By Mansi Ranjan
After Covid-19 some career experts have written off a career in the hospitality sector, but after two years of fighting with the pandemic, and with new digital technologies and a skilled workforce, the hospitality sector is thriving again.
There are worldwide opportunities opening up in this sector at all levels. The industry is much better prepared now to welcome those who were caught at homes for the last two years.
To know more about hospitality which is one of the world’s biggest, dynamic, exciting and fast-growing industries, Eduadvice has interviewed Prof. (Chef) K. Thirugnanasambantham, Principal at one of the leading academic institutes in the hospitality sector in the country, Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (WGSHA), Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
Chef K. Thiru is an accomplished Chef, an erudite Academician, a conversant Leader, and a proficient Administrator with 31 years of expertise & experience – both in hotel operations & academics. Scholastically, he is Master of Science, Master of Business Administration and, Master of Philosophy and adorned as a Distinguished Member of the esteemed “Institute of Hospitality”, London.
He has been honoured with several awards & accolades in the field of culinary & hospitality didactics like Expert trainer for WorldSkills Shanghai 2022 Culinary Competition appointed by NSDC and Ministry of Skill Development. He received the “Best Principal Award 2020” at Global Education Skills MSME & Entrepreneurship Summit Leadership Award on September 5, 2020, from International Chamber for Service Industry and many more.
Here, is the excerpt of the interview:
Can you please tell us in detail about various courses offered at WGSHA?
Ans: Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration is a constituent college of Manipal Academy of Higher Education.
Currently, we are offering five programs. One is our flagship program, that is, Bachelor of Hotel Management which is a four-year program that was started in 1986. And in 2010 we started MSC Dietetics and Applied Nutrition. Prior to that in 2004 we started as a Postgraduate Diploma in Dietetics and then we changed to masters. In 2010, we became Embassy Dietetics and Applied Nutrition. In 2011, we started BA Culinary Arts Program and when we celebrated our silver jubilee and the entire infrastructure and the entire program was launched.
Then in 2020, we launched the Master of Hotel Management with a specialization in Revenue Sales and Marketing. And in 2021 we launched MA Indian Cuisine and Food Culture.
So, we have two undergraduate and 3 masters’ programs. Till date, we have approximately 1400 students on board and with all these five programs.
Moreover, WGSHA is the only college that has regulators. Our program is affiliated with AICTE and with UGC.
We were the first college to launch a degree program in Hotel Management Education and also because of the unique setup we have training full-fledged operations, with operational hotels with 68 rooms and 2 restaurants attached to the institute. So, students get to know real-time experience in terms of connecting what we teach in academics and what is there in practice. They can relate to day-to-day operations.
What is your vision for the growth of WGSHA and your contribution so far?
Ans: I always had a vision for WGSHA but the journey was not so easy. This year, I have completed 22 years in WGSHA. I started as a faculty and rose to Principal. I’ve occupied various departmental positions like Food Production, Culinary Arts, Hotel Operations. And I became the principal in 2018, from that year I had my chance to make WGSHA a global leader in the hospitality education sector and we are constantly striving for it.
I, with my team, have put a clear vision for the next five years. We have the strategic-action plan ready to work towards my vision.
Last year, WGSHA has been accredited by the Hotel Schools of Distinction, USA (HSD. What makes this recognition more special is the fact that WGSHA is the only hospitality school in Asia-Pacific region to be so recognised—and only the 9th in the world.
What are the various career opportunities after hotel management?
Ans: Hotel management is only one professional course wherein the skills and knowledge are transferable to any service industry. So, on that note, our students are blessed to have multiple career options. Whether it is pure hotel management or it’s a restaurant or fine dining. Besides hotels and restaurants, there are also new emerging things. And with every new development in technology or guest experience, even more, diverse and specialized job opportunities are coming up.
So, we can have traditional career opportunities or contemporary ones as well. So, I would advise all the students to join the sector as there are many career options besides the traditional hotel and restaurant jobs.
What is the scope of Hotel Management after the Pandemic?
Ans: There are so many changes that happened in recent times. Now, the focus is on imparting analytical, financial and digital leadership skills to the next generation. Digitization has taken a front seat now. Now, we talk about contact-less service and we have Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Robotization. So many things have come up in terms of Digital space.
