom.
It was in 1999 when we opened this water
park. In the beginning we got overwhelming
response but suddenly the response dropped
down. After analyzing and deep research we
realised it was our outdoor advertising which
has affected our sales. It showed a family
where females of all age groups wearing one
piece swim suits enjoying in the pool. Also it
carried a line below the ad which said only
swimsuits allowed. This affected our sales
tremendously. Many families turned their
We immediately changed the ad. The new
ad comprised of same models but in different
attire. This time we showed them enjoying with
their family in slacks and lycra. This changed
the perception of families. After which we had
to never look back. Every year people kept
coming to us in millions. The number is rising!
As I always wanted to lead from the front
and that time already there was a suitable
person who was operating as a CEO I resigned
from Essel world and joined Oberoi Hotel in
How did you become CEO of Essel
SD-While working in Banglore I got a call
from my friend to handle the sales and
operations of Zicom. I resigned Oberoi and
joined it. After couple of months I happened
to meet Mr. Goyal in a party when he asked
me to take charge of the park as CEO. My
happiness knew no bounds. It was like a
dream come true! I took the charge of Essel
World and Water Kingdom as a CEO in
How have you developed Essel World?
SD-After resigning from Essel I started
working with other companies but mentally I
was still associated with them. I was missing
Essel World days. So when I joined Essel
again I had my plans and strategies ready. I
started executing them. I introduced the
world’s best amusement rides in Essel world.
Most of these theme rides are developed by
Americans and thrill high precise and
engineering rides by Germans. Many rides amount to 15-20 crores.
Since India is gradually getting exposed to
this type of entertainment it was a herculean
task to balance the cost of the ride and ticket
cost charged to customers. It took 10 long
years for Essel World to meet the break-even
point. But we were successful to manage the
economics which led us to introduce many more
We worked very hard to reach this stage.
Our weekly meetings comprised of a walk all
around the park with our boss Mr.Goyal. This
comprised of seven kilometers which lasted for
almost six hours. We kept on improving week
How did you do branding and marketing
of Essel World?
SD-One day while returning home in a taxi
I noticed on the back side on glass it was
written Bandra-Essel World -Borivli when I
enquired him why has he written that he said
many people asked for Essel World so he had
purposely displayed. I told him if he continued
to display the name of Essel world then we will
give him free tickets for his family. This news
spread like fire. Next day our road in front of
Worli office got congested with these black
and yellow vehicles. Everyone displayed the
Essel World and Water Kingdom stickers and
we happily gave away the tickets. Today
almost all taxis of Mumbai display these
What has been your success formula?
SD-To get the actual feedback of
customers, I stand in a queue along with other
visitors and silently hear their reactions. Since I
am not wearing the tag of CEO I also interact
with them as any other visitor. So they speak
out their grievances and also make suggestions.
The feedback has become a corner-stone of
our pursuit for excellence.
Also we conduct a random sampling survey
where we interview every 25th person after
the ride. If out of ten, five don’t like the ride or
not satisfied then we immediately take
I have always given emphasis on research
and analysis. I have one of the biggest young
teams working with me. I love young people as
they don’t have any prejudices or
preconceived notions. Due to which they are
the biggest innovators. Presently my team has
focused on digital marketing. Though we are
into a business of amusement believe me there
is not much amusement working behind.
What has been the growth of Essel
SD-Over the years Essel world has grown
by leaps and bounds. More than 1.5 million
people visit Essel world and Water Kingdom
What are your future plans?
SD-We are erecting a 300 room lavish
hotel in the campus of park which will be
completed by 2018. Also we have started
indoor where people can experience the
exciting cricket entertainment system spread
over 3,500 sq. ft of area where one can enjoy
real batting experience against national and
international ‘Virtual Bowlers’. Also you can do
themed ice skating in 13,000 sq.ft snow zone
developed on the concept of the cool
destinations of the world.