Interview by Sakshi Aggarwal
Currently, the Principal of WGSHA, Mrs. Parvadhavardhini has over 37 years of experience in the Hospitality Education in India and overseas. She has worked in numerous positions in hotel management departments in the National Council for Hotel Management, Bengaluru, subsequently moving on to the Institute of Hotel Management Aurangabad as HOD for Management Studies as an employee on deputation from the Indian Hotels Company Ltd.
She was employed in Bahrain as the Academic Dean and Director Studies at the Baisan Institute of Hotel Management now known as Bahrain Institute of Hotel Management. From 2005 to 2009, she held the position of Vice Principal Academic affairs and was responsible for quality assurance at IHMA. During the career span of 37 years of hospitality education, she has attended many learning and development activities which include an ILO fellowship to the Cornell University and The University of Nevada Las Vegas. She is also certified as Hospitality Educator and Hospitality Trainer from the American hotel and Lodging association.
Mrs. Parvadhavardhini Gopalakrishnan’s experience in the education industry
In the Year 2002, I was employed in Bahrain as the Academic Dean and Director Studies at the Baisan Institute of Hotel Management now known as Bahrain Institute of Hotel Management. From 2005 to 2009 held the position of Vice Principal Academic affairs and was responsible for quality assurance at IHMA. During the career span of 37 years of hospitality education, I have attended many learning and development activities which include an ILO fellowship to the Cornell University and The University of Nevada Las Vegas. Also certified as Hospitality Educator and Hospitality Trainer from the American hotel and Lodging association.
Few of my areas of interest in teaching are accommodation operations, services management, human resources management, business ethics and strategic management. Currently pursuing PhD bearing title “ Development of Model for Hospitality Management Education program based on stakeholder perceptions and expectations” through the Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Has been research guide for undergraduate students of Hotel Management studies. Also interested in understanding the philosophies of adult learning and motivation.
The hospitality industry is a multi-billion dollar and growing enterprise. It is exciting, never boring and offers unlimited opportunities. The hospitality industry is diverse enough for people to work in different areas of interest and still be employed within the hospitality industry and have numerous opportunities for advancement with economic advantage. The sector is wide based beginning with the hotels and restaurants of the organized classified and non-classified segments, tourism and its allied services, retail mixed-used commercial services, aviation customer care and logistics services, full and partial serviced apartments, hospitality services for cruise liners, spa operations, customer care in financial institutions, BPO’s, event management and many such burgeoning service based commercial ventures not excluding technologically driven on-line services and products.
The increase in the sanctioned amount of tourism in every budget highlights the government’s interest towards the same. Along its way towards developing new attractions, the similar significance is also given to developing the capacity of individual joining to learn this trade through initiating educational institutions to offer hospitality, tourism and its related programs, simultaneously offering the same discipline in the existing institutions. In this regard, India is always viewed as a favorite destination for higher education in general and gaining momentum for hospitality program to a considerable extent. Many private and government institutions, universities have come up in the recent years concentrating hospitality programs.
Mrs. Parvadhavardhini Gopalakrishnan’s philosophy of leadership and her leadership style
Continuous improvement and change is the underlying philosophy at the institute. The focus has been to uphold the values of the industry and its requirements. The industry partners are considered as a major stakeholder in decision making for curriculum design, delivery, and evaluation. Industry participation in curriculum planning, consultancy, project work and extension lectures are essential to achieving the professional goals of any program.
The college endeavors to provide education to equip the students to succeed and cope with the challenges of the rapidly evolving industry. We have incorporated academic enrichment in planning and delivery of curriculum catering to the current trends, streamlined the student evaluation and feedback processes which are the most important aspects of the teaching-learning processes. The curriculum is currently a blend of technical skills and management studies. Self-learning is encouraged and the students are constantly engaged in several activities through a planned academic calendar that is completely student led food festivals, events, seminars, conventions, contests, fairs, fetes are completed managed by the student community.
A Collaborative Learning Environment:
The creation of the WGSHA was the result of a great collaboration between two prominent organizations from different industries. In 1987, the Dr. TMA Pai Foundation joined hands with Welcomgroup, the hotel division of ITC to set up the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration. The WGSHA -ITC collaboration since three decades has attempted to bridge the competency gap by providing its specialists and expertise in hotel management to impart education and training to students at the institute. WGSHA is the first hotel management college in the country to commence an undergraduate degree in collaboration with an industry partner namely the Hotels division of the ITC. That was a historic event in the Indian hospitality education in India.
