Straight Talk with Rajan Bahadur

Rajan Bahadur, CEO – Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council of India (THSC) deliberates with Sameera Fernandes on his plans to revamp one of the worst affected sectors and the steps planned for its revival.

What was your vision since the inception of THSC?

Since 2014, we are committed to bridging the gap between the industry requirement, the youth, and our training partners to promote and enhance the level of skilling in the field of Tourism and Hospitality across the country. Since the onset of the pandemic, we have moved focus to multi-task skilling with the use of technology to promote a ‘hands free’ environment.

How do you manage to place hygiene as a top priority in the current scenario?

Hygiene already exists as a top priority in most big-sized establishments. Here the focus is on continuous innovation in the field – be it the kitchen, laundry, stores and how it can be integrated better. Our focus is now more on the smaller restaurants and roadside eateries. With domestic travel on the rise, people prefer short driving distances along with road side food. The onus is on us to help these vendors equip themselves with better hygiene aspects incorporated into their service and offerings.

How do you keep up with the unstable trends in this sector?

In 2011, our focus was on security – be it at the hotel or at the airport. Similarly, when we engage with our guests or find newer avenues to run the business, we are keeping in mind the new normal and the changing behaviour of our customers. While we understand that the ‘big fat Indian wedding’ may be a thing of the past, the same crowd is now divided into smaller events. Our challenge and creativity lies on how we can make each initiative a seamless and impactful experience in the new normal.

What is the scope of the THSC and what are some of the areas of focus?

With over 390 training centres Pan India, our operations span across all the Indian states and the Union Territories with an exception to Lakshadweep. We run programmes where we have had over 100 qualification packs (training modules) which in turn have a number of sub-modules, all Government approved. We also have a unique programme of ‘Train the Trainers’ which are implemented across all Institutes. We also spend time assessing and revising the training packs. When we find something redundant, we – in alignment with Industry needs, change or update the same. This is a continuous process.

How do you mobilise the youth keeping in mind that most of them come from rural areas?

We have established training centres in smaller cities/ rural areas to ensure the loyal youth residing there need not travel hundreds of kilometres. We are also working on finding synergies, where the youth are trained for a few months in their village itself and on the successful completion of the course, we will bring them to the main hub for advanced training…a hub & spoke model.

Tell us about the successful implementation of the Apprenticeship Training programme

The programme ensures that both the students and the Establishments whether Hotels or Restaurants chains are enrolled on Government portal. With the help of blended learning, once the students are trained in theory, they are then encouraged to complete the practical hands-on training with latest equipments and working professionals within the Industry.  The hotel chains enrolling the students now have a pipeline of prospective students cum potential employees who have already been trained on to their own service standards.

We as a major stakeholder Promote Apprenticeship in all levels and make this program as a win-win situation for all Establishments, students & Our Training partners. THSC works as a bridge between government, Industry & Students by handholding all of them together for successful implementation.

Adventure Tourism is garnering lot of momentum off late. What are you doing to catch up with this new opportunity?

We see a lot of scope in Adventure tourism and we are taking steps to promote the same. Right from online workshops, relationship building with industry partners, spending time to understand their requirements – both curriculum and on the job and then get it validated and formalised through a formal process is the need of the hour. Once the students commence on the journey and go through both the theoretical and practical aspects of the course, we certify them at through  a joint certification with the Government of India. A job fair/compass drives ensures that both industry partners and prospective students come forward resulting in good placements.

What is your key mantra to survival in these challenging times?

While the challenges are clear, it’s going to take a while for the comeback. Furthermore, our goal post is continuously shifting. We need to keep aligning ourselves. My key mantra is survival of the quickest. Whoever can adapt to the situation is the winner. We also need to look forward and ahead!

When the market gradually opens up, it is important that we too open up to new learnings. It is imperative that we continue to build our skills and invest our time and energy in learning. We are riding on a wave where technology will always play an integral role. It’s time to be a lifelong learner and create an entrepreneurial spirit to lead the industry from the front.

The views and opinions published here belong to the interviewer and the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sameera Fernandes
Sameera Fernandes is the Director of Ecosol Global and Chairperson of External Affairs - Bangalore Chamber of Industry and Commerce (BCIC). She is also the former Director – Strategy, St. Francis College, Bengaluru.

She was conferred with the Nirbhaya Award and also the ‘Woman of Influence’ Award by Archbishop Dr. Peter Machado.

Her past stints include Sun Microsystems, Nokia (UAE), Jet Airways, Al Ghurair Investments (UAE) and has been a regular contributor to the Friday Magazine of Gulf News.

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