This is the story of India’s Ritchie Rich ( The poor little rich boy). OYO’s founder Ritesh  Agarwal who at 26 years of age is India’s youngest  Self Made  billionaire as per the  Hurun Global  Rich List. He joins the club, the others being Sachin Bansal, Bunny Bansal and Byju Ramachandran.  But there is a stark difference  on how the others made it and how Ritesh Agarwal acquired this premier membership. He is worth $1.1 billion net worth, Rupees 7,800 crore  six years after the inception of OYO. 

It is well known he has reneged on payment promises to hotel owners who signed on  with him, retrenched staff all over the world. In short he sold a promise earned the trust to use their services for his personal motive of becoming wealthy. Otherwise, why would hotel owners complain and file cases against OYO  of not honouring the terms & conditions of the agreement. The payment to them held up but other obligations not to be violated!

  In his avaricious pursuit  he has disrupted the hospitality industry, by selling a hope to hotel owners, clientele, vendors and human resources . His hypocrisy is exposed with his inspirational quotes carried in www.yourstory.com   . Sample  a few of these to understand with my queries posed:

“Hire people not for today but or2-3 years from now and let them grow with the company”  ( Mr Ritesh Agarwal, then why are you retrenching your staff on a humungous scale globally?).

“It is extremely important to build something that a 100 people absolutely love rather than make something that a 1,000 people would just kind of like”. (Mr Ritesh Agarwal, have you built for 100 or 1000 people?).

“ Your brand reflects your culture, purpose and identity It’s never too early to think about it.”  ( Mr Ritesh Agarwal, in this context, what is OYO’s culture, purpose and identity?

“ Bring people who are ready to stick their neck out for the mission of the company?”  ( Mr Ritesh Agarwal, in that case why the layoffs?).

“ You must be willing to stretch out of your comfort zone, take risks and be emotional ( in a good way) about  your venture and the stake holders involved.”(Mr Ritesh Agarwal, may we know the stake holders for whom you did this?).

(The author Me MSNeelakantan is the Founder CEO  of hospitalitylessons4u.com )




It’s no secret as reported in the media  Soft Bank on the directive of it’s Chief,  the millionaire Masayoshi Son invested substantially to fund OYO’s growth. Aparently Son. who has a proclivity to fund start-ups for example Uber, WeWork, AliBaba and Paytm to name a few was impressed with Ritesh Agarwal to take the decision to fund OYO.

When WeWork, the US firm , came under came under a cloud with  financial issues cropping up which had been brushed under the carpetjust when the realty company was filing for an IPO.

It’s breakneck run came a cropper as it’s value went down to $8 billion  from  $47 billion prompting Son to call founder Alfred Neumann with “ Your little brother… is really performing faster (and) better than you guys. Let me take you through their deck and  how well they are doing”. Little brother here referred to OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal who flush with funds from Soft Bank was on his meteoric rise across the Indian sub continent blazing away with a package of a youthful team, deep pockets and an idea whose time had come.

 The ‘disruptor’ or ‘upstart’ as he is referred to by hospitality industry veterans was soon I  suppose rueing his decisions of branching out too fast without a rock solid foundation.

Today as OYO  finds itself in the situation WeWork was then with allegations of non-payment of dues by partner hoteliers, massive lay-offs and other issues . OYO  then seen as Soft Bank’s best bet in India and Ritesh Agarwal regarded as Son’s ‘blue eyed’ boy  now finds  the situation has changed drastically.

As reported in the media, Son asked OYO to change it’s focus on profitability instead of fast growth in the wake of WeWork’s woes.

OYO  is in damage control now with reported pressure from Soft Bank who were earlier too soft on Ritesh Agarwal now pressurising hard.

It  shall  prove to be extremely  hard  for OYO’s management of Young Turks to change course in the middle of a  breathless sprint to jog and conserve energy. It shall prove to be hard for them with their hitherto meteoric speed coupled with spreading themselves too thin. The big bucks saw them start hotels in the first phase without solidifying to diverse into co-working spaces, Service Apartments, branded biriyani service in India and villas & guest houses abroad to name a few.

With cash burn reported well before the  retrenchment globally was initiated does spell not only trouble but hard times too with the added pressure of realigning their diverse interests. which won’t be easy as compared to their VTOL- Vertical Take-off and Landing, the landing to be hard belly up.

The same  Soft Bank who were soft in the beginning may well change colours to be a hard creditor.

Ladies & Gentlemen, time to fasten your seat belts to watch the action unfold with OYO, Soft Bank and Hard Times.

The author MS Neelakantan  is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com )




A cricket analogy is required here.  The striker & non striker at the crease call clearly “YES” or “ NO” attempting a run.

I  don’t think the OYO  men at the crease followed this basic principle. Instead choosing to emulate former Australian opener of the 1980’s, Graeme Wood who had a reputation of running out half of his team mates to then run himself out earning himself the moniker’ Kamikaze Kid.’ The  opponents ensured they never ran him out!

Andrew Hilditch his team mate & brother-in law remarked “ It isn’t his fault, I think. His prep school teacher probably never taught him the meaning of Yes and No!”

Coming back to OYO  the team that ran itself out.

In March  last year, As per a Bloomberg report,  OYO  had set a target  of 1 million rooms within a year. 1 lakh rooms- a Himalayan  target to reach even for a technology company acquiring rooms virtually (divide 1,00,000 by 365 to get an idea of the required run rate with very many times the Duckworth Lewis method introduced of their own making to  unsettle the order).  They had everything in their favour; deep pocket funding, positive media, fantastic branding, a  high rate of partner hotels wanting to join, loyal workers and clientele ,  only to run themselves out. Absolute kamikaze. At the end of the year the  score put up was 7,500. Not even 1% of the target set!

Many of us who had  forecast this disaster waiting to happen  early in the year were dismissed as being negative as also having a typical Indian mindset of being cynical & jealous of a youngster’s rapid rise. as OYO batted without a plan, not learning to call despite the run outs. Perhaps, even the OYO  management knew it would not happen. But at times companies do this  knowingly to stay in the game, to show, they are capable of pulling the marshmallows out of the fire, to turn the tide then in their favour.  But it would never have worked. No ‘Bhagirath prayas’ or a Herculean endeavour could get them to their target. The  signs were there to see: Partner hotels pulling out in huge numbers, potential partners put off by the legal cases against OYO  of reneging on payments to  partner hotels as per the contract. The media had a field day, is still having a field day with hotel owners ire against OYO  not playing  in the ‘spirit of the game.’ Add to it, their workers coming out in the open along with a Twitter  account named OYO Life Victims Association etc. All along not once did we hear or see the Captain  Ritesh Agarwal trying to inspire confidence. He and the top management maybe believed by burying their heads, their troubles would vanish.

OYO  only has itself to blame for the mess it has got into and  take the rap for  pulling the plug on partner hotels, investors and workers. The lay offs, the partner hotels exiting, negative media across the globe are testimonial to this.

At times it reads like a Greek tragedy; a blend of Ritesh Agarwal falling in love with his creation OYO  to become narcissistic, offend a Greek God to be cursed like Sisyphus. But as the captain of the team, Ritesh Agarwal cannot hide behind his team nor attempt to sweep all this under the carpet. Time he came into bat and play a captain’s knock.

The author MS Neelakantan  is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com )




Every organization has a purpose to exist. OYO also  started off with a purpose to exist. To  benefit stand alone hotels- the suppliers with consumers looking out for rooms . OYO was the bridge connecting them using technology. For a world living on gizmos- mobiles, laptops etc, booking hotels was just a tap of a key away. It was the best thing to have happened. No more calling hotels, comparing rates, availability as all of them were there selling their wares on OYO’s online platform. Instant results, with a standardised room promised at a nominal rate, the rate depending on season, demand & supply factors, lead time etc. Whatever the factors be, the consumer had options to choose from with everything done in a jiffy.

It worked as planned initially, but soon not just hotel owners but even their loyal consumers started complaining.

It is the little things that ultimately matter. OYO  had a lot of it’s properties near railway stations and airports.  That meant  early departures.  It meant the  service of  a cup of tea early morning for the guest. But the OYO policy of tea and breakfast complimentary at 8 am only was putting a lot of guests to discomfort.

All the property owner  had to do was to invest  once in an electric kettle, to supplement with tea bags, coffee powder, sugar  and milk powder sachets. Not  a big cost ! Charge for it with guests willing to pay for that necessity early morning.

Such a small effort was considered insignificant by OYO; while they were thinking  big to outsource biryani and brand it.

From what I  hear the top tier of management is made up of the ISB Hyderabad graduates with the second tier of hotel management graduates.  Is  it a case of hotel management graduates failing to  take cognisance of this little expectation of a guest . Or did they propose to be disposed off.

 While their team on booking inundated you with calls and texts to ensure  your reaching the hotel, comfort levels etc, the other main little expectations were ignored.

At times, the hotel failed to provide  guest the  promised  facilities & amenities by the Central Reservations team .

Maybe, the feedback requests guests were plagued with was  a mere ‘eye-wash.’ Many such issues at the micro-level was either ignored or never considered by the OYO  top management . This along with the hostility of the disgruntled hoteliers lead to  OYO defeating it’s own purpose of existence.

As OYO  franchisee hotel owners would on  the guest checking out hand over their business card with a “ Next time you want to stay here. Call me directly. I  shall give you a better deal and a better rate.” The author has experienced this with  two OYO hotel owners, one  near Nedumbassery airport and the other at Guruvayur.

 (The author MS Neelakantan  is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com )



The stock market element OYO  introduced in the hotel industry,  by being a bull to buy rooms months ahead of the registration date. A bull is an operator who buys now expecting the price to rise to sell at a later dater.

OYO  purchased huge volumes of rooms in advance from stand alone hotels. With the lead time being long coupled with  volume buying, they got the  rooms at a  throwaway price from hoteliers who saw potential in this deal. The agreement as expressed by a hotel operator in Agra specified a guaranteed amount per month to be paid by OYO  to the hotel operator in lieu of the  rooms committed.

OYO  had invested in the software, costs of their establishments,  training, human resources etc  for this purpose. But, somewhere, the script went wrong.

With OYO unable to credit the hotel operator the guaranteed amount monthly as confirmed by the hotel operators in Agra, Guruvayur and Trisshur, hotel owners collectively unified  against OYO as neither did they receive the money guaranteed by OYO nor could they sell the rooms which were committed to OYO as per the agreement.

The trading model innovated  and introduced is failing with OYO finding itself in trouble having failed to deliver the promised.

At Dalal Street and in other trading,  trust is the basis for all the stake holders. The goodwill and trust no longer exists with trading partners of OYO  refusing to trust OYO.

An innovative trading model of hotel rooms not sustained supposedly as OYO  failed to honour its commitments to its trading partners- the hoteliers.

(The author MS Neelakantan  is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com )




The East India Company – the first MNC  in this world – was created  by a group of merchants who  had received a royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 after paying the crown the required money.   Soft Bank backed OYO  may have taken a leaf from the East India Company if one were to draw a parallel.

The royal charter was the monopoly to trade in spices from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, collectively termed as the East Indies by the Europeans. They came to India not by choice but due to the Dutch exiting them. Their disappointment on being edged out of East Indies turned into unalloyed  joy as they , found out the  once mighty Mughal Empire was on its last legs in the 18th century.  Using the royal decree, they monopolized the spices trade to Europe. India was then one continent – a huge land space. The business model was acquiring the produce from the land  at a buyer’s price using the revenue model of  only paying for the product,  smartly avoiding incurring the capital costs of underwriting the produce or compensation in times of natural calamities and disasters. Or supporting the supplier in times of distress.

