For up to 12 hours a day, Akshay Kaushik has a smile on his face and a lilt in his voice. That’s his job. And if that sounds exhausting, Kaushik, 21, a front office manager in training at the Taj Palace in Delhi, is more than happy to do it.
On a stipend of Rs10,000 a month, Kaushik, a recent graduate of the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition (IHM), New Delhi, has a much coveted position among the thousands of hospitality graduates across the country. The number of job vacancies in the hospitality industry is many, but employment with topnotch companies, such as the Taj group, are harder to get, said Kaushik.
According to D.D. Sharma, head of accommodation and front office training at IHM in Delhi, there will be a 45% increase in the number of five-star hotels in the Capital in the next two years. In other metropolitan cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata, there will be a growth of 25% by 2010, added Sharma.
And that means a need for skilled employees—and the institutes that train them. “This is the golden period for recruitment,” said Sharma. “Yet we’re still running short of trained manpower.”
With the Commonwealth Games approaching fast, all sectors within the hospitality, including hotels, are expected to grow. But there are challenges the hotel industry faces, namely attrition and skilled employees. Many employees, said experts, are leaving hotels for other hospitality sectors that pay more, such as airlines and cruise liners. Some are even going abroad to West Asia and Europe.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, or Assocham, the attrition rate in the hospitality industry is set to double to nearly 50% from the current 25% on account of the Commonwealth Games, which will fuel a huge demand for trained and skilled personnel in the next few years.
The chamber estimates that the Commonwealth Games will create job opportunities for approximately 50,000 skilled professionals, and around 70 hotels are likely to be commissioned in the next three years, assuming each hotel will need approximately 600 workers. According to Ikram Singh Bawa, a hospitality management consultant, retention of workforce through training and development is indeed a major concern. One of the reasons, he said, is an unattractive wage package.
“There’s a clear gap in demand and supply and the biggest challenge we are facing is human resources—trained professionals to run hotels,” he said. “An entry-level graduate in a BPO might make Rs12,000-15,000 per month, while a graduate from a non-top tier hospitality programme might make only Rs5,000-8,000 per month.”
At IHM Delhi, almost everyone receives a job offer upon graduation, said Vijay Dhawan, head of food and beverage at IHM Delhi. He said most students graduate with at least two job offers. The programme started in 1962 in Delhi, an offshoot of its Mumbai branch, which started in 1954. The price of the three-year degree course, under the aegis of the ministry of tourism, is more reasonable, compared with other schools because of its government affiliation, said Sharma. The cost: around Rs40,000 per year, not including housing.
Students cover various subjects from food production to front office work, to housekeeping. The Indian tourism and hospitality industry is doing well, driven by the increase in both business and leisure travel by domestic and foreign tourists. In fact, the country’s travel and tourism industry is expected to generate approximately $100 billion (Rs4.28 trillion) in 2008, rising to $275.5 billion by 2018, according to the latest Tourism Satellite Accounting research released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Programmes such as those conducted by the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development (OCLD) have taken this into consideration. The competition for admission into this school, however, is stiff. Only 80-100 students are selected every year, and last year more than 4,000 candidates applied, said Rohit Dar, general manager of learning and development at OCLD.
That means it’s easier to get into Harvard Law School, which has an acceptance rate of around 11%, than into OCLD. Each year, in September and October, recruitment days are organized at all Oberoi and Trident hotels. After four rounds of interviews and a national qualifying examination, in January the successful few are invited to Delhi for the finals. Training takes place at The Maidens hotel in Delhi. Three two-year postgraduate diploma programmes are offered in guest service management, housekeeping management and kitchen management.
And unlike other training institutes, OCLD does not charge its students a fee. Those selected, said Dar, are paid a stipend and provided hostel accommodations. There is no bond that on completing the course associates must work with the Oberoi Group. However, said Dar, associates are aware that the group is making a significant investment in their future and most often accept a moral obligation to repay that investment with loyalty, commitment and performance.