Disha Mankikar, alumni of Rizvi College of Hotel Management, currently working at Taj Land’s End – Mumbai as a Restaurant Manager, in this exclusive interview with has shared her experiences. Enjoy Reading!

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How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

I am Disha Manikkar, 23 years old. I graduated in 2015 from Rizvi College of Hotel Management. In college, I was interested in culinary. But for my industrial training, I was allotted Taj Lands’ End – Mumbai, where I worked with the food and beverage department. In my final year, I choose F&B department and I was happy that I knew all attributes of it. At college placement, I chose Taj over Oberoi Grand and Accor because of its employee-friendly work-culture. At Taj, I got placed as a management trainee. I was extremely surprised that I was the only person from my college and only person from Maharashtra to be at Taj MT program. After 18 months of my training, I started to work in Mumbai, later in Gurgaon and then Delhi.

In Delhi, I worked at Corporate Affairs department handling F&B portfolio where I also worked as bar manager and specialty restaurant manager. Since my family was based in Mumbai, I got myself transferred to Mumbai where I was placed at Taj Lands’ End hotel, the 2nd highest revenue generating property of Taj Group. Even though I hadn’t attained 23 years of my age, I became its restaurant manager.

Currently, I am heading one of the busiest coffee shops in Mumbai which is an added feather in my cap since a coffee shop requires an experienced manager. Ever since I started heading the coffee shop there has been a marked improvement in employee behavior and reduction in guest’s complaints. Overall the team of mine is decent and sincere.

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How did you get motivated to join hospitality industry?

In Class 7th I got to know about the existence of career in hotel management. During my Junior College years, there was a cooking competition where dishes were meant to be for diabetes patients. I took up the challenge to win the competition even though I was not inclined towards Hotel Management. But I was placed in the top three which led to my career change from Psychology to hotel management. I chose Rizvi over others because of its infrastructure and excellent faculty particularly one lady faculty who was hard working, sincere and methodical in her work. She introduced me to culinary. Culinary is more of an art which is more than time management. It requires a precision with the balance of time. At my college, I stood 8th in the class of 50 although there was hardly a competition and also participated in various extra-curricular activities.

You did your industrial training from Taj Lands’ End? How was your experience over there?

My training experience was no less than that of a slave. I used to work for 24 hours or even 36 hours at a stretch but whatever I am today is because of my hard work and it pays a lot and at every level you need to be accountable and be an owner of your work irrespective of your age, your experience and dressing and the designation you are carrying.

How many hours did you work on an average?

I used to work for 18 hours a day on an average.

According to the law, one can only work for 9 hours a day at maximum? There have been complaints from Trainees that have been treated like free labor and have been forced to work for 2 days at a stretch, how do you look at it?

See, it all depends upon the sense of accountability and ownership of you.
For example, if you are working in a restaurant which is packed in capacity with the guest waiting outside for a table. You can’t leave on an excuse that the shift has been over. Whether I like it or not I have to work given the fact I am responsible for my work. I have put in a lot of effort in my work and that’s why at the age of 22, I became a manager while people of my age are struggling to find job leave aside becoming a manager. So you can say that hard work eventually pays.

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Given the fact that your work for 18 hours on an average, do you think that your long working hours contributed to your promotion as restaurant manager at such young age?

See it’s not about the number of hours I put in, but the quality of work I put in. As a restaurant manager, most of the time I leave by 7 in the evening. But whenever the situation arises, I have also worked till 11 at night. The most important part here is that you must be there for your team at the time of emergency or whenever the situation arises. A team which works together and stays together always achieves targets.

I think it’s the learning which contributes to one’s career growth. One can easily learn by working for 8 to 9 hours in a shift or a break of a shift, but how will a person learn when he has been forced to work for 18 hours at a stretch? Will a person ever learn anything when the only purpose at that type of situation is to leave as soon as possible?

I’ll put it that longer you work, better the future you will be. For example, if I am working for say 24 hours at a stretch in 2013 I will be at a much better position in the year 2017. I worked in with the trainees at the hotel who wanted to work more and to stand out while there are many others who are over here for the sake of being present. At the end, I would like to say that it’s not the number of hours you put. But, it’s the sense of ownership that contributes to your career growth.

