THE popular perception of a hotel is often wrong, and M.S. Sha, a graduate from the Welcomgroup School of Hotel Management, Manipal, says he is determined to correct it. "My aim is to educate people and change their view of hotel management," he says. Sha established the Annai Fathima Institute of Hotel Catering Administration at Alampatty near Madurai, in 1992.The institute has 494 students and 60 employees, including teachers. Its campus has kitchens, classrooms with stained glass panels, a five-star hotel room and so on.
In Tamil Nadu today there is a boom in the study of hotel management and in catering training so much so that even arts and science colleges offer courses in these. Of the 100 catering institutes, only about 15 have proper infrastructure and qualified staff. Several catering colleges function from residential houses. Job opportunities for students passing out of established hotel management and catering institutes are aplenty. They can get jobs in star hotels in India and abroad, run guest houses for corporate houses or cafeterias in institutions, land jobs on ships, or be self-employed.
"There is an ever-growing demand for seats in these institutes. The human race will need food as long as it exists. So there is a permanent need for this calling. We simulate the conditions of a five-star hotel here so that the students get the right ambience during training," says A.S.D. Jeiprakash, principal of the Annai Fathima Institute. Hotel management does not amount to just cooking food and serving it to guests. "It is total hospitality care," he says.
The Annai Fathima Institute, which is affiliated to the Madurai Kamaraj University, has come a long way since its establishment. It moved to its sprawling campus at Alampatty about two years ago. The Institute offers a string of courses, which include a three-year diploma course (after Plus 2) in Hotel Management and Catering Technology; a one-year postgraduate diploma in Hotel Management and Catering Science; a two-year course in Front Office and Hotel Operational Management; one-year postgraduate diploma courses in Accommodation Operations Management, and Food and Beverages Management; a one-year diploma course in Food and Beverage Production and Food and Beverage Service; a craft course in Bakery and Confectionery; B.Sc. in Hotel Management and B.A. in Tourism and Hotel Management. It runs a three-year diploma course in Hotel Management and Catering Technology in collaboration with the Mandarin Training Centre of Mandarin Hotels of Malaysia. Sam Abraham, chairman, Kodaikanal Christian College, and Sha can be called the pioneers of hotel management and catering training in the State. In 1990, Sam Abraham founded the Kodaikanal Catering and Hotel Management Institute, "the first of its kind in the private sector". When he advertised for teaching posts for the institute, he received about a thousand applications. He shortlisted 35 persons for interview but only one turned up. Seven students joined the course that year.
"At the end of the one-year certificate programme, managers from Taj Coromandel and Welcomgroup, Chennai, came to the campus for recruitment as there was a need for trained manpower in the hotel industry," he says. Sam Abraham praises Sha and other teachers who worked in the Kodaikanal Institute during those teething years. The institute has wound up but Sam Abraham offers B.Sc. in Hotel Management and Catering Science in the Kodaikanal Christian College. A student of the course has to do additional diplomas in Travel and Tourism and craft courses.
In 1992, only four institutions offered a course in Hotel Management and Catering - the government-run Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition at Taramani, Chennai; the Food Craft Institute at Thuvakudi, Tiruchi; the SRM Institute of Hotel Management; and the Kodaikanal Hotel Management and Catering Institute. The Sri Kaliswari College established by the Sri Kaliswari Fire Works near Sivakasi, offers B.Sc. course in Hotel Management from this academic year.
Sha stresses the need for a separate university for hotel management and catering science. Each big hotel is an industry by itself and is related to tourism as well, he points out.