Feruzan Bilimoria, alumni of IHM Mumbai, is currently working with London Taxi – Mumbai as a bartender. In this exclusive interview with acadman.in has shared her experiences. Enjoy Reading!
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What drew you to hotel management?
It started because of a very stupid reason. I was really interested in cooking and wanted to be a chef. I gave the entrance exam and joined IHM Mumbai. After my second year, I went to the Industrial training at Taj for 6 months.
I loved the kitchen but I started liking service a little more because that makes you talk to a lot of people. I also got behind the bar once in a while and make something… for interns they only let us make refreshment soda and I actually felt very happy doing that.
How was your life at IHM Mumbai?
Life was great. Actually, I never liked school or college and IHM Mumbai was the first college I ever liked. IHM Mumbai gave me some amazing days in my student life.
Teaching staff is very good. They have a very deep knowledge and they know how to handle different situations.
This industry does make you meet a lot of people and you learn how to interact. It really transformed me and changed my personality.
Almost everything is good at IHM Mumbai. The syllabus is good. Teachers are supportive. It depends on the efforts that students put in. IHM Mumbai is still the best college in India in this field.
Why did you decide to become a bartender?
I was actually a chef in my third year. I was doing all these ODC events. And one day there wasn’t any space for a chef at ODC and they were like… do you want to work in the bar? I agreed. What did I have to do? I just have to make Sprint drinks, talk to people and do service once in a while. I agreed. I was also getting a better salary than working as a chef.
So I went behind the bar and started working in the event. There was a lot of stress also, there are people shouting at you…left, right, center… your staff your guest, and there is loud music. So you get a little disoriented. But I actually like that rush and I was good at it. As a chef I had to teach myself to be good at whatever I was doing but bartending came naturally.
So I got interested in it. I was good in studies of alcohol also. I came second in my college for F&B in the second year.
Critics allege that what is being taught in Colleges is very different from what you have to do while working. What is your take on that?
Well, there is a lot of difference. They don’t teach you everything. They just teach you the theoretical and technical aspect which would come from studies only. But nobody can prepare you for the practical aspect and it makes all the difference. But I would say you require both to succeed in this industry.
How was your industrial training experience?
It was so horrible. I cried so much. The working hours were insane. It was the first time I worked for more than 9 hours. Interns are treated like cheap labors so they make you work hard for around 12 hours. And they give a very basic stipend for it. I got a 2500 stipend.
Do you think that the Interns should be provided at least the minimum wage rate?
Yes, they should at least be provided with the minimum wage rate. It’s like they take interns for granted. Previously it used to be a learning experience. But now they treat interns as cheap labors.
Which was your first job?
I was a freelancing as a bartender. I used to do house parties, private events, etc. and after that, I did an extra bartending course because I wanted to have some extra knowledge about it. Then I went to Marriott.
How much that bartending course help you in your career?
Yes, it did help me. My technical knowledge was good so it taught me the same thing which I learnt in college. But what they taught me was the experience which was very different from having just the technical knowledge.
How was your experience at a Romanos?
It was the best experience of my career so far. I know 5 stars because I did my IT from a 5 star. That was a very comfortable space. And it was fine dining. So usually people start from casual dining, family dining and then they go to fine dining. But I started from the fine dining itself. I learnt a lot there more than just bartending. I also learn a lot of operation and management skills. Because I was the only Bartender there. I was doing job responsibilities of an assistant bartender, bartender, supervisor, and manager. I learnt a lot there and it gave me a lot of freedom also.
Would you like to share some memorable incident of your career so far?
I think the experience of Bacardi Legacy was best of my career.
I usually do not take part in competitions and so far I have only taken part and three competitions and Bacardi Legacy was my last one.
I actually wanted to participate because it was an international competition and I just wanted experience it, but I got into top 4 of the country and I was like “Wow…I can do something.” Being the only girl in the competition was also encouraging.
I was also going through a lot of depression and that competition made me feel better about myself.
So, I was promoting myself as a bartender as well as a survivor of depression. So it actually helped me move forward in life and that competition made me a better person.
What kind of challenges you have to face in your career?
Just not being taken seriously, being a girl. But now people have started listening to me because I have moved up a few steps and I have a 5-year experience in this field.
What would you say about the gender ratio in this industry?
The gender ratio in bartending is insane. You will only get 2 to 3, or even less, female bartenders out of 10 bars. Because most of the bars do not even hire female bartenders because of the timings and other issues. But we find ways to work around. 5 stars are always the preferred place because they give you a ride home but stand alone properties don’t hire female bartenders unless you are a high class and all that.
How much scope does bartending have for all girl students who are willing to join it?
There is a lot of scope. The demand is higher and the supply is less for females in this industry and there is also a stigma that people think that women should not be serving alcohol and all that and men get drunk around and and then nobody is there to protect them… nothing like that happens because a lot of people are actually decent in the bars.
Recently we heard that a woman was sexually harassed at a five-star Hotel in New Delhi and we often here that this is very common in the hotel industry? What would you say?
Yes, it is. People don’t know it but sexual harassment for women is very common.
Did you have to face any harassment in your career?
Yes, it does happen, unless you are very strict about it. Usually, your colleagues do it. And they don’t know that they are sort of irritating you…then you just have to point it out and usually they do not do it again. But if they do it again then you have to complain to HR or manager. But if it happens with the guest you have every right to tell the guy to stop it. It has been an issue with me in Romanos and even while freelancing… so usually people know their limits.
Message for students of Hospitality Industry?
I would like to say – It is okay if you do not know what you want to do after you graduate. Even I didn’t know. I did not get anywhere with campus placement although I was a very good student. So it doesn’t mean that if you are a good student you will get a job in whatever property or hotel you want. So don’t take the stress. I wasted a lot of time taking stress. Life will sort itself out.