Initially the supplier was delighted as he was getting better rates than before, but it did not take him a long time to realize he had lost his liberty to sell his produce to any  other buyer  except the East India company. His losses did not matter to them. He  was trapped, committed to selling them his produce or else let it lie unsold at the price they determined. They could threaten him with force as they had raised private armies (the legal department with the contract laced with fine print. The commitment of a fixed number of rooms which OYO  would sell at a rate they determined with their software, demand & supply factors etc. is part of the new East India Company strategy. Even if the operational costs  is  much more than the rates fixed by OYO but the hotel owner could not as per the agreement sell the rooms committed to OYO at a higher price to a walk-in guest).

The classic East India Company model of  standalone hotel owners initially  being delighted on signing the agreement with OYO then. Later to rue their fate as allegedly a lot of hidden cost clauses  in the fine print  they omitted to read & understand. To add to it allegations of hidden charges, hotel owners not paid their dues on time. Their voices not heard by OYO . Perceived as arrogance and hubris.

As the OYO  bubble seemed to be bursting, I  spoke to hotel owners in Agra,  Trisshur and  Guruvayur among many across the country. On hearing them out, I realized their situation was similar to that of the supplier in the East India Company days. The relaxed feeling after signing up with OYO initially turned to anxiety & stress with the promised revenues not accruing. Being small operators facing a Goliath, they cowed down, later to collectively flex their muscles. It remains to be seen if a Ritesh Agarwal manages to do what  Robert  Clive did for  the  East India Company. The Battle of Plassey lies ahead to be fought not on the battle ground of Plassey with sword and metal but in the courtrooms and the media rooms.

 (The author MS Neelakantan  is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com )




OYO  or ORAVEL Stays Private Limited- the parent company despite  it’s meteoric rise, the lateral & angular spread,  big financial backing , bad press with partner fallouts and all the woes one could associate it with  resulting in the present turbulence still makes for a great case study or a thesis at the IIM’s & other B Schools, at the IHM’s and other hospitality institutes.

The chutzpah this 22 year old Ritesh Agrawal, with no hospitality industry qualifications demonstrated to achieve his dream for building the world’s biggest hotel chain using  the power of technology instead of the costs of building physical edifices has to be acknowledged, admired & appreciated. So what if he is failing at the moment with his one time fans taking out their knives on him.  He had the courage to think out of the box. 

Let us credit him for altering the  rules of the game by turning the supplier’s market into the customer’s market..  Adopting the  late legendary CK Prahlad’s maxim of ‘the bottom of the pyramid’ approach. No mean feat pitted against an industry united against the outsider.

It was not long before the industry majors used every trick in the book to cut him down to size.

I was a member of the pre launching team-Air Deccan; India’s 1st budget airline and  witnessed the aviation industry majors trying to do the same to Air Deccan when we were trying to revolutionize the way India flew.   But in our case then it was our passengers, the beneficiaries themselves who did us in!

But not before we gifted the common man a legacy of a fleet of budget airlines.

OYO though too early to be dismissed off, has yet to show signs of gifting a  legacy of such chains which are much more sound, which will stand the test of time, make  the supplier’s market into a customer’s market but with the hotel owner’s goodwill.  Maybe grow slowly in clusters. Much more in detail in the series to follow. 

Yet, as a hospitality professional with over 25 years of experience, I can only applaud Ritesh Agrawal  for his ingenuity, gamble and to boldly go where no man has gone before. As, it’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all… 

(This is the first of a series on OYO)

The author MS Neelakantan is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com .



The hospitality industry in India has gifted 2 Prime Ministers to the nation- the only industry to do so. But, it seems this has escaped the eyes of the students, academicians and the professionals of the hospitality industry.  For us to understand this , we need to know  what are the components of the Hospitality Industry.

Food & Beverage Service, Lodging, Recreation and the logistics of Travel &Tourism are in brief, the components.  This includes the wayside dhabhas, local eateries, fine dining & QSR outlets, kiosks & vendors selling tea, coffee and refreshments, taxi, buses agencies,  tourist guides,, the bus services, railways, airlines and cruise-liners to sum up. Every person engaged in Food & Beverage Service, Lodging, Recreation and the logistics of Travel &Tourism  becomes a member of the hospitality industry.

The two Prime Ministers are Late Mr Rajeev Gandhi an Mr Narendra Modi.  The former, an airline pilot before he was thrust into the hot seat, the latter a tea vendor at a railway station.

As per the Hospitality Industry classification, a pilot is considered but not the humble tea vendor on a railway platform. But this changed with the implementation of the FSSI-Food Safety and Standards Authority of India which is applicable  on  the unorganized and organized sectors of the Hospitality Industry. Prior to the FSSAI Act in 2006 that was operationalized in  2011,the unorganized sector was not  taken as part of the hospitality industry.  Today it is a component.

One of the first casualties of the FSSAI Act being operationalized was Maggi, the best selling noodles brand of Nestle India. But that’s a different tale to tell.

It is pertinent to note after India’s independence, in the past 66 years, we have had lawyers, farmers and  an Economist as Prime Ministers. But two Prime Ministers from an industry; the same industry that too.

Time to put the bubbly in the cooler to raise a toast to the hospitality industry  and its 2 stars who have governed the country.

For the academicians, time to inspire the students on this fact.

For all of us in the hospitality industry, this is a moment of pride, honour and delight in being the only industry to gift India not 1 but 2 Prime Ministers!

The author MS Neelakantan is  Founder CEO www.hospitalitylessons4u.com India’s 1st & premier hospitality lessons website.



Gujarat Tourism Corporation should take a leaf out of Kerala Tourism’s books to think creative and highlight its USP’s.

Till the 1980’s,  India was known abroad to tourists because of Goa and Rajasthan Tourism with the  Golden triangle of Indian tourism-Agra, Delhi and Jaipur still getting the highest number of tourists.

Somewhere in the 90’s, Dr Venu took over as Secretary tourism with Mr Amitabh Kanth as the Commissioner.  They used Kerala’s USP  of Ayurveda and the backwaters to project Kerala as a tourism destination.

Likewise, Gujarat has very many USP’s some that need not be promoted but there are many that need to be showcased and promoted to bring a variety of tourists; creating a new market literally.

The tourism attractions  of Gujarat, majority being the ignored are listed below:

 The story of why Ahmed Shah built Ahmedabad city. 


  Alfred High School, Rajkot- Where Mahatma Gandhi studied. (A walk through for tourists through its  corridors itself shall attract tourists. It has the potential to be another Taj Mahal for tourism footfalls).

Solo Travel  being safe for  single women tourists.

Textiles, Handicrafts and shopping. 

 Uniqueness of Dwarka city to attract the  pilgrim.

  Dwarka city the only Chaar dhaam and Sapta puri.

The only state with  the Ranchod temple hailing a soldier, Sri Krishna, who has fled from battle field. 

Sports Tourism- Cricketing History, Water Sports etc.

 No other state barring Gujarat has produced cricketing legends like Ranji, Duleep, Amar Singh, Vinoo Mankad and Mohammad brothers. 

 Ranjitsinjhi of Jamnagar, revered as one of the greatest batsmen in cricketing history represented England in test cricket then, also happens to be the man who taught the English in their own game how to leg glance- a stroke he is credited  as having invented.  His nephew Duleepsinjhi  followed his Uncle representing England in test matches.  ( A visit to his ancestral home with all his cricketing memorabilia is bound to get cricket enthusiasts make this as a stop over. An annual T20  match played between a team made up from his former teams Cambridge and Sussex versus a Saurashtra XI  would not be bad idea to draw the tourists, mainly the British and fans from  other cricket  loving countries.

Away from cricket, Ranji became Maharaja Jam Sahib of Nawanagar in 1907; was Chancellor of the Indian Chamber of Princes; and represented India at the League of Nations. His official title was Colonel H. H. Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Jam Sahib of Nawanagar, GCSIGBE.

  Amar Singh Ladha of Nawaagar ,India’s 1st fast bowler on the tour of England 1932. 

“There is no better bowler in the world today than Amar Singh,” said Len Hutton in an informal chat with pressmen at Madras in 1970. It was 34 years since the legendary England opening batsman had faced the Indian medium pace bowler while playing for Yorkshire. And it is the perfect tribute to Amar Singh that Hutton still remembered the hard time that the Indian, then a member of the 1936 Indian team, gave him. Another England great Wally Hammond described Amar Singh’s bowling as “he came off the pitch like the crack of doom”. Indeed, Amar Singh, along with Mohammed Nissar was the first great Indian bowler for his accuracy, stamina and ability to make the ball move alarmingly off the air or cut it devastatingly off the pitch. He played in all the seven Tests before the war. In the first Test in 1932 he took four wickets and hit an attacking 51, coming in at No 9. Against England in 1933-34, he was the country’s best bowler taking four for 106 off 54.5 overs in the second Test at Calcutta. In the final Test at Madras, in the absence of Nissar, he had to work overtime and rose to the occasion with a bag of seven for 86 off 44.4 overs in the first innings. Going in at No. 4, he scored a hard hitting 48. Amar Singh was however at his best in England where the conditions suited him. In 1932, he took 111 wickets (20.78) and made 641 runs (22.89) in the first class matches. By 1936 he was a popular Lancashire League professional and was released only for a few games for the Indian touring team. In the first Test, he took 6 for 35 in the first innings. In the second Test he again displayed his batting prowess by hitting an unbeaten 48 to help India draw the game. In the final Test at the Oval he scored a valuable 44 going in at No. 4 thus proving beyond doubt that he could be classified as an allrounder. At home, he was at his best against Lord Tennyson’s team in 1937-38 when he bagged 36 wickets (16.66) in the five unofficial Tests. In a short but brilliant Ranji Trophy career for Western India and Nawanagar he took 105 wickets at 15.56 apiece.

Vinoo Mankad India’s greatest all rounder born April 1917 Nawanagar

The only cricketer in the history of the great game who invented a mode of dismissal in 1948 in Australia v/s Bradman’s Invincibles. ‘Mankaded Out.’

The only Indian cricketer to have a test named in his honour ‘Mankad’s Test’ v/s England 1952 at the home of cricket, Lord’s.

The famous  cricketers who migrated to Pakistan: The  Mohamad brothers, Hanif  ( original Little Master), Musthaq ( inventor of the reverse sweep), Wazir and Sadiq who played for Pakistan hailed from Junagadh.Even Asif Iqbal, who migrated.

Food Tourism Fish and seafood, Gujarati vegetarian food, Muslim food, Parsee Food, Kesar Mangos,  healthy and organic food. 

Destination Weddings and Events Tourism

  City of Learning: Ahmedabad is home to diverse world class institutes. The only city in India with the  Physical Research Laboratory,  ISRO, IIM, Vikram Sarabhai  Centre for Science, School of Architecture, SEPT,National Institute for Design, IIT, Mudra Institute of Communications and  Nirma Institute.. to name a few.



It started with a casual chat at the chai-wallah outside the campus when someone suggested “ Why don’t we celebrate New Year’s Eve like Hotels do?”  More than the tea brewing on the stove this idea was brewing assisted by a lengthy session fuelled by the potent combination of  cigarettes and tea till late evening. Cigarettes & tea are a potent combination for the thought process as any smoker would testify. As the evening wore on, the effervescence of youth had got intoxicated with the idea.

Next morning we presented the idea to our Founder Principal Mr NM Rafique who after a pauseful thought agreed, but provided we first submit our reports on finance, marketing, operations etc.

For those of you who have had the opportunity to interact with him would know how difficult it is to put one past him.

The reports were prepared  at a  feverish   pace. And presented. After three or four attempts, we got his consent.  Sponsorship was the first priority among the tasks at hand. It fell on us the duo of Praveen Roy, presently Executive Director Lausanne (India) and the author. 

 I had the advantage of being a South Indian and of being born & brought up in Ahmedabad. Then the majority of white- collared  South Indians were either steno-typists or Secretaries to the head honcho of companies.

