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Are you a people's person? A career in hospitality might be for you
Navin Kumar
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February 27, 2008

Are you an adrenaline junkie? Do you thrive in high-pressure zones where every day presents new, sometimes bizarre, challenges? Are you friendly and enjoy meeting new people? A career in hospitality is for you.

Hospitality is a booming industry in India. Tourism and hospitality are the third largest net earners of foreign exchange and they are expected to be number one by the year 2010. The ninth five year plan has predicted a shortage of 30,000 trained professionals every year.

Places where demand for hospitality exists:

Here, we shall try to list some of the professions that exist within the hospitality industry:

~ Housekeeping
Housekeepers are no longer the people who switched between hard and soft brooms for different surfaces. The housekeeping system and control rooms have now been largely computerised. The housekeeping staff -- which at one point were largely illiterate -- now hold diplomas, have technical qualifications and are fluent in English.

Housekeepers today are well-versed and multitask effectively. Besides housekeeping, they take care of horticulture, laundry, interiors and even guest relations. Today most complaints are forwarded to the chief housekeeper with only the largest or most important going to the front office or general managers. Many of today's housekeepers have the experience, skill and knowledge to run the Rooms Division.

Housekeeping has a bright future with applications in any and every industry: even housing societies are now hiring housekeeping contractors. "Private housekeeping businesses," says GK Shrivastava, president of the Indian Housekeepers Club, "established by the housekeepers themselves are also lucrative nowadays. Many housekeepers today also engage in part-time consultancy in multinational/national companies, earning a good amount of money just visiting the site once a week on their off days."

~ Cookery
One of the biggest myths attached to the careers of successful chefs is that they require an excellent hotel to make it big. Actually, a hotel needs an excellent chef rather than vice versa. There are hundreds of stories about chefs who have raised the standard of the property they were working at by innovating and producing excellent cuisine.

To take up cooking as a profession one must have creativity, shrewdness, knowledge and willingness to learn through trial and error.

The remuneration that a chef receives depends on their potential, experience and skill-sets. A good chef might earn as much as the general manager does.

During the early part of a chef's career he will work for different sections like saucier, pantry, main kitchen, bakery etc. This is to allow the employer - as well as the trainee - to evaluate the youngster's aptitude. The allocations usually last six months apiece. The trainee must put in long hours during this phase and be prepared to perform both menial and extremely demanding tasks. Perseverance and dedication are a must in this period.

Many avenues have opened for chefs in sectors like in-flight catering, hospital catering, food styling, catering, restaurants, cruise liners and as entrepreneurs and consultants.

There are various levels and jobs under professional cookery:

~ Kitchen stewarding
With increasing specialisation, the maintenance of the kitchens of an eatery or hotel has passed from the head chef -- who now focuses exclusively on cooking and training -- and into the hands of the kitchen steward. His duties include:

A kitchen steward complements the role of a chef and the F&B manager, helping the chef purchase the necessary ingredients and helping the F&B manager control the inventory. What was previously seen as a menial chore now has an aura of professionalism and technicality.

There are no specific qualifications required to be a kitchen steward. Hotels insist that it is attitude they look for: "The trainees should have the right attitude towards the kitchen, the hotel and even the guests, as we also let them handle guests," says Paul Dhas, HR, Director, Le Meridien.

"The first year, we focus on kitchen training, then cross training in the second year, where they handle the responsibilities of a chef and the kitchen. The final year, they don the chef's hat."

A good steward can go anywhere within the hotel hierarchy, depending on the hotel. After two years he could go on to become a supervisor and then a chief steward. Some stewards become executive chefs and a working knowledge of the kitchen could enable the steward to become a restaurant manager. The most enterprising go on to become general manager.

In the beginning, a kitchen steward earns a mere Rs 3,000 a month but this increases to Rs 7,000 when he or she becomes a supervisor. An executive steward could earn as much as Rs 10,000 or Rs 12,000 rupees a month and the chief steward, whose rank is comparable to an F&B manager and is considered indispensable, earns between Rs 30,000-Rs 40,000 per month.

~ Bakery
While it is a branch of cookery, bakery offers many opportunities to hospitality students in its own right. While at one point bakeries were mostly found around hospitals, preparing bread for sick people, they now exist in every nook and cranny of India. Many people start and end their day with baked goods: bread and dessert respectively.

Baking requires hard work, discipline and creativity. One could specialise in many a field like bread-baking, pastry baking, cookie baking, demonstrating, R&D, marketing etc.

"We have had students who have success stories to tell in the bakery profession from all across India," says Manish Gaur, Director of Training at the Institute of Baking & Cake Art. "Students are generally interested to learn the right techniques along with the procedures of practical processing and the different classification that has been made simple for them in their classes."

The market has grown very fast in the last five years, as competition and new products available increased public awareness and consumption.

A student can be much in demand after he has been educated and specialised. Employers include raw-material manufacturers, equipment developers, food courts in malls, franchise fast-food chains and bakery brands in different cities.

The industry offers immense opportunity for bakers, decorators, trainers, process managers and distributors.

~ Accountancy
Working as an accountant in the industry is quite unlike the other industries. The job, while challenging and stressful, offers quality work and immense job satisfaction.

Each role within this industry encompasses a wide gamut of responsibilities. Titles include accounts executive, credit manager, F&B controller, financial controller, general manager of finance and many more.

The ideal qualification for a person entering this field is a degree in commerce and an added qualification of CA or MBA for managerial positions coupled with a diploma in hotel management.

This ideal is a rarity and hospitality education is often absent. "A complete and thorough knowledge of the hospitality industry is necessary," says HA Mishra, MD of Foodesign Hotels & Resorts Systems.

"Only someone proficient in the operational aspects of hospitality and financial knowledge can perform to their potential." This knowledge requires analytical skills, the ability to develop ratios and thumb rules and awareness of laws and tax holiday schemes announced by the finance ministry.

Additionally, knowledge in the requisite accounting systems and technology is a must since manual accounting has been replaced by computers and software. Mishra says, "Today technology gives maximum result and helps obtain optimum potentiality and helps to take corrective action. Otherwise it is hard to handle volumes. This enables time to hone skills to monitor and interpret results."

Salaries are going up in the industry and reputed brands are paying high salaries. Beginners are paid Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000 per month. Mid levels are at Rs 35,000 to Rs 50,000 and people in senior levels are paid anywhere between Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 1,25,000 per month.

The hospitality industry is one of the most recession-proof in existence: even if one of its sectors is failing, another could be expanding. It demands a great deal from its people but offers the most rewarding of careers in return, making it the ideal choice for people of ambition.

Part II: Colleges and courses
Part III: Some unusual options in hospitality


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