New Delhi: In the middle of the economic downturn, Arkodeep Ghosh got four offers from top hotels during the campus placements at the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM), New Delhi.
Two of these were for management trainee positions. “It was very difficult to choose between the two since both are leading hotels with a global presence,” he recalls.
Next month, Ghosh, 21, will join the Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. The other offer, by the Tata group’s Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, stipulated a joining date in 2010 which, Ghosh says, made it easy for him to opt for the Hyatt.
Cutting edge: Students at the Institute of Hotel Management, Bangalore. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Not everyone in Ghosh’s batch of 130 students was as lucky. IHM Delhi, which offers a three-year degree programme in hospitality management, has at least 30 students from the batch who haven’t yet got jobs.
India’s hospitality sector has been in a slump since October, when most hospitality management institutes are typically some two months into their placement season, as the global slowdown forces companies and individuals to curb business and leisure travel.
The situation got worse after the November terror attacks in Mumbai that targeted the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and the Oberoi group’s Trident hotel, besides other city landmarks.
“Top hotels were visiting us till the end of October, but the placements became difficult after the (attacks) in November. Frankly, the recession did not hit job offers as much as terrorism did,” Ghosh says.
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According to a June report by trade body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the country’s hospitality sector saw a 64% decline in profit in the first quarter of this year because of the economic slowdown. The report also noted a sharp fall in tourist arrivals and higher expenses for hotels.
The ill effects of the downturn and terror attack were acutely felt in the drop in the number of regular recruiters who visited campuses this year for placements. Companies such as Pizza Hut Inc., Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts stayed away from IHM Delhi, says an official, on condition of anonymity.
IHM has been sending student resumes even to companies that do not typically visit its campuses for recruitment.
“This included retail companies like Wills Lifestyle and even BPOs (business process outsourcing firms). Earlier, our students weren’t interested in such jobs, but this year they have very little choice,” says Naveen Menon, placement head at IHM Bangalore. Job offers at the Bangalore institute have declined 30-40% from the 250 openings for 125 students last year, he adds.
Many companies have deferred campus visits and several others, such as Ruby Tuesday and The Imperial hotel, have put their hiring plans on hold even after making job offers, says a student at IHM Bombay, who did not want to be named. Mint could not independently confirm the claim.
Many of the offers, Menon says, were for entry-level jobs rather than the coveted management trainee positions.
“Even top hotels offered very few management trainee programmes to students. The companies did not negotiate on money but on positions, which was very disappointing,” says Ghosh. “Most positions offered are usually suited for students who do a diploma, and not for those who do degree programmes in the area.”
Some students opted out of the placement process for higher studies or to start a business. Apoorva Kumar, a student at IHM Bangalore, is finalizing a business plan, while Gaurav Sharma, a graduate of IHM Delhi, is headed for a course in finance.
Some institutes have fared better. The Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (WGSHA), Manipal, for instance, had just eight visitors at its placement centre this year, but 98 of the 100 graduating students have been placed with groups such as Welcomgroup Hotels, Taj and the Oberoi group.
WGSHA vice-principal Kulmohan Singh admits, though, that some of the students have been asked to join only by the end of the year.
WGSHA, perhaps, gained from those planning to expand. YUM Brands Inc., for instance, recruited 240 students this year for its India operations. Binoo Wadhwa, director, human resource, Yum Restaurants India, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut, says the company will hire more students this year as it expands.
“The downturn hasn’t affected our operations. In fact, we would recruit more whenever we need,” he says. “Once recruited, we first train the students for the company’s needs before they can start...We are in an expansion mode.’’