We honed on Godfrey Philips- who owned the Four Square brand of cigarettes. We had targeted Four Square as they were trying to get a market share for themselves. ITC had virtual monopoly of the market. Four Square had strategized their brand to be identified with the youth.Their advertisements were an indigenious version of the Malboro brand. The youth had slowly started patronizing Four Square. Precisely for this reason we chose to meet them as we knew ITC would have shown us the door.  The Uncle  whom I knew  got us an appointment with the Regional Manager- to whom he reported. We were prepared for rejection but, to our pleasant shock, on seeing the typed out sponsorship proposal, he let his excitement show.  He confirmed, but had to take Bombay office’s approval but then, put in a rider that once confirmed we would not entertain any other cash sponsor as Four Square would be the Title Sponsors.  Sensing an opportunity Roy upped the ante “ In that case you have to commit 2.5 lakhs.”  The Bombay office was despatched our report with the Regional Manager’s remarks after a tele- conversation.  Verbally it was confirmed.  We were ecstatic but tried to remain stoic as we had expected about Rupees 70,000/-.  For a week with Mr Rafique’s consent we both would be found at the Four Square Office from morning till evening awaiting the written confirmation and cheque.  Refreshments &Tea, cigarettes and  lunch they provided as the Regional Manager kept following up with Bombay. Evenings would see us brief Mr Rafique , our course-mates and juniors.  On the 7th day, we hit gold. We were handed over the confirmation letter and cheque with a carton of Four Square cigarettes. clutching the letter and cheque like dear life we probably did not pedal back on our cycles to College but flew!.We were also promised some 20-30 cartons of Four Square cigarettes for the event. 

We got in two more sponsors. Now we knew we had a winner on hand with  Vadilal icecreams and Rasna too joining the party with their products. Four Square, Vadilal and Rasna in addition to a 32 feet long  cake added spice  to the posters we had planned to put up at all colleges in town. The USP’s  for attracting the  college students – our audience worked as we were sold out totally.

The other committees took over for us to sit back.     The boys, majority from the hostels have to be recognized for going out in then late night, cold as it was then to stick the posters with their bare hands and glue made of boiled rice!

It as a success non-pareil ; a testimony to team spirit and spirit de corps. Every student on the campus carried out her/his responsibility better than expected. Our teaching faculty members led the way with their experience and vigour.

Our building 2 floors high vertically barricaded with the other half being occupied by the Technical Education Board  meant we just had about 600 square feet of space for the dance floor and seating.

Looking back  1985, Ahmedabad, a small town, we got sponsorship of Rupees 2.5 lakhs  besides making more than a lakh through sale of passes.    We gifted the Institute’s Students committee with almost Rupees 4 lakhs in their bank account.

The 1st time in India probably, an IHM  commercialized New Year Eve with IHM Ahmedabad making history by being the 1st to do so. Sometimes meagre resources make you think better in hindsight I realize!

MS Neelakantan is  Founder CEO www.hospitalitylessons4u.com India’s 1st & premier hospitality lessons website.



What do they know of England, who only England know?” was Kipling’s lament that his neighbours knew and cared so little about their achievements in the wide world. Orwell agreed about the ignorance.

On a different note, this is equally true of the hospitality industry too.  We tend to only recognize & venerate those who are celebrities or those who are on top of the totem pole in our hospitality industry. But there may be many writing their own success stories unknown to us outside the narrow confines of this industry after graduating from an IHM.

That set me thinking – If the hospitality industry prepares its students for a very demanding audience, the same student should be able to use these inputs wherever she/ he is to forge a success story outside the confines of the hospitality industry. Demanding audience as we serve the basic needs of man.

That made me find out success stories of IHM students who have joined the hospitality industry and migrated, but, in some cases not join the industry but choose to pursue their dreams on the wings of their passion or join a totally different industry or profession and excel beyond their boundaries.

Though my search was  limited to a very small group of students albeit, yet, produced very satisfying results. I interacted with those I know from IHMCT Delhi and 1 from Madras made me view the potential  of this programme  in a different light

. Below, I have tried to group these individuals based on their success stories outside the hospitality industry. 

Here I give credit to the Hotel Management programme for the student to undergo the rigours of physical work. To learn to appreciate that there is no substitute for hard work. In addition to the physically taxing work in the Housekeeping, Food Production and Food & Beverage Service departments, somewhere, unknown to the student, her/his  sense of creativity is ignited. The discipline that is required, the grooming, the thinking on the feet et al develops the student to be capable of joining any industry and make a mark.

There are the  women & men in Olive Green, entrepreneurs,  lawyers,  a  globally famous author, corporate czars…., an internationally acclaimed lady who has braved odds to be conferred with national & international awards, an academician in the CBSE  system, journalists as well as a green warrior.

I enjoyed, using my networks to find each of them. It was an honour to have interacted with them.

I am sure after reading this blog post, all you academecians, shall be motivated to search for such students with whom you would have interacted then. I am sure you would be pleasantly surprised and shocked on getting to know about some of them and what they have achieved.

The majority of those listed below expressed hat the Hotel Management rogramme  prepares them for the world  with inputs of soft skills, dignity of labour, man management, customer care,  street smartness, communication skills  in addition to self- confidence, grooming, discipline. Hard work and long hours is a given.  The 6 months industrial training further honed these traits.

A Hero For All Times

Shivani Gupta – A road accident transformed this girl into a tetraplegic and bound to a wheelchair for life. Undaunted, she did her MSc in Inclusive Environments – Design and Management from the University of Reading, UK to  set up an NGO Accessibility for making public spaces accessible for the  specially Challenged. She went on to earn a Diploma then a Masters in Architecture Technology 2004 before starting Accessibility.  She has been awarded the Helen Keller Award (2008), The CavinKare Ability Mastery Award (2008), The Red and White  Social Bravery Award (1999),  The National Role Model Award  (2004), The Neerja Bhanot Award (2004) and the Sulabh International Woman of the Year Award (1996). She has worked with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, The International Disability Alliance and CBM International.   She has also authored ‘No Looking Back’, a first hand account of her life.

Another Role Model

Sujaya Walia-  She has fought breast cancer and is the face of the NDTV campaign to create awareness among women to deduct breast cancer in its early stages to heal  faster & better. For this she travels to rural areas of Haryana, Rajasthan & Uttar Pradesh to address women and educate them.   She has also launched her own brand of tisanes meant to holistically  with natural ingredients keep you healthy . https://www.suesyogikettle.com/

The Change Makers

Shaloo Dogra-  Shaloo Dogra is a Yogaarcharya. She has learnt and has the expertise of formal meditation methods of Hinduism and Buddhism including Advaita, Vedanta, Shunyata, Dzogchen, Mindfulness and Stillness. A Master’s degree in yoga and expertise in Iyengar yoga has made her proficient in perfect body alignments and all other related mind & body healing methodologies.

She has a yoga studo in DLF Phase 1 Gurgaon. She facilitates customised sessions.

Srijeeta Varma – A volunteer with Medicin Sans Frontiers has seen her in Bihar to assist those suffering from Kala Zar as also volunteering in strife torn Palestine and Israel.

Prokash Dutta, MD,  Cleanpolis Energy Systems. Engaged in taking the initiative for investment in renewable energy infrastructure in a heavily subsidised and agrarian region.

The Academician

Dr.   Mrs. Anshu Maheshwari Arora, Principal- The Principal Amity International, Sector 43, Gurgaon. Honoured with the Best Teacher Award by CBSE for the year 2019. CBSE Master Trainer, an author and who has earned her Doctorate for her thesis on ‘Media habits Amongst School Children.’

The Indian Armed Forces

Two lady Officers- Captain Sunita Dahiya Devrani and Captain Guppaji Nagra

Late Major Harsvinder Dhami and  Late Major Navneet Vatts,

The former CO of the Armoured Corps Regiment who also was a Black Cat commando with the distinction of being an anti hijack expert.

Presently, in service is a Squadron Leader in the Indian Air Force as also two Brigadier rank Officers.

Also in Uniform  – is Rohit Rawat as a Customs Officer  in Cyprus.

Bollywood- Amit Kumar who has made two films starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui; a short film titled Byepass and a full length film titled Monsoon Shoot Out. He is also making serials for Amazon Prime.

The Entrepreneurs

Malavika Bannerjee- Her designer label Malavika tells you the story of her entrepreneurship. How she engages the services of handloom weavers and local craftsmen to not only sustain the art & craft but ensure a decent living standard of life for them.

Vijay Singh-Established Aaram Shop in Delhi and Bombay connecting more than 25,000 neighbourhood shops with the community. A technology he and his team pioneered. Bought over by Reliance Jio!

Saurjyeshnath Bhaduri-  Former  head of Reuters in India now has his own company. He with his course mate Sanjay Kailash  was one of those in the team of  ESPN  for their launch in India.

Meher Sarid- India’s 1st Wedding Planner Meher Sarid Weddings  and Sound of Music India Pvt Ltd also doubling up as Director Oxigen Online Services.

Subramaniam-  From IHMCT Chennai,  one of the Founding Partners of Maverick Systems- a company that is into  testing of Banking & Financial Services software.

Samir Kasal- Used to manage the off the field events & activities including celebrity management, organizing cheer leaders etc for Deccan Chargers during IPL Season 1.

Manish Shihani-  Founding partner of Delta Cooling Towers.

Anant Verma-Founder Director, Emoi Frozen Desserts.

Manish Maithani- used to export garments to Wal-Mart from 1999 to 2011. Now into real estate business.

The Lawyers

Atul Omkar-In Canada.

Kapil Sankhla and Ajay Jawatkar- the High Court and Supreme Court, New Delhi.

Scripting their Own Story

Madhulika Liddle-  Referred to as India’s Agatha Christie for her stories set in the Mughal empire courts.    Hercule Poirot is substituted with Muzzafar Jang, a Moghul nobleman.  A very interesting methodology to inculcate children into the reading habit with the advantage of their learning the history of the Mughal Empire. Her website www.dustedoff.com is a treat for those keen on film & book reviews as well as a treasure-trove for melodies before 1970.

Vineet Pannchhi- www.vineetpanchhi.com  Poet, Filmmaker, Entrepreneur and  India’s leading Voice Artist based in Dehradun.

 Corporate- In High Places

Mohit Malhotra-  CEO Dabur India.

Nirbhik Goel- now the Chief Recruitment Officer for the Oberois was earlier MD- Barclays Bank India.

Ravneet Bhandari- Chief Commercial Officer Brightline Trains in the USA. Two  years back, he sold his tech start-up.

Rajat Kapoor- Executive Director KPMG leading Product Recycle Management for Firmwide Applications. Former Global Transformation& Simplification Leader with GE for 20 years.

Romi Dutta- Has been Head of almost all the verticals at Sahara India.

Anjali Chandra- Regional Manager (Eastern Canada), Accenture.

Sameer Chawla- Former VP- HCL.

Pratapaditya Chakraborty VP-Training Wadhwani Foundation.

 Achla Ghai Chawla- Brand Manager, Longines.

Manu Goel- Senior VP, GenPact USA.

Indira Sowacar-Senior VP-HR, GenPact India.

Hema Suri- Director-Revenue ( India Bangladesh & Pakistan), Turner International (Pogo Channel, Cartoon Network etc). She used to be Head -Revenue, BBC India.

Yogesh Khattar- Head-Operations-HR(USA), Morneau Sheppell.

Vikhyat Singh- Senior Director and Site Lead, Dell, Gurgaon.

Anoop Chauhan-CEO-Supply Chain, ACCI Supply Chain.

Rakesh Kaul-Group Head-Retail Banking, RHB Banking Group, Malaysia.

Amrita Padda-Executive VP &CEO Unilever, Philippines.

Lucky Wadhera- Commercial Banking Leader Wells Fargo.

Manish Khullar- Technical Solution Lead, IBM, Dubai.

Rahul Clifford  Saluja- Trainer, IBM.

In The News

Tejeesh Nippun Singh Behl- Former Asst. Editor with Business Today, now works for the Times of India group.

