Navin K. Singh is currently working in Sokha Hotels and Resort Cambodia. Navin`s story from nothing to everything is nothing short of inspiration. A graduate from IHM Chennai, Navin has experience of working at ITC, Le Meridian, Hyatt and now Sokha Hotels Cambodia. Enjoy the experience of the boy from Bihar who was afraid of speaking English and now he is not only fluent in English but also fluent in French and Italian.
Tell us about your educational background?
I never thought to become a chef. It’s just a kind of coincidence that I landed in this profession. I completed my graduation from IHM Chennai, then I joined Management Training programme of ITC. After that, I worked at ITC Maurya and at ITC Maratha.
How was your experience at IHM Chennai?
It was really bad. Because I was completely lost in my first year. It was just a time pass for me. I did not concentrate much on getting good internships in hotels. I was not in good terms with my placement coordinator. So all the good hotel brands like Taj, ITC and Hyatt had shortlisted the students from my batch but I was not in that list.
I approached my placement coordinator and told him that I haven’t got any hotel to work for. What should I do now? The placement co-ordinator told me to “do something on your own. I can’t help you”. That was completely disheartening.
I came to Delhi and went to the office of ITDC. I asked them for a training and they suggested me the Management Training Programme. I went for the programme… At that time Ashoka had four 5-star hotels and four 4-star hotels or budget hotel. So they used to send students on a three months training programme at a 5-star hotel and another 3-month training on a 4-star hotel.
So while I was doing my training, the hotel management noticed that I am doing well in the kitchen department. They asked me to do the entire training at the kitchen department. I joined the kitchen department. The executive chef was so impressed with me that he got my training period extended for another six months. That was a really big boost for me. Once the training session ended I got a job offer from the ITC itself and I joined it.
Tell us about your work experience.
I worked with ITC for three years. Then I moved to Meridian Chennai, Meridian France, and Italy. So, ITC gave me a good strength in Indian food but working at Meridian helped me to master European cuisine.
When I returned India, I worked there for some time and then went to China. I joined Hyatt – Chennai when I came back from China. I worked there for two years. After that, I was asked to join Hyatt Singapore. I went there and returned back to India and joined Radisson after a stint in Singapore. I went to Guwahati and played a vital role in the establishment of Radisson hotel. Then I got an offer from Sokha Hotels and Resort, Cambodia and currently, I’m working there.
Did you face any difficulty in this field?
There is no difficulty as such but the competition in the international market is very fierce. The senior level is still dominated by European and Australians in the international market.
There is always a preference to the Europeans and Australians when it comes to senior-level post. So when I joined the international market people underestimated my abilities. They thought that being an Indian, how will he be able to deliver. But I proved them wrong and those perception does not come in my way anymore.
Do you provide internship to Indian students in your hotel?
No, at this point of time, we don’t provide internship to the Indian students. But in the coming years, we are planning to open the gates for the Indian students. The reason behind this is, right now we have close to 60% guests from China and rest from the Korea and Japan. We have started to receive few number of Indian guests lately, so we are now planning to hire Indian students for internships.
Please tell us some of your experiences which will inspire the hospitality students.
In my 8th standard, I failed in my English. My teacher said: “You couldn’t manage to score 23 out of 70. What would you be able to do in your life”? But today, I am fluently speaking English, French and even Italian. And I believe, if I can do it, you can also do it.
There was a lot of difficulties in the beginning. People used to call me “Kaalu” and “Bihari”. My family income was not much, so financially I had face a lot of difficulties. But today things are completely different. I have traveled to the most exotic places on earth and the income which this industry has provided me, is comparable with any other high paying jobs.
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