So, we as academicians have a huge challenge to incorporate these things, so that students could learn better.
As things changes, hospitality travel tourism has also changed in terms of operation. So, today we talk about multi-skilling. Now, we have to be tech-savvy in order to sustain ourselves in future.
There are a lot of things that have changed and it keeps changing, so it is required in any business process is how an individual is going to position themselves and learn about the trends and work accordingly.
What were the challenges of professional education impartation during the pandemic?
Ans: Travel and tourism is the most affected industry in this pandemic. As we purely depend on people who love to travel, we did not have the freedom to travel, and we can only survive in the business process.
The first challenge, was to adopt new technology, next was how are we going to convince our stakeholders, parents and students? As we cannot blame the pandemic. Due to this student’s knowledge and skill level got affected.
But we did not compromise on academic standards. We had a lot of autonomy to swap certain subjects so we engaged students only on theory classes online, and now we have made offline classes mandatory for the practical. Also, in these two years, students got used to a different kind of routine and bringing them back to normal mode was a challenge as well. But we all are trying hard to give the best education to our students.
What are the changes you have observed during / post -COVID in the students’ learning capabilities?
Ans: As I said earlier that now students have a different routine. So, definitely, it was challenging for us. And we have been putting pressure, so there were lots of challenges we faced in terms of making them understand that particular subject.
It was difficult for students as well because they were missing their college life as well. Academics is another thing but college life or school life is really going to shape them on their life skills. However, they are setting down now and picking up the required pace to understand all subjects.
What will be your next course of action in case of the fifth COVID wave?
Ans: There was a lot to learn from this pandemic but at least I can say that we confidently dealt with all problems in this pandemic. And it's definitely going to make us stronger. There is always uncertainty which we are going to face in future, I cannot say what is going to happen, but every day, every minute you’re going to learn something new.
So, it’s all about being strong and how we work out our strategies.
What are your thoughts on NEP 2020 and its implementation in a course like yours (professional/vocational)?
Ans: New Education Policy is clearly drafted and articulated. The government of India has done a wonderful job in terms of making Indian Education part with International. And we should appreciate our Prime Minister’s vision ad effort which has been taken under his leadership. And the ministry of human resources and bringing a lot of changes and created awareness about what is India and what we could do to take it further.
Students are very lucky to get this opportunity so that they have multiple entry and exit, which will make them stronger and will be well connected with the industry. They do not need to be in one institute for three or four years and they can join primarily in one institute and can keep shifting, So, overall, it is a win-win situation for students.
How can students apply for admission for various courses for hotel management in your college?
Ans: As I had said earlier, WGSHA is the first college to offer a degree program and now our institute is one of the constituent colleges of MAHE. Students who want to apply for our undergraduate or postgraduate program have to log in to www.manipal.edu and then you can immediately pop up Admission 2022, and you can click that link and can see various courses offered under MAHE.
Particularly for WGSHA if you click that you will get to know the BHM program and BA Culinary Arts Programs and MSc Dietetics and nutrition, depending upon the eligibility you can apply.
We have already started the admission process in 2022. We conduct an online proctored entrance examination followed by a group discussion, panel interview and personal interview.
Can you tell us about the placement opportunities at WGSHA?
Ans: As you know that this brand is built for over 36 years and a lot of our alumni who are in the hotel and allied industries are doing extremely well. So, our placements are the best placements. Even in the national and international ranking, we’ve been ranked overall number two and among private we are number one.
This year as well, we have almost 22 companies that came to our campus and interviewed our students.
What are the worldwide changes in the hospitality sector and what are the new skill set required to be recruited by major global brands?
Ans: You have to put in the foundation and the second thing is that you should be digitally savvy and you should have analytical and financial skills. Most importantly because you are going to be a leader in the future industry so to sustain your position you need to have in-depth knowledge about the things you are related to. You have to be really good in the digital space and should be strong in all the operational departments.
You should have a strong foundation and should know what is happening in and around the world in terms of hospitality, travel, tourism. You should know the current trends and should keep your knowledge and skillset, both in mind so as to succeed.
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