Shivani Mohan- Columnist and a regular contributor to the national  and regional print media. Was earlier  a columnist with the Khaleej Times.



Very often, we tend to use the word  character without understanding it’s meaning and application.

One meaning of Character is ‘the mental and moral qualities of an individual.’ 

And there is a need for building character within the Institutes of Hotel  Management & Catering Technology.  A  teenager from a middle class family, may  tend to lose her/his  head on joining the hospitality industry. Working with the other gender at odd times with long working hours away from their homes, amidst a heady mix of late evening hotel parties with the attraction of alcoholic beverages, interacting with  guests; a combination of wine women & wealth- in the company of cougars and those wanting an arm candy to state the minimum can prove disastrous to a blossoming career. I  am witness to many a  lovely  career ruined because the role models were not role models at the Institutes they studied. Here I refer to the teaching faculty members responsible for the 4 core subjects. I have heard first person accounts  from students of certain teachers who would for a bottle or two at times or even  for a monetary fee granting the student the required attendance percentage as also taking care of her/him during the practical exams.  The word spreads in college campuses  from seniors who educate the juniors with inputs on the teacher’s particular need to get the internal assessment marks or some other related  academic requirement which otherwise has to be earned.

If the boys get away with the above the senior girls are there to educate their juniors. The modus operandi is different here. With which teacher does keeping the top two buttons open  to bend more than once during the Viva- Voce or in which teacher’s presence should the saree pallu slip down more than once are the tips shared.  

A classic incident on this subject  I  have witnessed is of  this boy a very senior Military Officer’s son, handsome, dashing, intelligent and hardworking. Excellent in academics as in Extra Curriculars & Co Curriculars.  The girl on his arm  changing almost every month. You could well imagine his personality & charisma.

And here was this teaching faculty Chef who unlike, him, was not to the ‘Manor Born.’  This boy with his fluent English and French was everything   he was not. This student just could not find his way in the kitchens during  his 3rd year.  Surprising, as he had done quite well in the previous 2 years, He was distressed & depressed. A nice career was at stake. With nobody to guide him, he  turned to his  former Seniors. The tactic suggested paid off brilliantly.

They asked him to meet the Chef in private in his Cabin. With folded hands accept his inability to do well in the kitchens. Requested him for special help; a personalized coaching session. Post college. Evenings saw this boy at the Chef’s residence with  everything needed to cook the menu for the day. He was smart enough to also   slip in a bottle or two of the finest variety too.

The Faculty Chef won the battle of the ego, by ‘ using his power to put the student in his place!’ That student did very well and is abroad  with a great professional career. This sort of incident is not restricted to one particular IHM or to one particular Department. But restricted, to the core departments as failing in any one then  meant repeating the year.

The author has a student, been threatened by a teacher of a core subject with “ Remember, I teach a core subject. You have to do as I  tell you. Otherwise, you are aware what I  can do during your Practical Exams.”

All this worked in the pre- mobile, social media age, but I  do not think it would work now and nor will it work at private Institutes.

The damage that is done by such teaching faculty members is long term as it  stays in the student’s mind as an easy way to get rewards in his/her professional career. As a junior level staffer they try to use the same method with their supervisor.  When they do become team leaders or HOD’s, they  tend to reward like minded team members from those who put ethics & values above all. To choose to use their power of authority to do as they please. I  know of two senior level managerial resources using their authority of hierarchy to womanize. They had a great time, but in a short time  their  respective partners chose to  divorce them. Two broken homes all because of a lack of character.

In those days, women chose to keep quiet, as they would instead be slandered, but now with the #Me Too campaign’s power, it’s a  level playing field.

I  do hope teaching faculty members at IHM’s and elsewhere take cognizance of these views.

Teachers have to be role models. There is no other choice. As it’s neither a job, career nor a profession but a nation building exercise. Responsibility of an entire generation rests with the teachers.

The solution- For the selection of teachers, a psychometric test may assist as will continuous feedback from students.

The author writes this as a former teacher at IHMCT Pusa, whose students still recall him for his  character and the ethics & values he practised more than two decades ago. He was the 1st teacher at IHMCT Pusa to take feedback from students. For them to be brutally frank,  students were requested not to write their names on the feedback forms. These he shared with the then Principal.

The author MS Neelakantan is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com 

India’s 1st& premier hospitality lessons website



The Institutes of Hotel Management- established as early as in 1954 at Bombay  have witnessed changes in curriculum and in other areas. The 3 year Diploma changed to a Degree as did the 2 months Industrial Training in one department in the 2nd year summer vacation evolve into a 6 months Industrial Training in the 2nd year as part of the academic calendar.

However, there is once constant that has not changed that needs to be changed.

IHM’s have to start producing  Specialists and not the ‘Cookie Cut assembly line of students who graduate. This idea was mooted by a leading hospitality Academician in the late 80’s . But like all good ideas shot down!

The proposed was to make the 1st and 2nd years common for fundamentals with the 6 months Industrial  Training. Post the  Industrial training after the student knows his attitude & aptitude, he chooses either of the two streams of Accommodation Operations or Food & Beverage Services.

In the former the mains being Front Office and Housekeeping with the electives of Forecasting, Accountancy Revenue Management, Organic Chemicals, Laundry Management, Horticulture, Fabric- their design, maintenance and usage, etc.

For the Food & Beverage Services the two mains would be the Kitchens and the Food Service Areas.

Electives  may include Kitchen Stewarding, Food & Beverage Cost Control, Yield Management, Bar Management etc.

To this I suggest why not add another year to take a leaf from the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasala. And do away with the MSc program which the industry Captains do not value.

Post the NDA training, the Army cadets go to Dehradun to specialize, while the Navy go to Kochi and the Air-Force go to Hyderabad.

Likewise our Accommodation students go  to maybe IHM Lucknow, the Food Services to go to another IHM TO Specialize. Worth the effort as those who graduate will be specialists in that department with knowledge & expertise of the fundamentals of the other departments too.

The author MS Neelakantan is the Founder CEO  of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com 

India’s 1st& premier hospitality lessons website



Sometimes it requires a person, not from within the industry with no expertise,  but, an outsider, with  a passion to be a change-maker.  A Captain Gopinath-Deccan Aviation, Ritesh Agarwal-Oyo Rooms are Change-makers and Outliers.

Though it’s too early to give  28 years old Neethi a place in that club, I  would risk sticking my neck out to say she is en-route there.

She returned to Bangalore from Paris after doing an MBA  in International Management.  Has work experience in the real estate industry but an experience at a restaurant radically changed her thinking.  She realized there was a huge gap in the guest’s expectations and the service offered.  That set her  thinking.  She started SKILLED . Here is a brief on SKILLED; who they are, what they do, their syllabus  and their novelle approach in contrast to the 1 year Diploma in F & B Service syllabus offered by the IHM’s- the syllabus designed by the National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology.  I  leave it to you to decide where would you send a person to become a Steward.

About Skilled

40% of diners never return to a bar/restaurant due to poor customer service!

The lack of accessible, consistent, and formal training affects the functioning of a kitchen as well as the overall restaurant experience.

We’re on a mission to better this very restaurant dining experience. We believe that access and skills change lives, and

every member of the workforce deserves an equal opportunity.

We up-skill and invest in service staff at all food & beverage establishments, train them, and ensure that they learn the skills needed to provide the best service

Our Services

  1. Skilling : Our hands-on training programmes ensure that your staff learns and adapts to the service skills needed in today’s F&B industry.
  2. Recruiting : We help your bars & restaurants find the right talent for your business. We also partner with NGOs and schools on up-skilling programs.

About Neethi

28 years old, under grad at Christ University, Bangalore and MBA from ESCP Business School – Paris & London. Varied experience: From training blue collar workforce in Facility Management to developing marketing & sales strategy for a premium real estate developer.


A timeline of activities and expected outcomes

Profile Assessments

Base Line Skilling


App training

Job placement and skilling



1. Work Organisation and Management (10)

2. Customer Service Skills and Communication (20) 3. Menu Knowledge (10)

4. Preparation for Service (10)

5. Food Service (35)

6. Beverage Service (15)

*() carry the weightage of each programme




32 hours with a weightage of 10/100

Introduction to the F&B industry

Growth in the F&B industry

Brief on the different food & beverage establishments in the industry

Receiving instructions on food & beverage service operation from captain/manager

Grooming as per organisation standards

Knowledge of the company and it’s processes Organisation culture and typical customer profile Organisation pricing and discount policy

Knowledge of the reporting structure and inter- dependent functions

Reporting on time

Performing the billing as per company’s system




48 hours with a weightage of 20/100

Greeting customers

Engaging with customers

Explaining the menu to the customer

Recommending menu items when customer can’t decide

Clarifying any customer doubts about the F&B on the menu

Understanding customer’s preferences

Making note of customer’s food allergies

Being attentive to the customer’s requirements Ensuring that the customer leaves satisfied




32 hours with a weightage of 10/100

Receiving details of the F&B menu in the outlet

Being aware of the ingredients of each dish on the menu

Understanding the taste of each dish on the menu Obtaining the list of available and unavailable items in the restaurant on a regular basis

Obtaining information about the ingredients and process of making of each item in the menu

Making note of the special dishes served for the day (if any)

Making note of item prices on the menu




32 hours with a weightage of 10/100

Inspecting the dining tables before serving

Ensuring that the dining tables, table cloths, cutlery and napkins are clean

Arranging tables in an orderly manner

Ensuring that sufficient number of tables are available for reserved guests

Checking that sufficient menu’s are available according to the no. of tables

Checking whether lighting and ventilation facilities are functioning

Ensuring that all necessary table ware is placed on the dining table. Place napkins/ tissues on the table




48 hours with a weightage of 35/100

Laying out the cutlery, plates and glassware as per the food ordered

Bringing the food according to the order

Ensuring that the food is at the right temperature Checking with customers if the food is as per their preference

Ensuring that not all the food items are served at the same time so as to not overwhelm the customer


48 hours with a weightage of 15/100

Making note of alcoholic & non-alcoholic beverages Understanding the beverage base

Serving the beverage in the correct glass and in the correct manner

Ensuring that customer’s beverage preferences are of utmost importance

Communicating with the bartender about the ingredients in the beverage

Knowledge about the brands being served



48 hours with no weightage, but tied with the entire curriculum

Apart from the job skilling, candidates will be trained with the following skills as well –

Reading skills

Writing skills

Listening & Speaking Skills Decision Making

Planning & organising



After skilling, the candidate must be able to :-

1. Explain the nature and the various sub-sectors of the

hospitality industry

2. Elaborate on the hierarchy of the industry

3. Explain the duties & responsibilities of an F&B service


4. Perform various duties of an F&B service executive 5. Manage orders and serve the ordered food and

beverage to the guests

6. Perform after dining activities such as billing, sending

off the guests and re-setting the table for servicing 7. Be aware of the available items on the menu

8. Recommend food & beverage as per the customer’s


9. Represent the food establishment in the best manner

10.Communicate effectively with superiors, colleagues and customers to achieve a smooth workflow

11. Achieve customer satisfaction by understanding customer requirement

12. Maintain highest standard of etiquette and hospitable conduct

13. Follow gender and age sensitive service practices 14. Maintain good grooming standards

15. Maintain health, hygiene and safety at workplace



Monday – Friday

10 AM to 6 PM

2 month programme

Total 320 hours of training


Laptop + projector

White board marker

Practical hands-on experience Field trips



1st Main Road, Milk Colony, Subramanyanagar, 2 State,


Contact Number


Email Address


The author MS Neelakantan is  Founder CEO www.hospitalitylessons4u.com India’s 1st & premier hospitality lessons website.



The caveat first- IHM Ahmedabad is the Institution where  I earned my Diploma in Hotel Management  passing out in 1986- The First batch of 3 year Diploma students from Ahmedabad.  IHM Pusa,  Delhi is where I  enjoyed the finest times of my life with my students being the finest ever folks ever in my life.

