Dilip Puri’s Indian School of Hospitality Promises to Lift Hotel Management Education to a New High
WHEN Dilip Puri was heading Starwood in South Asia, before the mother company merged with Marriott International to create the largest hospitality behemoth in the world, he was known for being an institution builder, for he opened doors for brands such as W, Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton and laid the foundation for the US-based corporation’s enviable expansion under his command in India.
Four years ago, however, when he went to Lausanne, Switzerland, to see off his younger son at the famous Ecole Hoteliere, he got to witness first-hand the levels to which hospitality education had risen, and he made it his life’s mission to create a similar hotel management school in India. It was his way of giving back something substantial to the profession that had nurtured him and supported him all the way to the top.
When he left Marriott International a couple of years back, the hotelier, himself a product of the Oberoi School of Hotel Management (now called the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development), got busy setting up the Indian School of Hospitality (ISH) with academic certification from the Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne at the Vatika New India Township on the NH-48 (formerly NH-8) in Manesar (http://ish.edu.in/).
Armed with investments from major hotel promoters in the country, from Patu Keswani of The Lemontree Hotels and Gaurav Bhalla of Vatika Hospitality to Amit Bhosale (ABIL Group) to Rajesh Advani (Sun ‘N’ Sand) and Adil Allana (Allana Group), Puri, backed by his elder son Prahlad (who studied film-making in the UK before getting into the business of startups), has created a hospitality school that promises to be the go-to destination of the new college-bound generation. As Sanjay Sharma, Market Vice President, North India, Marriott International, said it during a round of the new hospitality school, which is to formally open on August 1, 2018, “This is the W of Indian hotel management schools. Its tagline should be ‘Education Re-Defined’.” W, incidentally, is the hipster luxury brand of Marriott International.
Speaking from personal experience, Puri said hotels have to spend precious time and resources training graduates from hotel management institutes, which is a needless investment in a tight market. He remembered how Starwood was recruiting up to 80 hospitality graduates every year because of its fast-paced growth, but it had to turn to students of well-known colleges such as St Stephen’s and Lady Shri Ram because they had the necessary soft skill sets, unlike their hospitality school counterparts. “We have great hotel, but they do not necessarily have great talent,” Puri said.
It is to bridge this gap that ISH is designed like a fully functioning hotel with a three-meals-a-day restaurant named DelISH, where we were served a delicious low-carbon-footprint, chemical-free lunch by Chef Ravitej Nath‘s All India Rasoi. Its bulk kitchen, spread across 15,000 square feet, can produce up to 700 meals a day and its bakery, loaded with state-of-the-art ovens and other gizmos, has enough capacity to service a hotel. It also has an Opera Cloud Services property management system of a live hotel so that students can learn from real-time situations — an exposure not many hospitality students in India can claim to have got.
We got an idea of the kind of education aspiring hoteliers can expect at ISH when we were exposed to an immersive experience of the US-based company TransfrVR‘s gaming technology-based Virtual Reality Apprenticeship programme (https://www.transfrvr.com/), which is now available in three modules: bar-tending, housekeeping and coffee-making. Wearing an Oculus Go headset that took me inside a virtual bar, and following the instructions of a VR coach, I learnt in the most engaging way how to make a Diaquiri.
I turned out to be a fast learner till I dropped the shaker containing the cocktail in the final ten seconds! Chennai-born Bharanidharan Rajakumar, TransfrVR’s founder-CEO informed me that the “learning by doing” model ensured a 75 per cent information retention rate, compared with 30 per cent in the case of learning from videos.
“We are providing to our students a learning environment that will be the same as the one where they’ll be working,” Puri assured me. “We have to move from a teacher-centric to a learner-centric education.” Life skilling and soft skilling, moreover, will be an important part of the ISH curriculum, because, as Puri put it, “it’s your body language that will get you a job, not your degrees.”
The Rs 6-lakh-a-year, four-year programmes (hospitality management and culinary arts) will stretch the resources of middle-class parents, but ISH has a scholarship fund to part-finance the education of deserving women students (it’s called the WISH initiative) as well as children from armed forces families (Puri’s personal tribute to his own army lineage).
An old Oberoi hand cannot live without sharing his favourite ‘Rai Bahadur’ story and Dilip has one too. It is about Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi‘s firm belief that children from armed forces families made better hoteliers because their grooming and attitude was right. The idea found takers across the industry, which explains the large presence of children from armed forces families in the hospitality industry.
With ISH looking all set to re-define hospitality education, young hotelier now have a more exciting future to look at. I hope more institutes follow Puri’s lead and lift hospitality education to heights our country has not seen before.