On the surface it's calm and tranquil luxury. An executive takes a sip of a fine cocktail while reclining into a leather chair; a celebrity tucks into the finest French cuisine. Behind the scenes, however, the exciting, adrenaline-fueled hospitality machine is pumping away and you could get on board.
Businessmen and tourists are flocking to Mumbai like never before - an annual increase of 13 per cent in foreign visitors - so it comes as no surprise that hotels, restaurants and bars throughout the city are teeming.
The hospitality industry is booming, with an estimated 140,000 new hotel rooms expected to open up by 2010. Over the last two years, 1,200 rooms in the five star category have sprung up solely in Mumbai's northern suburbs. Such rapid expansion has opened up thousands of diverse and exciting job opportunities.
"Any international player in the hospitality world today wants a foothold in India. Growing at 20 - 30 per cent it is the biggest market to be in," said Anil Malik, general manager, Grand Central, Lower Parel. "In Mumbai the number of rooms is still acutely under supply. Even Singapore has more rooms, although the demand here has surpassed that of Singapore's."
There are unprecedented levels of development and investment across India's financial and commercial capital and the hospitality industry in racing to keep up. The northern suburbs have emerged as the new hub for five star properties, owing to the new business district in Andheri and the development of the Bandra Kurla Complex.
While The Taj Palace and Tower and The Oberoi have long held monopoly in South Mumbai, there is now a plethora of choices ranging from uptown snobbery to downtown luxury.
"Maharashtra is a very progressive state, with the highest returns on foreign direct investments. As such, banks, finance and IT companies are registering in Mumbai. This in turn translates into a demand for rooms. Mumbai is both the centre and transit point into other upcoming hubs such as Pune," said Mohit Nirula, general manager, The Oberoi.
With the celebrated Four Seasons hotel poised to be unveiled later this month and occupancy across hotels at an estimated 80 per cent, even Mumbai's previously uninhabited central mill land has become a hotbed of activity. The Grand Central was the first five star constructed on a mill land that catalysed the movement and exposure to Parel, catapulting its land prices to that of Cuffe Parade or Nariman Point.
Plenty of vacancies
The boom in the hotel industry has made hospitality a hugely attractive career option with unlimited opportunities. Every student studying at one of the 12 catering institutes in Mumbai has lined up a job before graduating. The FHRAI Institute of Hospitality Management is in the process of setting up colleges in Delhi and Mumbai.
Hospitality students can also take advantage of international tie-ups, meaning a fresh graduate to save up to Rs 4-5 lakhs a year with jobs in India or Europe. However, this can often lead to staff being poached and attrition rates are high.
"70-80 per cent of our workforce is straight out of colleges," added Malik. "The youth have a desire to prove themselves and large organisations like the ITC believe in recruiting them at a time that they can be moulded in keeping with the company ethos. "India has now become the service sector supply chain of the world, and our hotels are the largest poaching grounds. Our biggest challenge is not to recruit, but to replace. Of the 500 we employ every year, we have to replace around half, who end up getting jobs in hotels abroad and on cruise liners," said Malik.