To both these institutions, I  am eternally grateful. Hence, my views are neither a veiled attack on any person or any office, but  the feelings of an IHM student who is witnessing the deterioration & decaying of these institutions .Now no longer Institutions they were , but  Institutes.

To delve deeper into the irrelevance of the IHM Syllabus today, it is important to know the history of the IHM’s. Who were the visionaries,  when did these institutions come into being and the up-gradation that has happened consistently, but now static.-

In 1954,the 1st IHM in India was established ; The  IHMCT & N Bombay  by the All India Food Council under the leadership of  Mrs. Lilavati Munshi-. Her husband was Mr Kanhaiyalal Munshi, The Minister for Agriculture. This was the  1st IHM  in India offering a 3 Year Diploma. The first of it’s kind in South East Asia. The emphasis was on nutrition as Indians needed to be educated on how to cook  nutritious food. That may be the reason for graduates in Home Sciences & Nutrition being appointed as teaching faculty members. The institute was established as the Annapurna campaign on educating Indians on how to cook food with nutrients failed to  achieve the desired result. Even the services of a van moving  for campaigning from place to place failed to yield the desired result.

The 1st Principal, the venerated, undisputed pioneer of hospitality education in India. Ms. Thangam Philip had a Masters degree in Institutional Management from the USA. Ms. Philip  in association with Mr Belfield Smith, one of  the 1st  FAO  consultants laid the foundations for the Institutes of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Nutrition then.

 The demand for more such institutions in India saw IHMCT Pusa, Delhi being established in 1962 . Bombay functioning from hutments and Pusa from military barracks!   Little do we know The IHMCT Bombay  was under the Ministry of Agriculture! So was Delhi with its 1st Principal sourced from Modern Bakery. The Agriculture Ministry’s role is evident.

1963 saw IHMCT Calcutta and Madras being established.  The 4 metro cities each had an Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Nutrition.

Each institute was affiliated  to it’s respective state’s Technical Education Board. The Board conducted the examinations and issued the Diploma certificates.

There was no common entrance test with each Institute conducting it’s own entrance exams to admit students.

1982 saw the National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology being established as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Tourism for coordinated growth and development of hospitality education.

 The smaller cities with their Food Craft Institutes offering 1 year Diploma  and Certificate courses till 1983 were upgraded to be an Institute of Hotel Management.

The  year 1984 witnessed the 1st JEE  conducted by the National Council for Hotel Management for all the  IHM’S in India.

The syllabus was upgraded, keeping in view the requirements of the hospitality industry.

Though I do not know exactly but surmise, in 1982 with the setting up of the NCHCT,  all the institutes came under the Tourism ministry.

Today, the hospitality industry has moved ahead using technology to the fullest and finest bit. Yet, the IHM syllabus of the Apex body The National Council for Hotel Management  has remained  static; No major changes have been made from time to time  to cope up with the dynamic needs of the industry.  

I say this  noticing how the syllabus and the infrastructure in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were being upgraded.    In 1989, the IHMs were gifted kitchen equipment, laundry equipment and other modern equipment  due to the  good offices of UNDP.  The same year also  saw the IHM’s using their funds to get  computers with Windows office.  That was indeed a landmark year.

In this context as a sample, I  refer to the Diploma in Front Office syllabus which is being used today.  A 34 weeks programme with 35  teaching hours weekly.   Now hold your breath! The subjects-  Front Office Operations, Principles of Accounts, Hotel Accounts,  Business Communications, Application of Computers, Office Organisation and  Library.

Is there a need to teach Principles of Accounts , Hotel Accounts and Office Organisation today?

Accounts? When there is no manual accounting but reports generated with a touch of a  computer key!

I  spoke to  some General  Managers of the Taj, Oberoi, ITC and other hotels  to name a few across the country  for their views on this syllabus.  All were unanimous in their views to state this syllabus needs to be drastically changed as per the industry’s needs.

They wanted  the student to be given inputs on the Basics of Front Office Operations,  English Communications, Current Affairs, General Knowledge and expertise in computers as also rounded off with Personality Development. This could be done in 20 weeks!

The syllabus creators then,   must have created this syllabus somewhere in the early 90’s when knowledge of these subjects was required, but does that  exonerate the responsibility of   the Officers responsible for Academics today for not tweaking the syllabus  as per the need.

Based on their stand, it is clear the National Council for Hotel Management has the ‘My Way or the Highway’ attitude. The Council that once was perceived at least to be dynamic in upgrading the syllabus as and when required is now somnolent. A pity, indeed.

The  Officers responsible today, instead of weeding out the unnecessary  are sitting smug and  content to leave it at that!

They  are smug and content in the thought they will never face a crisis of shortfall in admissionsas the. IHM’s being a Government institution will be the 1st choice of middle class families charging  nominal fees, at the risk of quality . They fail to realize today’s middle class has greater disposable income with huge aspirations for their children.  The private institutions, Christ University- Bangalore,  IIHM-Bangalore, IIHM -Goa, Ramaiah-Bangalore,  VIT- Vellore, SRM-Chennai, Amity etc charge very high fees  as compared to the IHM’s.  But they more than match the fees with their excellent infrastructure, state of the art equipment,  modern pedagogical methods with their teaching faculty members, the majority of them IHM students with whom I interacted,   delighted to be teaching there as  the  syllabus is constantly being upgraded, compelling them to strain that extra for their students.  Be it a mandatory requirement of a  Phd   to be a teaching faculty,  in addition to publishing researched papers.  As compared to IHM’s They are very happy to be constantly in the pursuit of learning. Besides, they have the  infrastructure and the latest  equipment; all the trifles and wherewithal  needed to prepare managerial human resources for the industry.  For their efforts of responsibility and accountability, they are remunerated handsomely which makes the difference. The student’s exposure is not limited to the 6 months Industrial Training & Outdoor Catering. Industry Professionals from all departments are invited  to interact with them regularly. Workshops & Seminars are part of the academic Calendar. The inclusion of subjects to name two such as Hospitality Technology, Imagineering- to facilitate the student’s  technology skills  & art of creativity makes the difference.  The student experiences the spirit of teamwork as the majority of assignments & presentations has to be done by a team.  The student is totally prepared to make a career in the industry.

It’s time the National Council for Hotel Management Catering Technology got it’s act together to produce top notch resources for the industry as per it’s requirements and not just flow wit the tide.

 Because I am involved with the hospitality industry; And therefore Never need to send for whom the bells toll; It tolls for thee.

The author MS Neelakantan is  Founder CEO www.hospitalitylessons4u.com India’s 1st & premier hospitality lessons website.



More than once, I  have been questioned on the need for generic posts on a blog related to hospitality lessons rather, than, restrict it to only to the subjects taught at Hotel Management Institutes and IHM’s.   The answer is  clear and simple. I  refer to the question posed in the seminal book on cricket ‘Beyond a Boundary’ published  in 1963 by CLR James  a Marxist in the West Indies . His memoir uses cricket as the medium to narrate the sociological and historical changes in the West Indies; the struggles of the black natives versus their colonial Masters.   Published in 1963, yet regarded as seminal without fail, finding a place in the top 10 books on cricket, even today! The question posed is “ What cricket would a cricketer know who  only cricket knows?”

Likewise , “ What hospitality would a hospitality professional know who  only hotel management knows?” Think about it.  A hotel management professional is working in a people’s industry- his colleagues, peers, his guests, all his internal customers are human beings. He has no other choice but to  know beyond hotel  management. An art form, a sport, literature, movies, cinematography etc. If you have noticed  most of the professionals who have managed to  go up to top management positions are those who have followed this thought process to invest their time & labour to enrich themselves. For some it may be an interest since childhood. It does assist in guest interactions. My interest with sports and the hours spent at the British Library helped with Hungarian guests chatting about the  Magical Magyars, with the British on WWII, Cricket & Wimbledon. It worked as my waiters were tipped generously.    

I always envied my colleagues who could converse with a French guest in French and in German with the Germans. More so when they were the high end groups.  Envied those who could hold forth on painters, sculptors, classical singers and other artistes where we the, rest were gauche to say the least.

It helps as  such guests with whom you have built a personal rapport will return to you as a repeat guest. In the event of a delay or a slip up, he would never thunder aloud but quietly call you  to point out the slip up.

This pursuit to go beyond just the  subject is qualified in our Front Office and  Food & Beverage  Service subject syllabus..   The former  expects the students to know about countries, capital cities, currency and national airline, besides states and their capitals, places of tourist interest and the latter specifically in the chapter  on Wines. Instead of just learning wine service, whether it be Red Wine or White Wine.  why  is the student expected to know the grape used, region  it originates from, for  which  food preparation it is suggested as the best accompaniment and  the glassware for it.  (Why the wines from the French Region of  Alsace   look and taste like German wines?).  In the case of Champagne, the name of the Shipper, among the two dedicated glassware to the undisputed ‘Queen of the wines’  which to be used when and  why?

The amazing at times incredulous stories associated with each  wine. In the case of champagne, the  contributions of  Dom Perignon,  Madame Pompadour and  Widow Clicquot.

The guest needs to feel home at a hotel and this is a lovely method to ensure that.  A guest who stays at a hotel is travelling and after a long day’s work, would miss his home having  a meal all by himself.  The majority of the guests chat with the staff waiting on them to feel at home. This is when that extra  proves beneficial. If the staff waiting on the guest has a basic knowledge of the country the guest comes from, then a  couple of  queries about his country would help make the guest feel at home.  With Americans the most common query would be “Are you Democrat or Republican?” With the American you could  also chat about the numerous time zones in their country etc. For each nationality or a region from India, there would be so many issues you could get the guest interested for him to share first hand expertise seeing your interest.

 Knowing the details about wines is just the beginning. Read more, interact more, learn more about various cultures but not before you  have your region and country’s fact file on your fingertips. Otherwise, just knowing about the world at large and not know anything about the place where you are standing would be a futile exercise in itself.

The author MS Neelakantan is the Founder CEO of www.hospitalitylessons4u.com India’s 1st & premier website dedicated to hospitality lessons.



At  every branch of a nationalized bank, no customer can fail to notice a banner at times, tucked away at times,  but dusted and   prominently displayed  around 2nd October. In the 1940’s the Apostle of Peace expressed his views on the importance of the customer. Decades before the emergence of the service industry  with its customer focus. Those were the days of the manufacturing industry. Products were made with  customers  having no choice  but to ‘take it or leave it.’  Recall Henry Ford’s stating “ You can choose any colour as long as it’s black”.

Cutting a long story short, the Apostle of Peace Gandhiji is quoted as saying “A Customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. The Customer is not an interruption in our work.  He is the sole purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business. But a part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity serve him.”

Now replace the term customer with guest. Would implementing the spirit of this quote ensure guest satisfaction.

Doubtful. As a customer needs are totally different from the guest needs.  The term guest in itself is an indicator of the challenges of the hotel industry. A customer buys a product or avails a service to leave.  While a guest expects his basic needs of lodging & boarding to be met with repeated interactions inhouse. A tough task indeed. Yet not tough once we understand it with the right approach.

Hotel Management and the art of managing guests is akin to falling in love. Wooing a lady love or a gentleman with only the heart as the first step to winning a guest’s heart. Yet there is no guarantee as no two guests are alike. As no two human beings  have the same tastes. But the foundation is the heart. As Pandit Nehru’s succint yet arguably the finest on hospitality ever reminds us “Welcome a guest to send back a Friend.” We might sit on our high horses to debate the perfect  guest service drawing examples from Cornell Harvard et al.  The point to be emphasised is to ensure to touch the  guest’s heart to be your repeat guest. Even if she/he is not returning to this part of the world but  by making a friend out of a guest be sure your hotel has a voluntary brand ambassador in her/him who will promote your hotel gratis. Now comes the question. How do we ensure this time after time.  Though there is no standard recipe for this endeavour but  there is a small tip; every  staff member waiting on the guest should learn to imbibe & practise. Take care of the guest as you would do at home of your aunt uncle and other relatives. Only we in India are naturally blessed with that beaming smile and inherent trait of hospitality which is so  unique only to our subcontinent. Start from there and the results will surely follow. Proof of the pudding if there is any. Yes,  the guest on the next visit asking for a waiting staff by her/his name;  the feedback mentioning the staff names are just a few pointers that your guest expectations are being met satisfactorily.

