IF you love to look after people, bring a smile to their faces, cook them a nice dish, and give them an experience to remember, then the hospitality industry may be the place for you. Every year, there’s a need for 2.03 lakh professionals in the industry, says the Ministry of Tourism but only 18,000 hospitality graduates pass out, annually. Clearly there’s a dearth of skilled professionals in this sector. With the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and several international hotel chains such as Carlson, Starwood, Accor and Marriott coming to India, both opportunity and exposure in hospitality is going to be staggering.
This sector is essentially divided into four broad functions: Food Production, where food is designed and created, Food & Beverage Service (F&B), where the guest’s needs are looked after in a restaurant or in an office cafeteria, Front Office, that welcomes a guest and tries to make the stay as hassle-free as possible and Housekeeping, where the staff sees that you feel at home in your room. In fact, the wellness industry that includes spa and fitness, is becoming a popular service in hospitality.
Front Office, in demand
Food Production, where chefs work in smoky, steamy rooms was once a big attraction for many young people wanting to join the industry. But now young people prefer Front Office jobs and F&B service to Food Production. “Fifty-five percent of our students went for Front Office jobs,” says DD Sharma, Head of Department, Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), Delhi. This tilt towards Front Office and F&B is because of the ample opportunities that are present in the service sector.
Soft skills acquired by Front Office executives such as communication and managerial skills also double up as skills required in customer relations, business development, human resource function, sales and marketing. In fact, banks, hospitals, telecom and BPOs are recruiting hotel management graduates in large numbers, says Anita Sharma, Senior Faculty and Placement Coordinator, IHM, Catering & Nutrition, New Delhi. Over the years, hospitality has extended beyond hotels and restaurants and has become integral to the service sector.
There’s also the incentive of better salaries and a less strenuous working schedule. Food Production is labour-intensive points out Mr Sharma of IHM. Sameer Sharma, a hotel management (HM) graduate, agrees. “There are heavy crates to be picked, sacks of onions and potatoes to be carted, and working hours could stretch to 12 to 16 hours a day.” On the other hand, Front Office has regulated working hours and industries such as telecom and banking, pay well.
|Where are the jobs?
- Hotel & Restaurant management
- Airline Catering and Cabin Services
- Club management
- Cruise Ship Hotel Management
- Hospital administration and catering
- Hotel and Tourism Associations
- Forest Lodges
- Guest Houses
- Institutional Management (supervising canteens in college, schools, in factories, company guest houses)
- Catering departments of railways, banks, armed forces, shipping companies
- Hotel and catering institutes
- Telecom, Banking, Insurance, BPOs in Customer Relations function
Where’s the money?
Although chefs and general managers are paid in lakhs, a fresh HM graduate may have to start with a leaner package. NS Bhuie, Director, Studies, National Council for Hotel Management and Catering Technology, admits that the pay is average. Fresh HM graduates, as management trainees get a stipend between Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 15,000, which goes up to Rs. 26,000 after the completion of the training at a hotel, which is usually two years. In comparison, industries like BPOs pay a fatter take home to fresh graduates, says a recruiter.
“40 percent of students who do hotel management join other service industries,” says Sudhir Andrews, dean, Ecole Hôtelière Lavasa, a hospitality management institute in Pune. Hotels are already feeling the pinch he says. But a senior manager at one of the top Delhi hotels says that salaries have gone up by more than 60 per cent in the past few years.
Long working hours
Hospitality is a round-the-clock function; it’s a 24x7, 365 days-a-year job. In fact, when the whole nation is off on August 15, the hospitality industry is buzzing, says Ashima Sukhani, public relation executive of ITC Hotels. And as room service and coffee shop kitchens are open 24 hours, working hours go up to 18 hours. But KS Srinivasan, Vice-President, HR, Taj, Mumbai, doesn’t see working long hours as a drawback at all. “Just look at the experience you get after working in this industry for two years. You get scrubbed and polished and after two years you shine!”
Manager or waiter?
While hotel management institutes prepare students for a managerial role, the industry wants to hire them as waiters. Both sides have their arguments. Jay Rathore, General Manager, The Oberoi, New Delhi, says that while he picks graduates, they start at the staff level. “People expect to do managerial or supervisory jobs right away, but I ask them ‘are they prepared to manage 25 people?’ With no experience how can you lead 25 people, how can those 25 people look up to you for career and advice?” While the industry needs people with managerial qualities, it’s only after a few years that young graduates can step into that role. “People have to walk in with the right attitude.”
Can do, will do!
No job is big or small. Period. You must have a positive outlook, always, says Anurag, a butler with ITC. “You have to anticipate the needs of your guests and how else can you do that if you do not love your work?,” asks Srinivasan. Both faculty and recruiters rue that young people want to jump up the ladder. “You cannot fast-track in this line of work. The only way to do it is by working hard and being very good in your work; that comes with years of hard work,” says Srinivasan. The work pressure is high and there are occasions when you may be shouted at by a senior. “Either you look at it as a punishment or an opportunity to learn,” says Anuj Burman, an HM student aspiring to be a chef. The same people who shout at you are the ones who reward you as well, says Prerna Kapur, first year HM student. “This is no ordinary industry. You have to be motivated, passionate and energetic and it has to come from the heart,” says Rathore.
There are jobs available on land, at sea and in the air. You could work at hotels, organisations such as MindTree, Maruti Suzuki, in hospitals, the retail industry, defence establishments, banks and even the insurance sector. Within the hotel industry, there are options of joining HR or sales and marketing. In fact, hospitality is an indispensable function in every sector, points out a CEO of a large firm. “When I go for business meetings to companies like Infosys, right from transport to putting me up in their guest house to looking after my lunch and dinner is taken care off by its hospitality department.”
Also, there’s a demand for outsourcing managers as most corporates and hospitals outsource their support services and need a person with management skills and a good understanding of the hospitality industry to manage Food Production, F&B, Front Office and Housekeeping. “These make for support services in a hospital and it comprises 30 percent of the total staff strength of a hospital,” says Dr. K Prabhakar, Senior Vice-President, Corporate, HR, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. In fact, hospitality graduates are in great demand abroad, especially in the Middle East and the UK where Indian food is very popular.
Behind the glitz
Once in the industry, you could be shaking hands with Rahul Gandhi or taking pictures with Sachin Tendulkar and Katrina Kaif, but don’t forget there’s work to be done too, says Rathore. Many come here thinking that it’s a glamorous job. But it’s not always so, says Kunal Pahwa, Manager, Bukhara, ITC. Yet students seem keen on hospitality. According to the IHM faculty, every year more than 60,000 students appear for the entrance exam. And the numbers are going up. Of course, the hospitality industry has its own charms, says Rathore of Oberoi. “No other industry offers such refined working environment and dignity. Hospitality is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.” So, in addition to an overview of how and where to study, we offer you a spread of the five major areas of hospitality; Front Office, F&B Service, Housekeeping, Food Production and wellness. Bon Appétit!
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