Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Sonali Jadhav is currently the Principal of AISSMS CHMCT. She has held the positions of Professor, Asst. Professor and Lecturer at AISSMS CHMCT. She started her career in hotel sales as a team member of Rao Marketing Technology Ltd in 1989. Having a passion for cooking, she changed her career path to set up a very trendy cafeteria with college students as her target customers. In a short span of 6 years her customer base increased to almost 2000 as indicated in the cafeterias community on Orkut in 1996.
Dr. Jadhav’s career path changed once more when she ventured in the field of academic in 1998 when she joined Bharti Vidyapeeth’s Institute of HMCT as a lecturer in Food Production She shifted to AISSMS College in 1999 & has been a part of the academics’ team for more than a decade. She was promoted to the post of a Principal in July 2008. Having graduated in French major, she has co-authored the book, ”Basic French for the hotel industry”.
A satisfactory experience in the education industry
I started teaching in 1997 as a junior lecturer. It has been more than 20 years, yet I still enjoy going to the classroom and teaching. The sense of having contributed to the development of students' minds is very satisfactory. It is not just about imparting the knowledge in a specific field but also making the students think and teaching them to make informed choices in all spheres of their life as also contributing to their holistic development. It is one of the most rewarding careers and I thoroughly enjoy it.
Dr. Jadhav’s leadership philosophy
I think it's important to be transparent about disseminating the decisions we take. Of course, we need not advertise where confidentiality is required, but I realize that people are happy when they know why they need to do things in a certain way and the end result is shared with them. I totally believe in being democratic in my approach, yet sometimes it is necessary to be aggressive and even throw a tantrum to make it perfectly clear what is important to you. So, as a leader I can be soft and hard, which works to my advantage.
Maintaining a dynamic approach towards both student & faculty developments
In the early years of my career, I was asked to set up systems for ISO 9001:2000 certification and worked as the Quality Management Representative of the College. This helped me tremendously in identifying key process indicators and having a dynamic approach resulting in continual improvement. I still work on those principles - identifying the training needs of faculty through the feedback system, peer evaluation as well as ensuring they are abreast with the current trends helps us design faculty development programs.
We do a lot of simulation exercises with the students. The internship also plays a big part in their development and we try and offer them opportunities in the best of hotels not only in India but overseas as well. The syllabus is revised every 3 years and we have also introduced a choice based credit system so that student has a choice to study subjects that interest them.
Tackling challenges while learning and teaching simultaneously in AISSMS CHMCT
Teaching is as much about imparting knowledge as learning for oneself. Research compliments teaching. Logistically, it makes things easier too. One has an access to the library, journals etc. as also to the respondents who are a part of the research. Juggling home, work and research are taxing on the time but otherwise, I think teaching actually helped me in my research.
Advice for the hotel management aspirants of the country
A career in the hotel industry is challenging in terms of the hard work and the number of hours that one has to put in. However, promotions are very fast, if you work hard and work smart. An amiable well-groomed personality will work wonders for you. But the current generation is about instant gratification. They need to dig their heels and stay put in the industry for a while if they want to reap the rewards that will follow.
Expected growth in Hotel Management as a profession
The tourism industry of which hotel management is a part of is the fastest growing industry in the world. Demand for manpower exceeds the supply. Besides with all the multinational hotel chains entering the Indian market in a big way, the service conditions are getting better, pay scales are improving and almost all chains now offer Management Trainee positions along with fast-track programs to lure the budding hospitality professionals.
Hotels are seriously looking for ways to attract potential employees in a big way. The tourism sector in India accounts for 8% of the total employment opportunities in the country. This figure will see an exponential growth by 2028. So, it's a good time to be part of this dynamic industry.
Ample placement opportunities at AISSMS CHMCT
The courses that we offer are affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University, former University of Pune. The curriculum is revised every 3 years. Our faculty, including me, have been nominated by the University to be on the "Board of Studies" for hotel management, along with Industry experts. This ensures that the curriculum is in line with the industry requirements. The courses also offer a choice based credit system, so that students can study subjects that they like and get to choose a department in which they want to begin their career. We are fortunate that most of the Multinational Hotel Chains have their properties in Pune. To give you an example, Marriott has 7 properties in the city. So, there are ample opportunities and brands for the students to choose from.
We also have tie-ups for internships abroad, that will eventually result in placements. USA, France, Singapore, UAE, Mauritius are some of the countries where we send our students. Access to these countries, of course, is controlled by the visa norms that are getting stringent year after year. What excites us, is the Management trainee programs and fast-track programs that are offered by the hotels for our students.
Goals in mind for AISSMS CHMCT in the next few years
Over the years, we have had a lot of achievements to our credit. We are the only Institute of Hotel Management in India, which is NAAC as well as NBA accredited. We are eligible under 2f12b for the UGC grants and also get funding from University. This has ensured that we maintain quality in infrastructure and faculty resulting in quality students being attracted to our Institution. Our faculty is encouraged to do research and the Institute has its own research journal.
In the coming years, we hope to start a research centerunder Pune University. This year, we have invited industry stalwarts to be adjunct faculty and are delighted by their acceptance. Maintaining quality is of paramount importance in the coming years. We plan to expand the number of courses that we offer and collaborate with international Universities for research and staff and student exchange programs.
Importance of time management in your Dr. Jadhav’s life
In today's fast-paced life, if you don't manage your time well, you will be left behind. Every aspect of life has become dynamic in nature - whether it is technology, political scenario in the country, personal relations or nature of businesses. It is very important to keep abreast with the changing times and this can be done only if you plan and schedule your life well. Gone are the days when one could afford to go with the flow. Students need to make the most of their time while they are studying, in order to get a head start in their careers. Time management is the only way to do it and I can't stress on it enough.