The author MS Neelakantan is  Founder CEO www.hospitalitylessons4u.com India’s 1st & premier hospitality lessons website.



Vellore located on the  road from  Madras/ Chennai to Bangalore/ Bangaluru  is more reknowned  today for its CMC-Vellore, VIT and for its mouth watering   biriyani which is made in that belt of Vellore, Ambur and Vaniyambadi.

The rich historical past seems to be covered by a polythene wrapper of time, neglect and unplanned growth. The  place which can boast of having staged India’s first mutiny against the East India Colony almost 50 years before the Mangal Pandey led 1857 mutiny has not been given the pride of place by the Tamilians themselves.

In 1566, the Vijayanagara Empire Chiefs built an impregnable fort that still towers over the city. A fort that saw action during India’s 1st mutiny.

The British had taken it over to hold on to it. Its impregnability tested by Hyder Ali who tried  but even a siege of 2 years  went in vain.

With Tipu Sultan losing at Srirangam, his family was housed  here.

The mutiny though short lived was again like the 1857 mutiny ignited  by religious beliefs.

The predominantly Tamil soldiers were  directed to report on duty sans their sacred ash smearing on their foreheads and the traditional turban to be replaced by a round British hat which they perceived as their conversion by the British.

Sir John Cradock, the Commander- in- Chief of the Madras Army  ordered his troops to toe the line, despite, the advice from his seniors. If he had listened to the advice, there would have been no mutiny.

On 10th July the soldiers revolted in the early morning hours killing 100  Britishers and their families in their sleep. This went on till 1400 hours the same day.

In their momentum and on cleaning out the paymaster’s office, they lost focus to go on a looting spree after getting drunk on huge quantities of arrack, they discovered within.

They had the momentum, ammunitions, the manpower and an impregnable fort. Yet, they failed to  pad-lock the fort gates, and man the fort ramparts.

This gave the few surviving Britishers to re-group and organize a small yet disciplined force led by Rollo Gillespie from nearby Arcot to take over with consummate ease. 600 mutineers were killed with a few lined up to be shot down. The leaders were blown by cannons.

The mutineers raised  Tipu Siultan’s flag though, the family stayed away from involving themselves similar to  1857 and Bahadur Shah Zafar- The last Mughal Emperor.

Craddock and some other senior officers were sacked. Sensing the mood of the soldiers then, the Britishers began to be more humane with their soldiers, to set about making them professionals, inculcating regimental pride.  It paid off as The Tamil Regiment  was formed in the 1660’s as the European Madras regiment.

The troops saw action in the World Wars   https://www.google.com/search?ei=3So8XdqHCsfJrQHt0qvQAg&q=the+madras+regiment++role+in+the+world+war&

The Madras Regiment is one of the oldest and most decorated regiments whose troops are drawn from Karnataka Tamil Nadu Kerala and Andhra Pradesh yet the Vellore belt  remains one of the major contributors.

I  love and respect the Tamilians pride in their culture. But  as much as they take great but unwanted pride in Tamil being the oldest language,  shouldn’t  they take more pride in this glorious feat that set the tone for the future.



“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve  in any war, no matter how justified shall be directly proportional  as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated  by their nation” George Washington.

That is the USA for their soldiers. On the other hand is India. Where soldiers have to ask for their dues-The most impoverished passage of time, in a nation’s history.

Hypocrisy- We Indians thrive on it. Begrudging the rations they are entitled to and the canteen services within their cantonments.

We see only that and their partying. But don’t want to see they earn this at the cost of being separated from their families for many a month to return at times with  life threatening ailments of frost bites, pulmonary disorders and edema to say the least.

The callousness and insensitivity of the civilians working in the Defence Services Accounts section, I get to taste when I overhear my Father- in- Law based at our village in Palakkad trying to explain on the phone to a clerk repeatedly at Red Fort office for getting his pension revision-after the endless number of e-mails of course. This from an Indian Air-force veteran, who joined service in 1953, being, one of those selected for training and to fly back from Russia with our prized 1st lot of AN12’s.I wonder, why they can’t employ Ex- Servicemen who will at least empathize with such veteran’s grievances.

Remember the freeways of the USA We all choose to highlight as the metaphor of development was laid by WWII veterans. Half a century later, it still is as good as new-proof of their caliber.

Come 26th July we hall view our love for our martyrs in all forms. Whether it is the cone shape loudspeakers on road intersections and/or markets 24 x7 blaring out patriotic songs from films Hindustan ki Kasam, Haqeeqat, Border LOC and now Uri.

 Now our national media can’t let go of such an opportunity to improve their TRP.  NDTV, Republic TV, Times NOW, Mirror NOW, India Today all  quiet till now, shall be having those great armchair chat shows. The vocal chords of Radio FM Jockeys of Radio Mirchi, Red FM and Fever et al shall be strained as they attempt to milk that one day’s cash cow. You think the print media will be left behind! No Sir, India Inc shall ensure that day from jacket advertisements, full page and all possible types of advertisements

 Feature in their great service on behalf of the nation to thank our martyrs.

The New Indian Express yesterday 25th July on Page 7 http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/m5/2257513/The-New-Indian-Express-Thrissur/26072019#page/7/1

And today 26th July also.  http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/m5/2255953/The-New-Indian-Express-Thrissur/25072019#page/7/1

In addition,   a supplement titled 26th KARGIL VIJAY DIWAS – the headline possibly coined by their Sports Editor reading ‘ REVISITING THE  FOURTH VICTORY  AGAINST PAKISTAN’ I  found with my New Indian Express this morning.

 12 Pages supplement with   all pages with Kargil details in the top half and advertisements if not all over, at least, taking almost half the space at the bottom.

 The last page Tribute To Our Brave-hearts stinks of commerce as the name, battalion and rank of those 599 martyred  necessitates a magnifying glass to read but the advertisement  font crystal clear I  would suppose even  to the blind !

It would be far more effective if Corporate India instead of these advertisements in mainline newsprint and advertisements on prime time pools these expenses to sponsor one or two martyr’s family.

Compare the size of the feature, number of photographs, front page or inside pages positioning for gallantry awards in comparison to the Arjuna awards and Khel Ratna awards or for that matter, the National awards for film stars!

1999 saw the show of Indians offering  support unconditional for their soldiers- praying for their lives; who were scaling the vertical  Himalayan snow clad peaks at night despite being fired at to drive away the intruders. Kargil, Drass, Tololing and Batalik the three subsectors replaced momentarily Shimla, Rohtang Pass and Manali in the common man’s mind. Paramvir Chakra Awardee posthumous Captain Vikram Batra’s (13 J & K Rifles) emotion stirring clarion call “Yeh dil Maangey More” on recapturing a summit to plant the tricolor, resonated in the heartbeat of every Indian then for moment only.

 Within a year or less, the Indian hypocrisy got exposed. When we needed them to protect our frontiers, the people were there individually and collectively to show their support. A pretence as every Fauji family is aware. ‘A friend in need is no friend of mine.’

Did we ever care to find out what the families of these martyrs are going through in life? We pledged them our support. The majority being the lone breadwinners of their family, mainly from the peasant stock with their homes in the small towns and hamlets we pass by when gliding in our cars on our weekend getaways and holidays.   They put their hand up to take responsibility. They join the fauj as they find no other employment elsewhere.

One corporate captain seated in his air conditioned office, summed up the hypocrisy in one sentence. “They volunteered, were not conscripted”- on my telling him “they give up their youth for the country and look at their plight now. Nobody gives a damn” Neatly, absolving himself.  

The present regime in their first term 2014-2019 promised full implementation of the OROP-One Rank One Pension with immediate effect.  As expected, the babudom stymied the effort, but for a Prime Minister who could courageously proclaim “We will, if need be, kick the doors of their residences to barge in and hammer them” his action in awarding a pittance as OROP remained just mere words! To add insult to injury the police were actioned on a disciplined protest of war veterans.

 We are all envious of martyr’s families being entitled to a petrol filling station and/or a LPG agency. Of course, it comes at a cost for the widow who is still struggling to come to grips with her loss,  is made to run from the proverbial pillar to post;  finally to breakdown on the very same chowk or street named in honour of her hero.

 Finally when she gets it a feat that-where decathlon champions would fail at. A Sisyphusian effort! Her relief is momentary on getting the order as the petrol station or LPG Agency would be located many a mile away. That, my friends is the power of babus.  For all my praise for our 1st Prime Minister; One act initiated by Pandit Nehru of down grading the military personnel ranks in comparison to his favourites the babus and further continued by successive Prime Ministers That act by India’s 1st PM a criminal with military blood on his hands for causing the 1962 war with his gung ho ‘Forward policy’ with China, but refusing the Indian Air Force to go in. Bloodshed could have been averted. As we had an Air-force while China was no match in the air. Besides, the bloodshed, we would have won the war, too.

But the Generals of the tri-services are no less culpable. As a former Army officer on my admiring Army officers for their intelligence, compassion, empathy, communications-all that we associate with ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’ remarked in the typical Fauji self-deprecating manner “Nonsense. For our medical test, we are sent into a room asked to sit on a three legged stool. One person will flash a torch light on one ear to ask the other “Lait dikhya”. Once the other person confirms the empty space between both ears comes the quip “Perfect Indian Army officer material!” He adds on.  “For Senior ranks, the Medical Officer moves his palm down the officer’s back.  “Only when the MO confirms “No back bone”, the officer is promoted!

This in jest yet reflects on how senior officers have let their men, the rank and file down; the very same who lay down their lives or maimed for life.

It’s a shame there are two former senior Army officers in the Union government as Ministers, yet nothing substantial has happened for their men. Now you understand the seriousness in the jest of a medical test!

I am sure you would have noticed why a select group of senior Officers on retirement, find themselves as the occupants of Governor’s bungalow and High Commissions. The rank and file veterans you will find doing security duties in the gated communities or with the MNC’s- below their dignity, but then they need some means to feed their families. We pale in comparison to the United States, where war veterans are a prize catch for corporate. They lead by example.

They can manage pressure calmly, that clichéd corporate term that is uttered in conjunction with stress. Keith Miller, that role-model all-rounder who played in Sir Donald Bradman’s legendary team was once asked about pressure on playing cricket. His answer “You call this pressure! Pressure is when you are 20,000 feet high alone in your Spitfire to find a German Messerschmitt on your tail” Miller had flown Spitfires for the Allies in World War II.  That is the kind of pressure they have braved. An ideal profile for our corporate India.

Have I seen or heard of a corporate in India advertising for a vacancy with ‘War veterans/ Tri services personnel will be preferred.” I have not. Have you?  That’s our culture. We admire them, rever them venerate them but their place on being medically unfit is in doing a Watchman’s duty.

