Hospitality pioneer leaves us for heavenly abode

A Correspondent – 

Hospitality pioneer-Vishnu SukhdeoVishnu Sukhdeo, a prominent businessman and a philanthropist, passed away on Monday, September 14, 2015 at Colonial War Memorial Hospital, Suva.

The Funeral service was held at the newly-built furnace-fortified Dignified Crematorium on Sunday, September 20 at 11 am. A number of Fiji dignitaries, close relatives from overseas and mourners attended the last rites.

Job Creator

Vishnu Sukhdeo, born in the outskirts of Nadi Town, was a standing example of a third generation Indo-Fijian entrepreneur who had contributed in laying the foundation for entertainment and hospitality industry in Fiji.

In the process, he was instrumental in generating a large number of jobs for the people of Fiji.

His humble beginnings as an insurance agent from a make-shift desk in his father’s store in Nadi Town in early 1950s saw him elevated as a sought after Life Insurance Corporation representative in the Western Division.

In the 1950s, he had married Prabha Devi Sharma. Their daughter, Nivedita Treon now lives in Mumbai.

Artistic platform

Involvement in artistic platform provided the pedestal for him to initiate star-studded musical presentations from Bollywood in early 1960s. While in the past a number of religious preachers had visited Fiji, Vishnu Sukhdeo was the first businessman to invite entertainment artists from Bombay. At his behest, his brother Mahendra Sukhdeo, then a young Elphinstonian in Bombay, forged links with  several artists such as Lata Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor who had indicated their desire to visit the ‘Little India’ of the Pacific.

Chequers and Flamingo

In late 1960s and early 1970s, his business acumen led him to initiate regular local talent quests at his flagship Chequers Niteclub in Waimanu Road, Suva that catapulted a string of young local artists such as Manoa Rasigatale, Georgina Ledua and others to become national singing icons. He later started the unique high-tech Flamingo Niteclub in Victoria Parade, Suva. For Fiji, this unique innovative enterprise was far ahead of its time.

Hotel ownership

Relentlessly he moved on to the hospitality business starting with the Seaview Hotel that was subsequently rebuilt as the Suva Outrigger Hotel. The panoramic view of Suva Harbour provided the backdrop for several meetings and conferences at the Rooftop Garden that had the famous ‘Papa Pizza’ outlet. Earlier, he had leased and managed the well patronised Suva Harbourview Hotel and Nadi Sunseekers Hotel. He then proceeded to run a string of travel agencies in the Western Division and Suva under the banner of Sita World Travel.

Honours & Awards

Vishnu Sukhdeo studied Journalism at the University of Auckland. An avid reader, he had a sound understanding of international affairs. He was an active member of the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) that awarded him with several accolades and medals. He was also a recipient of the Fiji Independence Medal for his meritorious service.

Between 1997 and 2001, he along with his brother Mahendra Sukhdeo built a Community Hall in their ancestral village, Kabuliha in UP, India in memory of their mother, Sukhraji  Sukhdeo to cater for  religious, marital and other social activities.

Aryan Avatars tribute

In his book, ‘Aryan Avatars’, Mahendra Sukhdeo said (Page 115): “Vishnu Sukhdeo, on completing his primary education had joined St Mary’s, located in Namaka. He would later join the Nadi Airport stores. However, his entrepreneurial spirit provided the springboard for him to move and prosper in private enterprise. He was the first among the extended family to succeed in business. Later, another cousin, Gyan Deo would navigate from being a simple salesperson in Nadi to the height of ownership of several retail bookshops in New Zealand and Fiji.”

In his final days, Vishnu Sukhdeo was plagued by illnesses to which he finally succumbed on September 14, 2015. Throughout this, he was supported by his wife, Dr Bindu Sukhdeo. He is survived by their two children, Priyankar Sukhdeo, a corporate lawyer, Dr Aishwarya Sukhdeo, a senior medical functionary in Sydney and five siblings, Krishna Khelawan, Shanti Narain, Vijay Sharma, Urmila Basile and Mahendra Sukhdeo.

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