Sanjay Thakur is currently serving IHM Hyderabad as Principal. He has previously worked with IHM Dehradun. In this exclusive interview with has shared his experiences in the hospitality industry to doing television advertisements. 

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Please tell us about your educational background?

I graduated from IHM Bhubaneshwar in the year 1988 and I hail from Ranchi and I am very proud to say that Dhoni is my junior, we are from the same school.

While I was doing my Hotel Management I was also doing part time job at the Front office at Oberoi Bhubaneshwar. With the permission of the Principal of the IHM at around 5:30 to 6:00 P.M. I used to leave the hostel on my bicycle, I used to cycle 5 K.M to Oberoi Bhubaneshwar, and 7 to 11 used to be at my duty at the front desk and then at somewhere around 12`o clock I used to get back to the hostel.

I did this from second year onwards, this was just to have the feel of how hotels operates and that time the hotels were not fully grown in the country. But all that hard work benefited me a lot.

After that I had joined hotel in Hyderabad, I joined Sampoorna Hotel, it was 4 star hotel as a trainee and then I was promoted to assistant manager then after a year or so I moved to another hotel, it was called Baskerpalace Ashok it was managed by ITDC, since I moved to a bigger hotel I joined as a management trainee and then I worked there for 2 years and then I joined Taj Banjara as the assistant manager for barbecue, there is a barbecue outlet there.

So that was in the hotels, then I moved into education, I worked in different colleges affiliated to Osmania University, Karnataka University and then I joined Shakti College of Hotel Management in Hyderabad which was attached to a 5-star hotel Manohar.

So I used work in the college and look after the training of the Manohar employees and then during that period they allowed me to run my own restaurants at the Hyderabad, my restaurant name is Old Fox.

Shakti College`s management was very lenient they allowed me to do some modeling and films so I have done around 20 ad films. So I am the only Principal in the country at the moment who has the experience of films and modeling and the experience of working in hotels and the experience of owning the restaurant.

For 2 years I have worked in IHM Dehradun as a principal and from there I got the opportunity and applied for the principal role in IHM Hyderabad and from 2014 onwards in am working here.

How was the IHM Bhubaneshwar at that time?

At that time the intake was just 40 student per year. So that was the advantage because class strength was very small, but we felt that many of the faculty member did not had the first hand hotel experience. It would have been better if the faculty member had some hotel experience.

But overall the faculty was very helpful and friendly. In terms of placements we used to have only hotel recruiting us, but today we see lots of MNCs and big shopping malls come for recruitment, so job opportunity was not very wide at that time.

Indian education system is subjected to lot of criticism. Critics point out that we focus more on theories rather than practical. What are your views on this?

It depends on what type of course you are in, like for example in Hotel Management it is more practical oriented and it is all about dealing with the customers and people and so on. When you have faculty without hotel experience then what they do is , they come into the class and read out some books, they just deliver the lecture which does not have that feel, that experience, so all those things are missing.

The reason why classes are becoming really boring is because of the poor quality of faculty, moreover if you see the scenario in India the , the salary of the teachers are poor, good people are not coming in education because they are not being payed well or even if they are paid they are on contract job, so they are not sure how long they will be in job.

So first of all government has to take care of the teaching fraternity, if they are paid good salary, or better than the MNC are paying then you will see good quality people will come in, and when this would happen the quality of education will definitely improve.

Whereas what we see in India is the huge infrastructure is coming up whereas the focus on quality teachers are not there. Secondly the quality of people coming for the teaching job is not up to the mark.

The other reason behind deteriorating education system is the quality of education in school is deteriorated a lot. There is always disciplinary issues with students and the quality of teaching in school is not very good, so the product which is coming out for professional courses are not prepared to take the pressure and they don`t have the desire, they don’t have the basic attributes of the students.

And when the foundation is poor, they fail to perform in colleges. So the education system in the school has to be good. Strictness is very important when I am talking about strictness I am talking about the discipline in the school. What today happening is, in order to improve the image of the school and colleges cheating is allowed, system of liberal marking is prevalent and due to this, the student are realizing that they don’t have to work hard to get good grades.

What according to you is the potential in hospitality in terms of job creation?

Well, it’s very unfortunate at the moment because in every society you will find one or two doctors or engineers in the neighborhood but you will hardly find any Hotel Manager. So many people don’t know what the hotel management is all about. Due to this many students when join hotel management they don’t know anything about it and I am sure that at least 70% of the families in India have not seen the five star hotels from inside or 4 star for that matter. So they don’t know the structure they are not aware of the things which are needed to run this whole industry. And due to this they underestimate the potential of this field.