In my youth there was this popular song “One night in Hong Kong makes a tough man crumble”. I smile wryly paraphrasing it with ‘One stint in RR leaves a tough man broken….’ RR- Rashtriya Rifles, the units in J & k formed to combat terrorism. That is

I have heard of and seen soldiers after a RR stint at home sleeping at night if they do manage to sleep to wake up on the hint of a sound hands reaching out for their weapons. They need endless sessions of counseling to become normal again. That reaction- PSTD-Post Stress Traumatic Disorder. Being observed in soldiers since the Crimean War to be declared as an act of cowardice. Only during the Vietnam War, was it recognized as a psychological ailment

An incident at an Indigo airline desk Indira Gandhi Airport saw me witnessing an incident that made me ashamed to be an Indian. A jawan after an RR stint was heading home on a much deserved leave south-wards to be with his family, possibly in the village. His eyes and the lines on his face told his story more than his words. The typical callous desk clerk remarked “Sorry Sir you cannot carry this on the flight “- the consignment. A kilogram of walnuts for his children. The sight of this man teary eyed palms clasped pleading with the clerk, enraged me to leave my flight if need be to walk across and take on the desk clerk in the language they understood best. I had the satisfaction in ensuring that soldier was allowed without excess baggage costs with my cold rage getting the Manager’s intervention solving the issue.

 Our actors, cricketers and the VIP class are never subjugated thus. As we have chapters in school text books on the Sachin Tendulkars, Saina Nehwals, Amitabh Bachchans and Sudha Chandrans but not one on these real heroes.

We could start with the PVC’s oops! Not Poly Vinyl Chloride but Param Vir Chakra awardees- the nation’s highest wartime gallantry award.

I do not blame that girl at the desk as she did not learn this at school, nor did her environment make her to stand up for these heroes. 

The question arises how did I then? Well, two paternal uncles saw action in the World War II one at Basra, Iraq the other in Burma.

 A cousin’s father-in-law distantly related was a Colonel with General Montgomery in Africa to chase out the ‘Desert Fox’ General Rommel.

 I used to notice from childhood these war heroes in my family were seldom venerated but in my North Indian friend’s households they were the heroes.

 To add I lost a student Major Navneet Vatts in the Valley, who made the supreme sacrifice going into a house to oust terrorists leading from the front as an Indian Army Officer is expected to. He left behind a widow, daughter and a mentally challenged brother in Chandigarh. It took the brave and determined efforts of his Gurgaon based course mate Dr. Anshu Maheshwari Arora- Now Principal-The Amity International- Gurgaon to go to Chandigarh, somehow get through to his unit’s CO. using all her persuasion to ensure the fauj taking responsibility for Nimeesh’s welfare. Any amount of praise is less for Anshu Maheswari ably supported by her husband Mandip, both civilians, clueless on the Army’s hierarchy etc. Yet against all odds, they did succeed in their efforts. 

If they could do it why can’t we the people whose, Mantris, elected representatives, Babus and Fauj’s senior officers have failed us take a leaf from Anshu and Mandip’s initiative. That is a solution.

Farcical is this celebration as it took light years for a simple War memorial to come up for the Unknown Soldier who fought 1948, 1962, ’65. ’71, the countless battles with insurgents and terrorists and 1999. Waiting for the OROP to be implemented in full measure may take a long time, a wee bit more than ‘Waiting for Godot!’

 Till then, we can expect to hear the lyrics of the lovely melody “Fauji rabda hai dooja naam” film Fauji only on 26th July but never in spirit. As we are too impoverished in our hearts. To summon them when Nehru’s boys the civil administration fail as they normally do in times of natural and man-made calamities. The Indian military forces remain the only apolitical and secular institution of this country who without a thought, put their lives at risk even to save lives in Jammu & Kashmir. As also, when a toddler has to be rescued from a bore-well, rescue passengers stranded midway in the air when an aerial ropeway stalls. I could go on and on…..

England beat Dressing Room Jinx and New Zealand to win ICC World Cup 2019

England beat Dressing Room Jinx and New Zealand to win ICC World Cup2019

England in their quest to win their maiden cricket World Cup had not only New Zealand to defeat in the 2019 ICC World Cup Final in their quest since 1975.

But they had a bigger rival to overcome at Lords, ‘The Dressing Room jinx.’  Since 1975 when the 1st World Cup finals was played at Lords, the team that was allotted the Home Dressing Room never won the trophy.

R Mohan in his column in the Deccan Chronicle writes that No team which has used the Home Dressing Room has won the finals.

1975- Australia allotted the Home Dressing Room.

1979- Hosts England used the Home Dressing Room.

1983- For some inexplicable reason, West Indies were allotted the Home Dressing Room.

19999- Human beings are superstitious, more, so, sportsmen as Steve Waugh, insisted on a toss of the coin for choice of dressing rooms after allotted Home! He won the toss to allot his rivals the Home Dressing Room.

2019- The British traditionally ‘Never the bride but always the bridesmaid  ‘ in World Cup competitions went on to defeat the enemy in the mind and their opponents.

Though it was not an England team, but a Commonwealth  team comprising of 2 South Africans, 1 West Indian, 1 New Zealander, 1 Irish and 2 Pakistanis. In addition to a lame ICC rule

Maybe that facilitated in beating the jinx.

Chef Arvind Saraswat Whom I interacted with

    My Tribute to Chef Arvind Saraswat

 A Legend passed away yesterday, 13th July 2019. I had the fortune of interacting with him in his role first as an Interviewer 1986 at IHMCT Ahmedabad.  Later from 1991- 1994 as a teaching faculty at IMCT Pusa and in my capacity as one of the members of the Indian Culinary Federation. I saw him in a new light then.

But, first, flashback 1986 The Final Round for the Management Trainee slot with the Taj. My first interaction with him.

Ramola Mahajini- Group HR Head was firing away questions starting on the 4 core subjects of Food Production, Food & Beverage Service, Front Office and Housekeeping. I was to my own surprise, in my elements, answering brilliantly.

All this while, the legend, Chef Saraswat, threatening with his stilled silence and hint of a smile. Almost foreboding, waiting like a vulture for his prey patiently.

Ramola- daughter of Late SK Wankhede- Wankhede stadium, changed tracks noticing cricket in my interests. But, knowing my facts, figures and anecdotes of my passion better than hotel management subjects, every delivery she bowled was despatched to the ropes effortlessly. Queries on literature, another interest, followed. Very articulate, well read and knowledgeable she was, in whom I found a great ally to literally discuss on everything from Spofforth, Bradman, The three W’S, Kundanlal Saigal, Hollywood, Bollywood authors, books….

To me it looked as we both were the only duo in the room on the edge of our seats facing each other chatting away like school friends meeting after years. The legend was, solemn; inscrutable his face. I dared not look at him, lest I falter.

At the end of the session lasting almost 2 hours, I was offered the letter in the F & B Department. Yet, he remained stoic. For some inexplicable reason, I did not take it up, but that’s not relevant here.

1991 I was asked my Sumita Paul, the Editor of The Pioneer Pulse – The Pioneer’s Sunday supplement (when Vinod Mehta was the Editor) to write  a feature on the leading  Chefs of India based in Delhi.

That’s when my impressions of Chef Saraswat changed. On my meeting Chef Manjit Singh Gill-Executive Chef-Welcomgroup Maurya Sheraton, Chef  Devinder -Meridien and Chef Sudhir Sibal -Executive Chef The Ashok also the member of the ‘Cub de Chef de Chefs- The Ivy League Club of Chefs assigned to the Head of State, they asked me to meet Chef Saraswat being the senior most and a legend as well. I shuddered at the idea. “Nahi Sir dar lagta hai” was my immediate response! They laughed but compelled me to refer me as well.

For the meet at TAC- Taj Air Caterers, I   was there an hour in advance. Outside the gate waking and smoking in a bid to be calm.

When I was announced, I was flummoxed to be greeted by him with a very warm smile that finding expression all over his face. Here I was like the club class bowler whose loosener saw Vivian Richards play a defensive shot. The thought in my mind was “When Viv Richards plays a defensive shot; the entire cricketing fraternity exclaims “Now what!”

Needless to state, I was on pins & needles. As he led me to his office, pulling the chair for me. I was pinching myself. ‘It was too good to be true.’ Seeing me uncomfortable, he was kind enough to ask me what he could do to make me comfortable. I confessed “Dar lagta hai” recalling the campus interview and quoting from the grapevine. He laughed. To comfort me and put me at ease with “Neelakantan that was then.”  “But Chef, that impression has stayed all these years which was fuelled further by the grapevine at Pusa and on interacting with you at Pusa too.”

To put me at ease he ordered lunch.  Taking the pleasure of serving me as a host would do at home.

I found myself. Then, to realize he was human as human as we who chat ‘nineteen to the dozen’ are, but, he kept his silence, which was misunderstood by us sitting on judgement. This man was charming for me not to notice time ticking away. It was dusk as I bid farewell. It was kind of him to organize a cab with his compliments over ruling my protests to drop me home . Slipping into my hands before closing the door a nice box ” Some treats for your family!”

The grapevine had it that he had ‘a hole in the heart.’ But the wag said “Impossible, for a heartless man.” I differ on that count. With “A man whose large heart we blinded by our prejudices, could not view.”

He shared very many insights which made for a great story on the Chefs of India in Delhi.

 I recall, starting the feature referring to the short story by Jeffery Archer on the boy who serendipitously becomes a great Chef. Detailing the hard work, grit determination and the long hours that become endless more when a Chef joins the managerial cadre.Getting rave reviews for the feature. One of my first attempts in mainline editions.

 But the finest and first among all callers from Chefs that Sunday was from the legend Chef Arvind Saraswat, calling early to compliment me for a lovely article.  Inviting me over whenever I wished to.

On noticing the cricket ground attached to the TAC, similar to those in New Zealand, I inquired whether my boys could play here; a cricket ground, basin shaped butting the road leading to the airport.He introduced me to the Manager to liaise to play our games there. My boys used to organize inconsequential fixtures just to play there in those picturesque settings. Lunch the airline food then a novelty to us being the bonus.

 Thank you Chef Arvind Saraswat.The first Indian Chef, presumably to author a book- his first of many- ‘Prashad Cooking with the Masters’ co authored with Jiggs Kalra with whom he did India’s 1st cookery series by the same name Prashad…

Go in peace to join your good friend Jiggs Kalra who has preceded you. To cook Prashad Cooking with Indian Masters for the Gods waiting in attendance.

How Indian IT companies are Crippling Our Youth

India’s IT exports are expected to grow at 7-9 percent to be at $135 billion-$137 billion in 2018-19, the report further said. The IT exports during the current financial year are projected to be $126 billion, a growth of 7-8 percent over last year.

That is the only scorecard that is shown to us for us to go gung ho on the stupendous intangible USD earnings by Wipro, Infosys, Accenture, TCS, CTS and other software companies.

 What we fail at and don’t notice is the seamy underbelly of how in this worship at the altar of Mammon, an entire generation of our youth is being crippled. These boys and girls primarily from tier-2 and tier-3 cities recruited at a CTC that is a small fortune. For them with accommodation to live in Bangalore, Pune, Kochi, Hyderabad… is to be mesmerised by this razzmatazz to lose their bearings.

 A majority of these employees in their late teens are already plagued by   crow’s feet, obesity, diabetes, infertility/ low sperm count, spondilytis, lower back problems, and a host of related ailments by the age of 25.Suffering from Vitamin D deficiency living in India, as they shuttle to fro office in an air conditioned cab.

Their sedentary lifestyle within conditioned environs to splurge on aerated beverages, carbohydrate and fat surplus meals at odd hours, is taking a   toll on these youth. Odd hours of sleep, if they get any, adding to the toll. Their insatiable craving for aerated beverages and junk food must not be mistaken for gluttony. We have to realize they are small town boys and girls who have been catapulted into El Dorado.

 At the OYO Home at Kochi I noticed these girls and boys.  They were   housed for a project. At age 53, I looked more presentable, leaner and healthier than these 25 pluses.  Girls and boys with more grey in their mop if they had any in comparison to my salt and pepper mop, a family pack in place of a six pack, slouched postures. They shuffle like old men and ladies than how youth should walk with energy, purpose and vigour

Indeed a sad commentary on how to earn a living.

 The issue raised here is how ‘Pound foolish and Penny wise’ as also ironically shrewd for their personal stake these cerebral captains at TCS, CTS, and Infosys are.