The ITC supports the WGSHA for project planning, admissions, designing of the curriculum, selection of faculty and administration of the institute as well as the operation of the annexed Fortune Inn Valley View hotel (member-ITC hotels). The collaboration provides a platform for inclusiveness for the student to gain not only employability skills and competencies but to cater to the larger needs of the service sector. Our curriculum emphasizes through its pedagogy an educational process of lifelong learning, which includes all activities and experiences emphasizing the integration of human values. Application learning in the real world of hospitality is integrated for over 32 weeks for a span of four years.
The collaboration with ITC Hotels has not only facilitated students of WGSHA towards their training and placement but also has given the faculty members a platform for enhancing their competences. ITC hotels make special provisions for faculty members of WGSHA to attend summer training every year. The faculty members are allowed to select an ITC hotel of their choice and undergo short-term domain specific training programs. “All operational and management faculty members visit hotels to acquire exposure to the latest trends and developments in the hotel sector. This is a unique learning opportunity offered by ITC hotels, which has helped us to obtain the highest grading in national rankings. The WGSHA is the only private hotel management college to be ranked in a world ranking based on interviews with alumni employed across the world (CEOWORLD magazine- Best Hospitality and Hotel Management Schools in the World, 2017-Rank 36).
Significant challenges faced as the Principal of Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration
With the changing dynamics of the industry, the colleges must upgrade and transform hospitality management education programs, particularly the curriculum, to cater for the diverse requirements of the industry in India. Those colleges who have been able to understand this reality, have sustained themselves well and many others who have not, no longer exist.
Importance and relevance of market research in hotel management cannot be questioned. At the same time, the industry needs the employees to handle the operations efficiently to the delight of guests. Success in hotel management jobs depends on a great deal on a person’s ability to make positive connections with clients, guests, vendors and other employees. After all, the industry is all about luxury, comfort, and service.
To combat this challenge, educators and hoteliers need to bridge the gap between research impetus and practical knowledge. They must anticipate future challenges better and deliver curriculum accordingly.
The hospitality industry is a consumer-led brand focused era, the educational offerings should arm the graduates to take up the challenges of fast-changing consumer attitudes and behaviors . Faced with this change in consumer behavior , most successful institutes will be those who continuously engage with the industry. But, the changes in the hotel management education scenario are comparatively slower than the industry expectations of graduate competencies.
The colleges must take up challenges in the following key areas as agreed by a panel of deans of some of the world’s leading hotel schools:
Increase in costs of operation:
Increasing costs of capital expenditure like land value, technology and equipment along with a continuous increase in costs of utilities, payroll, taxes, social media etc. have led to increase in fees in the self-financed institutions which have kept the top institutes out of reach of many students who would have preferred to join such colleges. However, facilities like education loan by banks, scholarships for economically backward students and other scholarships have somewhat helped in providing incentives for students belonging to such categories.
New age communication:
Today’s students do not communicate the way we did decades ago. They prefer emails and posting on Facebook rather than notices on notice boards. They are more inclined to post their messages on Twitter and Instagram rather than talking in phones.
In this environment, the way colleges would address these needs of newer forms of communication would be able to communicate better with the students. The results and all other student-centric information may be uploaded to student information platforms as created by the colleges.
The hotel schools have seen a fall in demand towards hospitality career due to underpay, lack of growth and other HR issues in the sector. Under these circumstances, only those colleges would survive in the market that treats students well, arm them well with the latest inputs in a student-friendly environment.
Most institutes focus on the skill level competencies that do not equip the students to handle a long-term fulfilling career for the graduate which eventually leads to attrition from the industry. Subjects taught in institutes need to inspire the minds of the graduate to understand the ever-changing demands of the brand conscious consumer. They need to innovate on new ideas of services and must try out new products like recipes of new menu items or innovation in room designs.
Human Resource issues like leadership and gender equalities:
Many hotel management colleges in India have faced sluggish, laid-back leadership which have led to their eventual downfall. Only those colleges who have established professional management with the adoption of set goals and objectives have survived the test of time, maintained quality and innovation in teaching and generated goodwill in the market. Education should not remain complacent with just the curriculum and it’s more about the personal, professional, emotional and all-round development of the student.