There are many students who leave this hospitality industry due to long working hours how to consider it?

See it’s not that the students are not aware of it. They get exposed to it in college where extracurricular activities stretch beyond 8 hours. Training is just the advent of the career. It all depends on you how you take it forward. One needs to have a sense of responsibility and accountability. It’s not that every day I must put in 18 hours or more at a stretch. But at the time of crisis or whenever the situation arises, one needs to show the responsibility and the ownership.

You were a part of management trainee program of Taj, what are the benefits of joining Taj Group?

People think that management program is a shortcut to success. But that’s not the case in any management or trainee program. First and foremost you need to adjust and learn how to handle and work in a team because every person has their own thoughts & perspectives.

.Second learning is that when we were divided into groups and you are sent to the hotels across the country. You no one in our team but slowly and steadily we make bonds and your team becomes a family where we ate together, work together and stayed together and stood up for each other at the time of crisis, so that’s how you learn.

The second lesson is when we are divided into groups and sent to hotels across the country. We are complete strangers to each other but slowly and steadily we make bonds and our team becomes a family where we eat together, worked together and stayed together and stood up for each other at the time of crisis, so that’s how we learn. As I had answered in your earlier question that I had broken the stereotype of a female employee. After a stint in Mumbai, I was sent to work in Gurgaon, I knew no one except a friend who dropped me from Delhi Airport to my accommodation in Gurgaon.

At the beginning, I faced immense problems as I the had moved outside my hometown for the first time. There were times when I had to go hungry but today I can very well say that I have learned a lot and I can venture out alone without any help.

Also, the hospitality industry is a small and close-knit industry. So we know each other, For instance, a person may from Taj switch to Oberoi and vice versa and this type of switch happens across the hierarchy right from the bottom to the top management like General Manager.

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The hospitality industry has been in focus on the issue of sexual harassment among employees’ due to which many parents don’t want to send their daughters to work in this industry. How do you consider this problem? Have you forever face any sort of sexual harassment till date?

Even I have heard of it a lot. It all depends on how you maintain yourself, for example, I am a restaurant manager and I have two lady associate managers and predominantly male staff so there’s a thin line or Lakshman Rekha which has to be drawn between our colleagues. For instance, we work together, we go out and we party together and we ensure that a line drawn is based on the principle of respect which is based on the principle of reciprocation. You give respect you get respect.

You say that that by reciprocating the respect to your colleagues prevents one from getting sexually harassed, but in a very recent case of a Delhi hotel, where a female employee was terminated from service after she complained about of her sexual harassment by the security manager of the hotel to the HR department, doesn’t that contradict your answer?

Firstly it’s a case of media exaggeration. As I have told you earlier sexual harassment doesn’t occur overnight. So what the ideal solution should be that whenever there is a hint of sexual harassment, a person should always complain or share with his or her colleague. Secondly, you talked of the termination or what you call dismissal- now in most of the cases an employee is never dismissed. He is just being asked to resign from the job. This ensures that a person leaves his current workplace with dignity without any loss of reputation. What I think is that a girl is just exaggerating and not coming to the point.

What is your responsibility as a restaurant manager at Taj Lands End Mumbai?

Being a restaurant manager my job is not just to generate revenue, but also to ensure employee satisfaction. I would like to see the immense career growth of an employee. Being a restaurant manager of 2nd highest revenue generating property of the group pushes me into veritable responsibilities which can be tiring. I would never like my associate to resign as an associate or rather I would like associate to have a good career growth.

Contrary to the normal career curve you became a restaurant manager at the very tender age of 23, due to this you have broken many prevailing stereotypical notions about a female employee. What message would you like to give to any reader of yours?

I think the ratio is going to change in the coming years because change is the only constant in our life and all depends upon you to break a particular stereotype. It’s not about a particular department like food and beverage curriculum food and beverage, culinary.

I believe that women have a potential to make a change in any organization. If you have a will, passion and hard work you can succeed in any profession be it Hotel Management or anything else.

What would be your message for the students studying hotel management?

Work hard, don’t have any perception, there is no substitute for hard work at whatever position you are, right from the top to bottom of the organizational hierarchy. Always give your best because there is always someone who is watching your progress. Try to do something different which makes you stand out in a positive way and thus making a positive impact.