Soon after the merger of global major hospitality chains Marriott with Starwood, Dilip Puri, the former India head of Starwood, quit his job to pursue his dream to disrupt the higher education sector, especially in the hospitality space. At the moment, India has a handful of undergraduate hospitality institutes, including IHMs (Institute of Hotel Management) and Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration (Manipal), Puri says that the present curriculum needs a revision to match the changing standards of education. He is trying to replicate the "ISB model" in the hospitality education. As he's setting up his first campus in Gurgaon, Puri met with Business Today's Manu Kaushik to talk about his new project.
What was the idea behind starting a hospitality institute?
Dilip Puri: The initial idea was seeded in my mind when I admitted my younger son to Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne in 2013. I was struck by the realisation that in India, we have hotels that are known around the world and a rapidly growing service industry, but we do not have a matching standard of hospitality education. Spotting the gap, I decided to venture into crafting a world-class hospitality education enterprise. The opportunity to set up ISH (Indian School of Hospitality) has also given me the chance to pursue my passion for education.
In India, there are a number of hospitality institutes, what's the differentiation between ISH and others?
The environment of hospitality changes at an incredible pace -- with today's technologies, the challenges and expectations of a younger demographic of travelers and consumers, the industry never ceases to change and evolve. With this kind of rapidly changing landscape, it can be a real challenge to produce quality talent if the curriculum or methods they are learning from are not tailor-made to enable students to adapt, rationalise and react to the pace of change.
With ISH, we want to disrupt hospitality education by redefining and reimagining the way education is delivered. By employing up to date and relevant teaching techniques, and by creating a future-conscious curriculum, we want to create an educational experience that's not just for today, but can stand up to tomorrow's challenges as well. Our entire philosophy at ISH is to provide students with both the academic and life skills they need to help them succeed throughout their careers and lives.
We envisage our curriculum design to be a global benchmark of hospitality education in the near future, and in order to do we have entered into a strategic partnership with Lausanne Hospitality Consulting (LHC) for curriculum development and faculty training. We have partnered with LHC in preparation for an academic certification by Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL), the world's oldest and top-ranked hospitality management higher education institution worldwide.
What kinds of programmes do you plan to offer, and their duration?
The core academic programmes being offered at ISH are an undergraduate hospitality management programme and an undergraduate programme in culinary arts. By recognizing this boom in the food and beverages sector, our two core programmes will provide students a forward-thinking education and enable them to acquire skill sets that are relevant, and progressive.
Beside the core academic programmes, ISH will also offer various short-term programmes in culinary specialisations as well as a whole range of executive education programmes catering to professionals in hospitality, travel, aviation, retail and other customer-focused industries.
Are you part of the government's Skills India mission?
In the initial stages, the focus of the ISH is on bringing in international quality of higher education in hospitality and allied service industries. Over time, we definitely intend to get into the skill development area as well. From 2020 onwards, ISH will begin the expansion of its THLC brand -- Tourism & Hospitality Learning Centres -- across India focussed exclusively on skill development. I see both higher education and skill development as critical needs for India, but they require different approaches and different strategies to be scalable and viable.
How much you have invested so far? Who are your investors?
We closed the first round of funding at Rs 25 crore. This investment was put together through our founder investors, including key names such as Gaurav Bhalla of Vatika Hospitality, Patanjali Govind Keswani of Lemon Tree Hotels, Sonny Iqbal, Global Co-Leader Family Business Practice at Egon Zehnder, Jaideep Vohra of Sarova Hotels, and others.
What kind of arrangements you have with the existing hospitality chains for training and placement of your students?
The heads of most of the largest hospitality companies in India, both domestic and international, are members of the ISH advisory council. Many of them have provided ISH with testimonials to support our placement, internship and academic exchange opportunities. These opportunities will not be limited to India, but in other global markets as well which have less restrictive work visa regimes such as the Middle-East and South East Asia.
How do you plan to use technology in training, and pedagogy of your programmes?
ISH aims to bring in technology as a teaching aid in almost every possible aspect of the educational experience. The world of hospitality is evolving rapidly with the development of tech. It's time for hospitality education to catch up too. From interactive learning environments that will help connect classrooms and students better than ever before to even the use of virtual reality (VR) for practical skills or role-playing scenarios.
We want to combine technology and learning to spark joy, interest and engagement in our students to help them imbibe knowledge better, faster and for longer. Just one example of how we aim to do that includes exclusive culinary lessons for our students by chefs from anywhere in the world. Thanks to today's technology, the chef can demonstrate and carry out a culinary lesson from their location, with the video and sound feed being broadcast in real-time to our students back on the ISH campus. This opens up a world of potential learning opportunities, as well as making it easier for our students to learn from some of the most notable names in the business. Another example is the use of VR technology as a learning tool in the areas of mixology, housekeeping, front office operations, among others.