“The most important asset I have acquired over the years is people skills,” says Vinayak Chowdhri, adding, “My training has prepared me to venture into several other professional domains.” Chowdhri, 25, is an assistant manager (food and beverage) at IHC Maratha in Mumbai. In the last five years, he enrolled into a hotel management course after school, has trained at various IHC properties across India, the last one being the IHC Windsor in Bangalore as an understudy manager. Though he refuses to divulge his salary, he adds with a wink, “Let’s just say I earn enough to afford a comfortable life in Mumbai.”
While the economic slowdown has impacted the hotel industry marginally, young professionals in the industry are unperturbed. “There is a seven per cent annual growth (in the industry), and students who pass out of premium schools do not get affected to an extent,” believes Indian Hotels Company senior vice-president (human resources), H N Srinivas. With 150-250 hotels coming up in India every year, hotel management graduates have a plethora of opportunities across the services sector.
There are around 50 hotel management institutes in India. To qualify for their courses, 6,500 applicants across the country appear for entrances every year. Half of these institutes have been set up by the National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology. For instance, The Institute of Hotel Management, Catering & Nutrition, Pusa in New Delhi offers BSc in hospitality & hotel administration to 12th standard pass-outs.
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Adding to this number are private institutes set up by leading hotel chains in the country, namely the Taj group, The Oberoi and the IHC group. IHM-Aurangabad (affiliated to the Taj Group) offers a BA (Hons) in Hotel Management and a BA (Hons) in Culinary Arts. The IHC group has collaborated with the TMA Pai Foundation in Manipal to set up the Welcomgroup Graduate School, along with the IHC Hotel Management Institute (IHCHMI) and an 18-month management trainee programme for graduates from any discipline. For post-graduates, there are several diploma courses. All students are provided six months of industrial training, after which they are hired by hotel chains through campus placements.
“If you’re willing to work for over 12 hours a day and on most holidays,” says Manoj Virmani, vice-president (learning services) for IHC hotels, “then you can be anyone – from the doorman to the chairman!”
Take the case of Chowdhri. He was among the 10 students selected by IHC, from about 400 applicants for its Welcomlegionnnaire, a four-year programme for students who have passed 12th standard. The course is a full-time scholarship, wherein the students are paid a monthly stipend ranging between Rs 5,000 and Rs 15,000 during the course. However, there’s a catch: The students have to sign a service agreement to work solely for the IHC group for a certain period. If the bond is broken, one might have to pay a penalty. “We are investing Rs 60,000 a month on each applicant,” counters Virmani.
As the course comes to a close, in most institutes, students are intimated of the placements by January and they have a few offers in their kitty by March. Around 85 per cent of the batch of graduates from IHM-A this year have already been placed, says Srinivas. Initially hired as hotel operations management trainees, the employees climb the ladder in years to come, becoming assistant duty managers, assistant restaurant managers, restaurant managers, food and beverage managers, front office managers and general managers.
Chowdhri’s salary has been increased by around 25 to 30 per cent since his first job. During their internships at Taj, the graduates receive a monthly stipend of Rs 16,500. This amount can go up to Rs 18,000 and is being revised, adds Srinivas. For the 15 to 18 graduates selected out of a batch of 1,000 as ‘Taj management trainees’, the salaries can go up to Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 a month in two to three years, depending on growth within the industry.
While the salaries are attractive and the lifestyle a cushy one, attrition in the hotel industry is high, ranging between 18 and 20 per cent. At IHC, the managerial attrition is around eight per cent. Fifty per cent of hotel management graduates, says Virmani, don’t stick to the industry and put their skills to use in other fields – be it retail, finance, communications, airlines or entrepreneurship. “Given adequate education, exposure and experience, for hotel management graduates, the sky is the limit,” feels Virmani.