14 Nov 2017 15:37 IST

Creating leaders for tomorrow’s hotels

The goal of the newly launched Indian School of Hospitality is to reimagine hospitality education

Hospitality consultancy firm HVS India pegs the number of quality branded hotel rooms in India this year at 1,19,219 – a growth of 5,597 rooms (spread across 54 new hotels) over last year. It says the supply is going to increase by another 47,067 rooms soon as more hotels get built across the country. Mind you, HVS puts out a fairly conservative number – it does not include the capacity in the unorganised sector. Even brands such as Oyo are bracketed in another category.

So where is the manpower for this great boom in hotels going to come from? Literally every hotelier one meets today lists lack of good talent as one of the industry’s biggest challenges.

A measure of this is evident if you look at the CVs of hotel general managers. Earlier, it took at least a 20-year grind in the profession to become a general manager. Today, plenty of hotels have general managers with barely 6-7 years’ industry experience. Lack of talent has meant fast-tracking careers, often to the detriment of service.

While the Institute of Hotel Managements (including the one run by the Taj group at Aurangabad), and institutes such as the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development or ITC’s Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration do a great job, they are not enough. The existing IHM capacity, according to industry insiders, is about 10,000-odd seats whereas the need, considering staff-to-room average of even just one, is far far more.

Complex role

Also, skills have changed – a general manager today has to not only know about hotel operations, but be savvy about business and finance, marketing and social media, building materials and a host of other things.

Spotting the gap, Dilip Puri, former managing director of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, South Asia, has launched the Indian School of Hospitality which he hopes will create the next generation of industry leaders. “The vision is to redefine and reimagine hospitality education,” he says. The campus, coming up in Gurugram, will open its doors in August 2018.

How will it be different from the others? “The use of technology, life skills, future-proof curriculum, internship in good institutions, global perspectives …,” rattles off Puri. The school has forged a partnership with Swiss firm Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, in preparation for an academic certification from Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, the world’s oldest and most prestigious hospitality management institute. The official degree, though, will be from one of the Gurugram universities.

Puri, who has sewn together a funding of ₹25.2 crore from various high networth individuals to get the institute started, has managed to rope in the who’s who of hospitality in one capacity or the other, be it Patu Keswani (Lemon Tree), Ajay Bakaya (Sarovar), Ashish Jakhanwala (Samhi Hotels), Rajeev Kaul (Leela Group) or Kapil Chopra (The Oberoi group), among others.

Leaders in the making?

Yateendra Singh, Chief Executive Officer, Lausanne Hospitality Consulting, which is partnering the institute, says the vision is not to produce masses of hotel management graduates to feed the supply shortfall, but to create a thousand potential leaders. “Let the market take care of the mass needs, our goal is to produce the one thousand who will influence the course of the industry,” he says.

Puri, for his part, points to the curriculum of the four-year hospitality management programme which teaches hospitality only in the first two years and has business and finance in the next two. He says the institute can supply leaders to other industries as well – from aviation and retail to travel and banking. “Anybody in the service industry, really,” he says.

In the days of automation, when every job role is getting replaced by machines, only the high-touch human contact roles will remain. Hospitality is an industry that thrives on human contact, he observes.

With fees starting at over ₹5.5 lakh a year, ISH is by no means affordable to all. Puri does not rule out bursaries. The campus, being developed by the Vatika group, will have a modern food hall, not a canteen; affordable housing, not hostels. Puri says hostels are passé. “At 18, a student would want to experience independent living,” he says.

What Ashoka University has tried to do in transforming liberal arts education in the country, Puri seems to be attempting in hotel management. Will that result in quality talent? Let’s wait and see.