Candidates seeking hotel management education can easily collect feedback from existing students on how a college is run and about the internal environment of the college. Hence professional management is the key to success of today’s hotel management colleges.
A challenge in the sector is also gender equality not practiced very well in terms of pay, promotions etc. towards women. Parents are still apprehensive about the career prospects of women in the industry and also on ensuring the protection of women in the workplace.
Curriculum at Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration
The industry partners are considered as a major stakeholder in decision making for curriculum design, delivery, and evaluation. Industry participation in curriculum planning, consultancy, project work and extension lectures are essential to achieving the professional goals of any program. A great advantage of this college being partnered by ITC Hotels is that continuous update of the curriculum is undertaken on the advice of industry experts visiting the college and on reviewing the students’ performance in the industry.
WGSHA has been proactive when it comes to providing a global exposure to the students. The institute has also collaborated with reputed International and National universities and academic institutions like University College Birmingham, UK, Centennial College, School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culture, Canada, George Brown College of Applied Arts & Technology, Canada, Botho College, Botswana, The University of Waikato, New Zealand Tourism and Hospitality Skill Council, India, The SAGES Institute, International, Surabaya, Indonesia, The Business School, Edinburgh Napier University, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), Manchester, UK, Alain Ducasse, Paris, France, and City and Guilds, India Chapter. The WGSHA students also take part in student exchange programs such as International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) and AIESEC India.
These collaborations help in identifying pedagogical innovations in teaching and learning based on the best practices from each culture. Well-planned visits of students and teachers and an offer of giving joint degrees to students with International partners help in enhancing career advancement opportunities abroad.
As one of the very few hotel management institutes in India that have been ranked among the international institutes, WGSHA has many ambitious plans. We would be providing the students and faculty a digitally enabled teaching-learning environment that will benchmark the industry practices in digitalization. We will also continue refining the education philosophy and curriculum to achieve academic excellence, internationalization, research capabilities and employer reputation. Leveraging the potential of alumni as teachers will continue to remain a key area of the pedagogy.
Some of the highlights of the curriculum are:
- Curriculum is non-vocational in nature; Contemporary styles of teaching-learning through social media are encouraged. Newer subjects like Food photography, Food journalism, Food anthropology are taught. An array of general courses and specialization courses cater to student diversity, passion, and capability
- Adjunct faculty members, working in many international and national universities of repute, have been appointed to share their expertise and provide contemporary inputs to our students
- Teaching Pedagogy includes simulations and event management by the students. Flipped classroom concept has been adopted by the college
- In assessments, students use online digital pedagogy tools for undertaking quiz and surveys and they also take part in individual/group presentations, role plays and group discussions
- In the area of E-Learning, the college also has subscribed to Learning Management System (LMS) software for students supported by EduNxt, available 24 x 7.
- Annexed Fortune Inn Valley View Hotel, Member – ITC Hotels Group enables the students to experience real-time hotel environment
- Only college in India to offer wine fundamentals certifications levels I and II, from the International Sommelier Guild (ISG) the USA
- Collaborations with reputed International and National universities and academic institutions like George Brown College of Applied Arts & Technology, Canada, Centennial College, School of Hospitality, Tourism, and Culture, Canada, Botho College, Botswana, Tourism and Hospitality Skill Council, India, etc.
- Skills training for unemployed youth from the local community are imparted through Manipal City & Guilds as our CSR initiative
- Students also take part in student exchange programs such as International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) and AIESEC India
- A culture of change and continuous improvements through a system of nominated members who engage in developing the entire student experience. (BOS, Senate, QMS, etc.)
- New software in PMS (micros opera) and materials management (micros materials management system (MMS) for students’ practical learning. Faculty Members are provided with laptops from the university
- Students actively take part in organizing events like food festivals, conferences, various other college events and in extracurricular activities. Marks awarded in professional development and event management module for co-curricular and extracurricular activities
- Students also take part in intra-university and inter-university co-curricular and extra-curricular activities
- Faculty and students are continuously engaged in publishing and research work in various national and international journals, supported by large collection of digital learning resources and in innovative practices in areas like innovative cocktails and recipes, wine and Indian food pairing, innovative bakery / patisserie exhibitions, food photography, entrepreneurship projects, herb/ spice garden projects etc.
