Rahul Korgaokar, alumni of IHM Aurangabad, in this exclusive interview with acadman.in he has shared his experiences in the hospitality industry. Enjoy reading!


To suggest an interview, feedback or comments, write at alok@acadman.in


How would you like to introduce yourself?

I am Rahul Korgaokar, and I have been associated with the hotel & hospitality industry for the last 15 years. Upon graduation from the prestigious Institute of Hotel Management at Aurangabad, I was selected to be part of the management training programme at the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development (OCLD) at Delhi.

At the end of my management programme, I started working at The Oberoi, Bombay (Nariman Point) in the F&B department as Assistant Manager – F&B. Over the years, I worked in various hotels like the Trident in Bandra Kurla Complex, and finally with Marriott International where I was Director of F&B at the Goa Marriott and the Director of Operations for the Courtyard and Marriott complex in Hyderabad.

I was then drawn towards the entrepreneurial side of the F&B business where I would get an opportunity to run a company by myself. At the moment, I have a small company in the business of pubs spread across three cities in India with ambitions to grow to at least ten destinations in the next three years. Our pubs are called Watson’s Grub Pubs and at the moment are located in Bangalore, Goa and Madras.

Please tell us a bit about your background and school education.

I grew up in an Army family with my father being an officer in the Infantry. Subsequently, I have lived and grown up all over the country, including such far flung and remote areas such as Mizoram, Kumaon and Garhwal. As a consequence, I have studied in a almost seven different schools till I was in the tenth standard. My last three years of school were in Bombay, after which I studied Science at the St. Xavier’s College in Bombay for two years, before proceeding to study hotel management.

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How would you describe your days at IHM – Aurangabad?

I finished school early (10th standard at the age of 14 and 12th standard at the age of 16). This meant that I was always at least a couple of years younger than my class mates. So whilst everybody was 18 or over at college when we joined (in 1999), I was still 16 years old. I had to ensure that I behave as matured and grown up as the rest of them (since at that age, two years matters a lot).

It was also my first time moving out of my home and staying by myself in a hostel. I can confidently say that those three years were some of the best years of my life. I remember joining hotel school thinking of all the glamour that hotels are associated with. But one of our first classes in college was how to clean a WC, and the second was how to operate a dishwasher – no glamour there.

We were also frequently called to help out in big events at the Taj Residency Hotel (now Vivanta by Taj Aurangabad) next to our college. Lifting tables and chairs, wiping glasses and polishing cutlery till two or three in the morning was definitely not glamourous.

All the same, whilst some of my batch mates got disillusioned with life in hotels as a result of this, I on the other hand started liking it and enjoying it even more. My instructor for F&B – Mr. Sandip Mukherjee (who is currently the GM of the Taj hotel in Langkawi, Malaysia) was the one responsible for generating a keen and acute liking (or rather love) for F&B. I owe my interest in this field to him entirely. I also enjoyed culinary and bakery classes, but F&B remained my first and permanent love.

Where did you go for training at OCLD? How was that experience?

Whilst a management trainee in OCLD, my first hotel to be sent for training to was The Oberoi Grand, Calcutta. It was a difficult hotel to work in as it was beset with various union related issues in those years. During my training, I was lucky enough to be under the tutelage of Mr. Kunal Chauhan (who was two years senior to me from OCLD) and was the restaurant manager of the all day dining there.

Everything that I could learn about how to run a restaurant, from guests point of view, man management, financials, etc. I have learnt from him. He even taught me to have some fun after work, no matter how late it is or how tired you are. Today he is the General Manager of The Leela Palace hotel in Bangalore.

You are the CEO at Shilton Hospitality. Please tell us about it to our readers.

This is the parent company of the Watson’s Grub Pubs that we run across three cities in India. We currently have a portfolio of six pubs across these three cities. The company began four years ago as an experiment by the partners who had no prior experience in hard core F&B field.

However, success in their first venture lead them to open a second, then a third. Today, the company leadership is convinced (and rightly so) that their format works and has brought in the requisite foot fall and profit, and is determined to grow this company across the country at as rapid a pace as possible.

Watson’s your classic neighbourhood pocket friendly dive bar, which has no pretensions and compulsions – it is the kind of place where one can walk in in shorts and floaters for your daily fix.

Our music is unique – in that we play no commercial or techno/EDM, but more of retro and old school. Our ambiance too has been admired by many, giving an old world yet modern charm, replete with quirky posters and artifacts throughout. Thanks to the success of the initial ventures, Watson’s has now become a well known brand in the world of pubs in Bangalore.

What qualities do you look upon while hiring a new comer?

We don’t usually get the hotel school graduate profile. Instead, most of the times we get candidates who have either completed a short vocational diploma course, or those who have no prior experience. In such a situation, we look for candidates who are willing to work hard, and have the attitude and personality suited to work in a fun environment like our pubs, and a decent knowledge of spoken English. We can always teach them their job once they are on board. Traditionally ladies shy away from working in pubs, but we welcome lady candidates as it would diversify the profile of our work force.

 

Any inspirational story for hospitality students?

My father always told me two things –

  • In life there are no free lunches
  • Only busy people have time

I have learnt both these axioms to be true over the course of my career. To be able to enjoy a good lifestyle, stable work hours, and work life balance (which is most elusive in the hotel industry, especially F&B), it is imperative to dedicate your early and formative years of your career to hard work.

Long hours, early to work and late to bed, standing on your feet most of the day, enduring physical exhaustion are things every F&B professional cannot avoid. And it is only after 13 years of working like this (even when I was head of department and Executive Committee member) that I was able to enjoy a stable work life balance and a good lifestyle in the last two years. Thus, there are no free lunches (unless you are born in a royal family).

Next, I never believe people who say “I am so busy I don’t have time for so and so.” This is because people are disorganized and don’t know how to prioritize. I have known of colleagues who spend most of the day in meetings, or whiling away time in other people’s offices gossiping about everything under the sun, and when it is time to go home, they realise they have so much work pending that they end up burning the midnight oil to finish their work.

These people are not busy – they are foolish. If they could organise their day better, they would not be in this situation, keep yourself busy doing the right things and you will find time for everything – therefore – only busy people have time.

What would be your parting message to all the hospitality students?

The trainees/interns I see these days from hotel schools can be very disappointing. They expect to do eight to nine hours shift and complain if they have to work longer. They don’t like to do what they call ‘dirty work’ like polishing cutlery or wiping plates or carrying clearance.

They are quick to complain to their Training Manager for simple things including if they did not like the food in the cafeteria. They seem to be entitled, without having done any work to earn that entitlement.

In my time, we did not have the gumption to approach our restaurant manager, leave alone the hotel GM. I would like to tell them that there is no escape from hard work. And the grass is always greener on the other side. You might think that life is much easier in some other industry, but they have their own set of difficulties that we do not know about.