They have invested huge costs of time, manpower, money etc to recruit and train these youth.

Then leave them without a mentor to assist them professionally and personally for their career growth and health. ‘Jaan hai tho jahan hai’ or the corresponding in English ‘Health is Wealth.’

Ethically and businesswise just not done.

On Ethics- How to Cut Corners to save that Cab hiring charges. Lady employees in Hyderabad need to be home by 7 pm as per law I am told.  What our smart Software Companies do is to make them work late, save that cab costs to risk being penalised. Instead, they are paid a small amount to use their two-wheelers – As narrated by a lady employed with a software giant in Hyderabad. Uncle Scrooge would be shamed.

For all their pontificating in public, the reality is at odds.

Employees should not work more than 8 hours is the public pronouncement of one such IT captain, but that’s only for his US employees- the white skinned folks, otherwise he would be dragged into a legal battle. Whereas   back home, 10-15 hour shifts are normal.

INFOSYS Effects Parking Fee deduction in Staff Salaries’- Can it get any less ethical than this. As reported in the Hindu. I cross checked with several Infosys employees.

For all the talk about employee welfare, this is how hypocritical and cheap it can get

 These youth can anytime be laid low by a cerebral stroke, heart attack and other major health issues. They are not culpable but the software giants are.

Its time Wipro, Infosys, Accenture, TCS, CTS TCS and other software companies also start caring for their youth. Our youth, with as much focus as they do to their balance sheets and personal stock.

 We in the hotel industry fare better in comparison, working physically and mentally in all the 3 shifts allotted. Surely you can do better with the enviable resources you have at your command.

For all your glib talk in public on employee welfare, it’s Time to Walk the Talk.

The solutions if not in place already

  1. BMI monitoring fortnightly. To be adhered to strictly with those failing; to avail their annual leave to work on it.
  2.  Compulsory Yoga sessions before and after work with a good Yoga master.
  3. 30 minutes gym to be made compulsory daily on duty under the guidance of a fitness expert with aerobics.
  4. Food  menus to be prepared with more  natural fibres,
  5. Food guides for each employee with a Wellness expert’s guidance.

These are just some of the suggestions I could think of ‘off the cuff.’

I am sure all the wise heads can certainly think better.

Otherwise an entire generation, the next in line stands not just to be wiped off but being crippled for a lifetime without a support only due to  the  avarice, lust and greed of a few.

A Tribute

Mr YC Deveshwar and His Eye for Detail

 A tribute to the late YC Deveshwar, former Chairman, ITC 

 Somewhere in August 1986, I interacted with him in our official capacities. He was MD Welcomgroup Hotels (then the brand name for the ITC Hotels division). 

And I, the Front Office Supervisor, a member of the pre-opening team of the Welcomgroup, Vadodara. My first career break after campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad. 

For our soft opening, where senior management members check in as guests to test operational readiness before the official launch, YCD as he was known, too flew in from Delhi with the HD HQ team.  IA flight 487, the hopping flight on the Delhi Jaipur- Agra – Japur –Baroda- Bombay route (if memory serves me right).

He walked in tall at around 2100 hours after probably boarding the aircraft around 1800 hours,  into the lobby his right hand bent at the elbow  hooking his suit on his fingers behind his back, India Kings cigarette in his right hand. We, the Front Office staff  were all there behind the Front Desk while Mr Oscar D Monteiro RGM- West accompanied by the West Zone team were in attendance in the lobby having flown in earlier. Mrs Sumathi Rai, the Corporate Housekeeper too was there. Of course the WGV GM Mr Menon known as Bala Menon with his HOD’s Mr Atul Channa the F & B Manager, Mr Franz Mascarenas the Sales Manger, Mr Jehangir Ghadiali, the FOM  with Mrs Vandana Ghadiali the Executive Housekeeper all waiting to welcome him.

YCD  came in and  with one glance remarked “ Bala, you better have that crack in the ceiling looked up!” This a man who travelled extensively, must have sat through unending meetings, just got off a hopping flight, noticed in a nano second while we who were there for months failed.  Oh my God, every Manager worth his salt running to get that damned crack attended to. 

He was roomed in room number 320, the most luxurious & spacious room in the absence of a suite.

As the Front Office Supervisor, it was my responsibility to man the desk in the graveyard shift that followed. I was at the EBPX telephone exchange with a team member at the desk.

Precisely at around 0130 hours as veterans of night shifts  can testify is when  you can be caught napping literally. I heard the buzzer sound of a guest room calling to shake me out of my reverie. To see the light glow,  indicating it was 320. “Bloody hell, can’t this man sleep in peace”. I muttered instinctively plugging the socket to answer the call honed by the endless hours of practice in the training with “Good Morning Mr Deveshwar. My name is Neel, How may I help you?”

I  heard his deep bass voice replying with “ Oh no, I  was just checking.”

I could only shake my head in disbelief wondering about this incredible person who had set his alarm in the middle of the night to check; if his staff were ready to receive guests. A hectic day late arrival, retiring post dinner late after being taken around the hotel to ensure the hotel was ready reflected on his stature as the MD and his eye for detail.

As a hospitality Management teacher, I  have never failed to share this with my students at the IHMCT Pusa, New Delhi -’The One memorable  Night shift’ in which I  didn’t cat nap. Rather I could not as he had in truly  007  style  ‘Shaken the Living Daylights’ out of me.

Mr YCD, Rest in Peace eternally and thank you most for sharing a lesson no class room lecture could have. I chuckle at the thought of St. Peter   caught napping, literally ! 

MS Neelakantan  is a  Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/

What After 10 +2? For Those Who Fail

What After 10+2? For those who fail One Test

A personal Account to succeed in life

One exam a scholar not make, neither does a 98 percent marks indicate intelligence.

One of the biggest blots apart from dowry and honour killings in India  is venerating only those who get excellent marks. Judging a student merely, on the basis of marks obtained in one exam.

For those of us who passed out in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, there were only 3 streams to choose from: Arts, Science and Commerce. Aptitude was not taken into consideration but percentage. Nothing could be more cruel than this. The Xth & XIIth standard marks determined whether you were eligible for Science / Commerce/ Arts stream.

And those poor souls, who failed in that one test or got poor marks, were termed ‘Failures for life.’ To be hounded & sneered in the classrooms by some teachers, at home and in the neighbourhood with the tag ‘Bekaar’ or ‘Naalayak pre-fixed.’ Physical thrashing followed the day the report card came home.

A majority actually failed in life as comparisons to siblings or cousins was inevitable. At family occasions the family elders took turns with sadistic pleasure in pointing out a failure. More so in Tam-Bram families in which I was born.

With two elder sisters scoring 70 plus; paternal cousins with IIT & IIM degrees , maternal cousins topping the University, you can well imagine my trauma & agony with my scoring & matching consistently the Sunil  Gavaskaresque batting  average of 57. I never failed in that!

I did not actually fail but was made to feel like one. Hence I understood & empathized with those who did.

No wonder students forged marks and their parent’s signature on the report card.

Fear, peer pressure and societal judgement calls can make you do the unimaginable.

With no college ‘worth its salt’ willing to offer me admission, I had to settle for a lesser known morning college. It did hurt to see my classmates having fun at the prestigious HL College for Commerce, HA College and the St Xavier’s College.

In hindsight, I realize destiny had bigger & better plans for me. An advertisement inviting applicants for the 3 year Diploma Course in Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad, caught my attention.

Applied for a lark, got through the interview- ‘A walk in the Park’ it was. The 3 years were gruelling yet fun filled and we passed out as in the 1st batch 1986. To chart out a career in the wonderful world of hospitality.

Little did I  know the black sheep of the family was en-route to becoming the dark horse.

 Work experience of 3 years in a world of luxury interacting with guests from distant corners of the world was far more enriching than the CA/ IIT work experience I  thought.

 1989 was the Tipping Point on being appointed as a teacher at the IHMCT, Pusa, New Delhi.  I finally   found my soul in the classrooms & off classrooms with my students. Loved Cared for and Respected by them. 4 decades later I am an author (my students forcing me by sponsoring the costs to pen my memoirs

One of the finest  moments  in my life

Did I mention, I am the first teacher in my generation and also the first & only author. Not bad for the boy who was judged a failure on the basis of a report card!

(MS Neelakantan- is a Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Co-founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/ . Aslso  ranked high on www.quora.com as a life coach .

MS Neelakantan

Co- Founder

YC Deveshwar and His Eye for Detail

The Late YC Deveshwar and His Eye for DetailA tribute to the ITC Chairman

 Somewhere in August 1986, I interacted with him in our official capacities. He was MD Welcomgroup Hotels (then the brand name for the ITC Hotels division).

And I, the  Front Office Supervisor, a member of the pre-opening team of the Welcomgroup, Vadodara. My first career break after campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management & Catering Technology, Ahmedabad.

For our soft opening, where senior management members check in as guests to test operational readiness before the official launch, YCD as he was known, too flew in from Delhi with the HD HQ team.  IA flight 487, the hopping flight on the Delhi Jaipur- Agra – Japur –Baroda- Bombay route (if memory serves me right).

He walked in at around 2100 hours after probably boarding the aircraft around 1800 hours, tall into the lobby his right hand bent at the elbow  hooking his suit on his fingers behind his back, India Kings cigarette in his right hand. We, the Front Office staff  were all there behind the Front Desk while Mr Oscar D Monteiro RGM- West accompanied by the West Zone team were in attendance in the lobby having flown in earlier. Mrs Sumathi Rai, the Corporate Housekeeper too was there. Of course the WG Vadodara team of  GM Mr Menon known as Bala Menon with his HOD’s Mr Atul Channa the F & B Manager, Mr Franz Mascarenas the Sales Manger, Mr Jehangir Ghadiali, the FOM  with Mrs Vandana Ghadiali the Executive Housekeeper all waiting to welcome him.

YCD  came in, with with on one glance, sweeping the lobby remarked “ Bala, you better have that crack in the ceiling looked up!” This a man who travelled extensively, must have sat through unending meetings, just got off a hopping flight, noticed in a nano second while we who were there for months failed.  Oh my God,! every Manager worth his salt running to get that damned crack attended to.

He was roomed in room number 320, the most luxurious & spacious room in the absence of a suite.

As the Front Office Supervisor, it was my responsibility to man the desk in the graveyard shift that followed. I was at the EBPX telephone exchange with a  team member at the desk.

Precisely at around 0130 hours as veterans of night shifts  can testify; is when  you can be caught napping literally. I heard the buzzer sound of a guest room calling to shake me out of my reverie. To see the  light glow  indicating it was 320. “Bloody hell, can’t this man sleep in peace”. I muttered instinctively plugging the socket to answer the call honed by the endless hours of practice in the training sessions  with a “ Good Morning Mr Deveshwar. My name is Neel, How may I  help you?”

I  heard his deep bass voice replying with “ Oh no, I  was just checking.”

I could only shake my head in disbelief wondering about this incredible person who had set his alarm in the middle of the night to check if his staff were ready to receive guests.  A hectic day, late arrival, retiring post dinner late after being taken around the hotel to ensure the hotel was ready reflected  on his stature as the MD and  his eye for detail.

As a hospitality Management teacher, I  have never failed to share this with my students at the IHMCT Pusa, New Delhi -’The One memorable  Night shift’ in which I  didn’t cat nap. Rather I  could not as he had in truly 007  style  ‘Shaken the Living Daylights’ out of me.

Mr YCD, Rest in Peace eternally and thank you most for sharing a lesson no  class room lecture could have.I chuckle at the thought of  St. Peter  going to be caught napping, literally !

(MS Neelakantan- is a Hospitality  Management Coach, Author, Columnist.   He is the Co-founder of India’s first & premier hospitality lessons website https://hospitalitylessons4u.com/ . Aslso  ranked high on www.quora.com as a life coach .

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