Hence there should be awareness in the people. In the school itself there has to be subject on hotel management and hospitality. Just 1 very brief subject will be enough to aware the people.

As far as opportunity is concerned let me tell you we are not even 25% of what America has as far as hotels, malls, clubs and restaurant are concerned. So the opportunities are unlimited in India at the moment. People should not worry about opportunity because there are lots of it at the present moment.

The hotel management is not only about hotels, there are cruise liners, airline services. all offering job to the graduates of Hotel Management. There is no place where our graduates could not fit in, because they have the right habit, they are disciplined, they all are well mannered.

By the time they pass out they develop certain confidence and etiquette, so this makes them very flexible. They can fit into lots of places.

Now if you see the kind of restaurant chains the KFCs, the McDonalds they all hire the students of Hotel Management. There are also malls which hire students of hotel management to fill in their high posts. If you go to a well equipped airport you will find that almost 50% of their work is handled by the graduates of Hotel Management, whether it’s handling the guests or selling the air tickets or checking in and checking out. So there is no shortage of jobs.

Even the 5 star hotels or 4 star hotels are looking for the people who suits their requirement but they are not getting it because in our Hotel Management colleges what we have observed is, although it is unfortunate but, people who don’t know English often fail to get a good job at the beginning but if a student is good in English and maintains a fairly good attendance then he will have 3 or 4 jobs in hand.

In the up-coming 10 to 15 years, I see India growing in tourism sector much more than what it is now. So this field is also emerging as a major job producer. So there is huge job opportunity in the field of Hotel Management. Many graduates from the institute are also going for teaching jobs.

Are you satisfied with the current status of placement in IHMs and the number of packages provided?

Yes, I am hundred percent satisfied. I’ll give you an example –  Maruti and the Mercedes cannot be rated together. If I am Maruti, I will be getting 5,00,000 rupees but if I am Mercedes then I will get 40 lakh rupees. So it depends on the candidate and his caliber.

So if anyone who is talented or has the caliber, he definitely gets a good job. If the student is starting his career with the job of rupees 35,000 to 40,000 then it is very good at the age of 20 or 21.

So there is no problem with the job or with the salary. People who are little weak in English tend get a job of rupees 10,000 or so in the beginning but if they continue to do the job for at least 3 year then they will definitely get a good amount of salary. So initially hiccups going to be there not because of the industry but because of their poor skills. If anybody comes with the right skills they don’t have to worry about the job because there are plenty of it out there.

Students have to understand that they want to fit in Maruti or they want to fit in the Mercedes. I am very happy with the placement and the office that are given to the students

How your college provides practical experience to the students, and prepares them to undertake the jobs?

The morning session is all about practical, there are lab sessions. From 2nd year onwards student are sent to training for at least 6 months in the five-star hotels. They don’t have to come to college for the six months, they practice in 5-star hotels.

Then we send our student to lots of competition whether it is inter-college or interstate. Then we invite lots of guest speakers from the industry itself. Then we also take help of case studies to learn the practicalities of everyday cases. These are the ways through which we give practical knowledge to a student.

We have our own English language lab. We have associations with the British Library. We have taken the membership of British Library and student on a regular basis go to this library, not only they manage to get books and videos they also participate in various competitions organized by the British Library.

We have our own Rotaract club if you are a student then you become a Rotaract member or if you are an earning member then you become a Rotary member. The purpose of a Rotaract club is to develop the leadership qualities in the students. They interact with various Rotary members who are all placed in good societies and through a Rotaract Club, we take a lot of social work also.

We go to villages for the polio drop mission and we also work to spread the awareness in the villages and other backward areas. So all this forms very integral part of personality development. We teach our students to interact with strangers and make them comfortable in carrying on the conversation.

We see a lot these days that, colleges charge exorbitant fees but they fail to provide good facilities and education to the students. So what could be the reason behind this?

As far as fee is concerned the government does not have any control on it. So the colleges and universities are free to choose their own fee structure. Secondly, government nowadays are providing with autonomy so that colleges or institution can generate the revenue they think fit.

But as far as I think the problem is the corruption present in the management of the college or institution. What happens is, the money is not being utilized properly for good cause. There is very poor maintenance and because of this the annual cost of maintaining the college becomes very high and because the quality of maintenance is very poor or purposefully it has been made, the money is manipulated.

So money has to be utilized properly and a sense of belongingness has to be there, student and faculty has to take the ownership of the college. They should have a feeling that it is their college and they have to protect the infrastructure and the facilities of the college. So the money has to be managed well and the corruption prevalent in the system has to be wiped out.

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