By Bhuvan G.M.
In April 2019, I bid farewell to the 10th batch of graduates from Apeejay Institute of Hospitality (AIH) set up under Apeejay Education Trust in 2006 and remembered when I was the first employee of AIH! As I look back at my personal journey here, I fondly remember a call from the then General Manager of The Park Bangalore, Mr. Lemuel Herbert, which turned out to be the most momentous morning of my professional career. As I heard the exciting, innovative, inspiring and challenging plan of a hotel school integrated with the under construction new Park hotel in Navi Mumbai, I made up my mind to shift cities. At that time, I was already the head of the hotel management programme at Christ College, Bangalore and having overseen many campus placements of management trainees into The Park, I was aware of its values and felt certain that their vision of the hotel school would materialize. I was selected as the Principal after the final interview with Ms. Priya Paul and Mr. Vijay Dewan and joined on 12th November 2006, exactly two months after the first call in September.
AIH has so far sent out nearly 1400 trained professionals into the hospitality industry. I and my team strive hard to ensure that each of our students are well-trained – an emissary and ambassador of our vision of “Leadership through Knowledge”. Becoming and remaining Solid, Committed, Youthful, Entrepreneurial and Inspired is the armor of every professional we send out from AIH along with the blessings of the faculty. We hope that they will always be relevant and successful in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.
Being involved since pre-opening, a journey of 12.5 years, it is only natural that I have an emotional connect with everything that is tangible or intangible about AIH. As I write this blog of my journey, I recollect the numerous trepidation filled visits to the Mumbai university and education offices for affiliation. I feel it was ground breaking work and that we achieved affiliation in the very first year was no mean feat! I remember our first bank account opening, our first student admission, our first fees, our first activities, the euphoria over our affiliation and how me and my team celebrated each one of them. Our 3 year B.Sc. Hotel Management Programme with YCMO University, Maharashtra commenced within months of AIH opening; by 2008, we were granted permission by the Government of Maharashtra to be affiliated with the University of Mumbai and in 2014, we commenced the Travel and Tourism Diploma from IATA Canada.
It is indeed fascinating to remember that The Park, Navi Mumbai and the ‘hotel school’ were in the final stages of construction at my first day at work! The hotel had its pre-opening team and the school did not yet have a name! ‘Apeejay Institute of Hospitality’ with classrooms called the ‘Discovery’ rooms was inaugurated by Late Mr. Jit Paul, Chairperson Emeritus Mrs. Shirin Paul, Ms. Priya Paul, Ms. Priti Paul and Mr. Sethu Vaidyanathan on 5th April 2007!
With Mumbai University affiliation, systems, procedures, faculty and administrative teams in place, we welcomed our maiden batch of students soon after. Since that day as a Principal I have sent into the world of hospitality 10 batches of BSc. Hospitality Studies graduates and 12 batches of Management Trainees from the portals of AIH.
As I walk the corridors today, AIH is buzzing with young bright people under the watchful eyes of Mr. Shirish Bokde, Ms. Laxmi Todiwan, Ms. Reena Patil, Ms. Yogita Sakpal and Mr. Nitin Meshram who comprised the AIH’s pre-opening team and continue to be the force behind the institute serving with commitment and dedication. We have more than 160 B.Sc students studying at the AIH besides IATA students and Management Trainees. Most of the major hospitality brands visit AIH to recruit our students for internships and final job placements. The B.Sc programme academic results have been outstanding with more than 95% students securing distinctions, first classes and top grades every year in the University of Mumbai examinations.
Each day is challenging and fulfilling at the same time and till today we follow up our successes with a celebration. Each of us feels that AIH is his or her baby! With excellent guidance and nurturing from AIH Governing Council Members, Mrs. Shirin Paul, Ms. Priya Paul, Mr. Vijay Dewan, and Dr. Harsha Mehta; from Mr. Karan Paul, Chairman, Apeejay Surrendra Group, and Trustees of the Apeejay Education Trust, AIH has developed into a sterling example of a leader in learning excellence. With the backing of a great motivated faculty body and administrative team, AIH conducts Professional Development Programmes and workshops for the industry. We also train ourselves to become better teachers & trainers. I was nominated to the Professional Development Programme (PDP) at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York! Wonder of wonders! I could not believe that I was in a PDP class learning Strategic Management from Cornell University Professors.
I am passionate about teaching and I teach management subjects which I love. I enjoy academic research and have published numerous research papers in reputed journals. You will often find me conducting corporate training for The Park Hotels team and for the hospitality and services sector as such. Being integrated with The Park, Navi Mumbai enables us to utilize the facilities of the hotel for practical training. The General Managers of the hotel and TPNM team have been a great and constant support to the institute over the years. My special thanks to Mr. Ravi Rawat, General Manager, The Park, Navi Mumbai in this regard. I also thank Ms. Sujata Guin, Vice President, Human Resources, The Park Hotels for her continuous support.
Today as Principal and Professor of the Apeejay Institute of Hospitality, Navi Mumbai, I handle administrative responsibilities. My colleague Mr. Shirish Bokde, Vice Principal has been a huge support and I cannot thank him enough for his assistance, collaboration and commitment towards AIH and its growth right from inception. We are the centre of learning for The Park Hotels and Zone by The Park, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Corporate Management Training Programme, Hotel Operations Executive Training Programmes and Professional Development Programmes.
The alumni of AIH are currently working with top hospitality majors like The Oberoi Hotels, The Taj Group of Hotels, ITC Hotels, IHG, Accor Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Hyatt Hotels, The Leela, Hilton Hotels, TATA Starbucks, McDonalds, Reliance, Makemytrip.com, Booking.com, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Jubilant FoodWorks etc and of course The Park Hotels ! They are handling key responsibilities and have reached middle management positions. Some of them have ventured into entrepreneurship and family businesses. In 2011, AIH received The Golden Star award for being the Best Learning and Development Centre!
The organization had entrusted me with the responsibility to create and run this institution. I look at AIH’s achievements so far with satisfaction and look forward to the many milestones that are forthcoming. In my 25 years long academic career in hospitality, these 12.5 years creating and nurturing AIH stand out the most.
When we shifted, Navi Mumbai was very lucky for us. We were blessed with a daughter in 2008, two years after I joined. Now she is in class V. Her music and dance classes along with her studies keep both of us busy! When I am not working, I am off for a walk or cycling or listening to music or meditating that’s it!
Bhuvan G.M. is the Professor & Principal, Apeejay Institute of Hospitality.