- Opportunities are provided to enhance cultural and artistic inclinations with the systematic involvement of various clubs. Students also take part in CSR projects organized by Volunteer Service Organisation (VSO) of the university.
- As per our university’s policy, a plagiarism software Turnitin is used to check students' work particularly final year students’ project for potential plagiarism.
- A Digital Repository portal has been established in the University and linked to the University’s website (www.manipal.edu) to enlist all research publications by the faculty of the college enabling users to view all publications of the university in the portal.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration
Recognized by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and accredited by NBA for five years, WGSHA has been highly successful in attracting a good number of reputed recruiters to its campus. To augment the placement opportunities, the institute invites industry experts as adjunct faculty to deliver parts of curriculum wherein the recruiter has an opportunity to identify talent. At present, more than 18 companies conduct on-premise selection and placement with over five international placements each year and the employment offers have been recorded from fortune 500 companies such as Marriott Hotels and Standard Chartered Bank.
The placement process is dynamic and it shifts as per the dynamics of the recruiters’ needs. We provide our graduating students with multiple platforms to seek employment across the world. WGSHA has deployed a dedicated team of faculty members to involve in connecting the graduates to employment opportunities in the entire tourism, travel and hospitality sector across the world. In addition to that, over 2381 alumni are connected to the graduating batch for internships and employment. A well-charted recruitment plan without ignoring the technological advancements has played a crucial role in the recruitment lifecycle of students. We have also imparted proactive employability enhancement initiatives like PDPs, workshops, training programs to address the gap in requirements in entry-level hiring at the institution level.
Although placement has been continuously at 100% and maximum number of recruiters among all the top brands in India and overseas visit our campus with most graduates starting off at entry-level jobs or as management trainees in reputed hotel chains, the competencies achieved may fall short when it comes to critical thinking, research capability, IT and tourism concepts and practices. The curriculum is thus being enriched with modules either mandatory or in the form of electives in areas of Tourism studies, Retail Management, Convention Management, Event management, Institutional catering and food retail etc.
Mrs. Parvadhavardhini’s relationship with the students
I have always tried to create a climate of respect where students exhibit a courteous, decorous and deferential attitude toward the teaching fraternity in general. This I feel is essential in enhancing the quality of student life in the campus. Through structured mentoring program across disciplines that shows teachers care about students’ feelings and needs and at the same time an effort towards making ‘respect’ an integral part of college climate. As a strong support system, I am ever available to share their personal concerns so that they feel listened and appreciated.
Ideal school environment according to Mrs. Parvadhavardhini
Teaching and Pedagogical Tools:
Students face a continuously changing environment in the industry, be it during an internship or on assuming various roles as employees. Under these circumstances, the teaching and pedagogical tools must provide real-life environments more than ever before. For that, simulations and event management by the students allow them to understand and implement hotel management knowledge right from planning and till feedback during these simulations and events. Flipped classroom concept has been adopted by our college to give the excitement of discovery of theoretical concepts while going through the directions provided in the classes.
In the area of Assessments, students are encouraged to use online digital pedagogy tools like Google forms for undertaking quiz and surveys and also take part in individual/group PPT presentations, Role plays and Group Discussions. In the area of E-Learning, the college also has subscribed to Learning Management System (LMS) software for students supported by EduNxt, available 24 x 7.
The college has also implemented continuous evaluation of students without any sessional examination in the master degree courses so that the faculty members can plan their assessment/evaluation of students as the modules would demand. The college has an excellent collection of books, online databases, and digital learning resources. Perhaps, it is the only college in India to offer wine fundamentals certifications levels I and II, from the International Sommelier Guild (ISG), USA. Hotel Management Software like Micros Opera PMS and Micros Materials Management System (MMS) are available for students’ practical learning. 24/7 WiFi facility is provided to students and technologically driven assessment tools like Students Information Systems (SIS) are used for academic delivery and assessment. Also, Adjunct Faculty Members, from international universities of repute are providing expertise and contemporary inputs quite often during their visits to the college campus. Other pedagogy tools may include inclusion of community outreach programs to equip the students to meet the social needs, Participation of students in GOI compulsory events and Participation of students in seminars and workshops.
Teaching learning process in the college should focus on engaging the students to learn through research. Research work by students may be mandatory in the curriculum.
Safety and Security of students:
The university and college have established sound security systems where the whole campus is monitored by C.C. TV 24 x 7 and campus patrolling are undertaken continuously throughout the campus. All the buildings in the campus (Academic, Administrative, and Hostels) are always manned by security guards and entry and exits are monitored. Debit cards issued by State Bank of India have also used ID cards as well as access control cards (Combo Cards) for the students and staff.
Student Wellness and Welfare – Marena and facilities at the Kasturba Hospital:
University has provided a six-level, centrally-cooled indoor sports complex named as Marena for the use of students and staff. With a built-up area of 1,42,042 sq. feet, it is one of the largest and best-equipped sports centers in the country, aimed at ensuring that the six long months of monsoon in the region do not disrupt the fitness regimen of students and staff.
Some of the facilities provided include a 200-metre jogging track with a rubberized surface; a gymnasium with cardiovascular equipment, weights, strength training and flexibility machines; four squash courts with a viewing gallery; a basketball court built to NBA specifications; five badminton courts; a playing area for futsal (five-a-side soccer); a cricket bowling machine; a kinesis circuit system and five enclosures for simulation games; a sauna and steam bath. And they are all under one roof.
Students are also covered with one lakh rupees medical insurance (Medicare) for medical ailments and admission at the Kasturba Hospital located on the campus. All students are covered by Medicare which entitles them to general hospitalization including drugs (excluding diet) and outpatient benefits (excluding drugs, materials, etc.). The super-specialty hospital provides medical services round the clock.
Personal and Professional Development:
The BHM and BA (Culinary Arts) curriculum include modules of ‘Professional Developments and Events’ which recognize, monitor and assess students’ participation in various events of the college fostering individual development. The students are also encouraged to take part in various community services and sports facilities through the sporting events of the university and through Volunteer Service Organization (VSO) a community service wing of the university. Apart from these, several workshops, seminars, field visits to the industry develop student’s professional exposure to a great extent.
University’s Administrative, Academic and Technical Platforms:
A host of administrative, academic and technical platforms are created at the university with ample resources made available to students and staff for enhancing their potential in key areas. They include Centre for consultancy, Training and Corporate Interface (CCTCI), Industrial Liaison and Placement (ILP), Inter-disciplinary Research Group (IRG), Research Advisory Council (RAC), University’s Students’ Research Forum, University Technology Business Incubator, National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), Networking Task Force (NTF), Office of International Affairs and Collaboration (OIAC), Talent Acquisition Team (TAT), University Relations Team (URT), Volunteer Service Organization (VSO) etc.
Top qualities according to Mrs. Parvadhavardhini Gopalakrishnan that an aspiring candidate must possess for Hotel Management
The students must be tech savvy to use laptops, mobile phones with the latest Apps for searching current knowledge trends in all spheres of their curriculum. With facilities like Wi-Fi and online journals, the student should have enough supplementary knowledge sources apart from classroom education. The students should be exposed to co-curricular events like food festivals and simulations; conferences and symposiums, event management experience and direct inputs from industry experts. Side by side extra-curricular activities.
Goals in mind for the Institute for the next few years
- To be ranked among the top 10 hotel management schools in world ranking from the current 36th position
- To sustain top position in the national rankings
- Establishment and maintenance of intellectual capacity building
- Proposed new building of WGSHA of about 87,000 Sq. ft. expected to be ready by 2020
- Proposed Commercial Restaurant
- To develop a model of collaborative learning and teaching among educational institutions within the university through core and open elective programs
- Integrated MBA
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
Product and service knowledge is very critical in the formative years of the career. But complexities in the hospitality sectors environment and political conditions entail the graduates to be prepared to cope with
- Managing the next generation customized technologies in the hotels integrated architecture and service elements.
- Understanding tourist motivations from a cultural context and economies of the world.
- Addressing issues of branded lifestyle products in the design and delivery
- Providing technologically comfortable entertainment solutions and experience
- Delivery of the service through eco responsive products and services
- Provision of contemporary gyms, spas and healthcare facilities
- Providing culture sensitive food and beverage solutions in the menu
- Providing robust security solutions, fire protection, and flow control to eliminate the perception of risk.
- Maintaining almost clinically clean and sanitized HACCP controlled environments
- Managing sales through social media and network
- Coping with health risks of the customer
- Providing barrier-free access for the differently abled customer