Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Ms. Thangam Philip

Ms. Thangam Elizabeth Philip is regarded as the pioneer of hospitality education in India. Known as the diva of hospitality industry, she was an epitome of discipline; agreat teacher who knew every student of hers by name. Even after her retirement,whenever an ex student met her she could quote his or her year of graduation from the institute, such was her memory.She was empathetic, upheld great moral values and good judgment. Outwardly she acted tough but there wasalways a genuine concern for improving one’s attitude towards teaching and learning.

On the three occasions that I met her and had the fortune of serving her, she exuberated an auraof authority and grace. Wherever I went, when I spoke of my alma mater, people asked me about Ms. Philip -that’s the respect she commanded. To write about her I contacted people who had worked with her and knew her well, they were professors who taught me and many others graduating from the portals of a great educational institution, IHM Mumbai.  Chef Vernon Coelho, Mrs. Mercy Mathew, Mrs. Avril Sule, Chef VK Iyerand Mrs. Aileen Sequeirashared some great insights about her personality. Of all the people I have written about, this one is aninspiration to me; anode toa lady who was in a league of her own.

She never settled for jobs not done to perfection.  She took rounds of the Institute while the classes were going on and would enter the kitchens to check on staff as well as the students. She insisted on food from the Quantity Food Kitchen be sent to her so that she could find out what the majority of the students were being served. She would dine once or twice a week at the restaurant to taste the food prepared by the Third-Year students and also to experience and asses the serving skills of the students. She would randomly check the journals of students and would insist on the staff showing her the answer papers of failed students as well as the top fivewho scored the highest in the respective subject.

She took special interest in celebrating Christmas and Onam at the institute. She promoted theweekend trade fairs, which were annual events held in December. People loved coming to theseandthey became great social eventsin Mumbai. Students loved working in the stalls and selling the products that they made and there was great showmanship and pride. She was very particular about the dinners and events that were held. It was an era whenthe industry as well as the profession was being built, one step at a time. Nutrition was very close to her heart - every week the second year students along with the staff in charge used to visit the slums of Mumbai and conduct demonstrations on how to cook economical and nutritional meals. A van was dedicated to this cause, that was so very apt and the need of the hour.

She never gave into political pressures as the head of the institution. One political leader came on an Onam celebration day to stop the function saying that there was shortage of rice at that time and it was acourt order not to serve it. However, prior to the event, she had already secured a permission from the court to allow the program to happen. She cited the reason to be a requirement for the students who graduated to have knowledge of regional cuisine. She had excellent foresight and vision; she planned well in advance. Padma ShriThangam Philip was also a Ceres awardee, putting her in the league ofIndira Gandhi and Mother Teresa.

The Early Life

Ms. ThangamE Philip was born on 12 May 1921 at Kozhikode in Kerala.  After graduating from the Women's Christian College, Chennai, she completed her post graduate diploma from the Lady Irwin College, Delhi. She secured herMS degree from USA.  She was a well known nutritionist; she started her career by joining the faculty of Home Science at St Thomas School Kolkata, where she worked for a short time. She moved to Sri Lanka in 1949 to work at Southland Methodist College where she establishedthe Home Economic department.

Ms.Philip returned to India in 1950 and accepted the invitation of the Ministry of Agriculture to manage one of the cafeterias under the brand name, Annapurna that servedsubsidised food to the middle class. In 1954, she shifted to Mumbai and joined the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition when the college was established in that year.  She did many radio and television programmes and visited USA where her programmes were telecasted. In 1961, after her return from the US, she was appointed as the principal of IHM Mumbaipopularly known as the Dadar Catering College. She also started writing articles in the periodicals and opened a cookery programme at the All India Radio. When the Food and Agricultural Organization launched the Freedom from Hunger campaign in 1963, Ms. Philip joined the campaign and contributed greatly. Shealso participated in the inaugural program of the Young World Assembly held in Athens in 1965.

Ms. Philip has authored several books on the hospitality industry and culinary. Her two volume works, Modern Cookery, Book for Teaching and the Trade, is a prescribed textbook in IHM curriculum. One of her books, Thangam Philip's Book of Baking is a work written for the Ministry of Tourism. She was involved as a consultant with several projects of UNDP, Food and Agricultural Organization, International Labour Organization and the Government of Kuwait. She served on the boards of many hospitality enterprises and organisations such as Air India, Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, Sterling Holiday Resorts (India) Limited and Kamat Hotels.

After retirement in 1986, she returned to her native place Pallom, at Kottayam district in Kerala. She continued with her research from her home there.Ms. Philip died on 28thJanuary 2009, at the age of 87.

Awards and Honours

Ms. Philip was a fellow of the Hotel Catering and Institutional Management Association, HCIMA UK, Cookery and Food Association, CFA UK and served as a member of the Royal Society for Public Health, UK.

The Food and Agricultural Organization honouredher with the portrayal on the FAO Ceres Medal; a commemorative coin was also issued with her image in 1975.

She received the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award from the Government of India in 1976.

The Government of France awarded her the Knighthood of the Order of Cordon Bleu Du Sant Esprit in 1982.

She retired from IHMCTAN in 1986, after which she was made the Principal Emeritus of the institute.

She was also a recipient of the Firestone Award from the Indian Association of Occupational Health.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Ms. Sonal Holland, MW - The Wine Master

My association with Sonal goes to IHM where she was my senior. We didn’t have much interaction though, I got in touch with her recently after seeing her work and the kind of adulation she had acquired from the industry – wine experts as well as wine lovers not just in India but around the world. Found her to be an inspirational woman who has had an equally illustrious career. I wanted to share her story on this platform that has been sharing the journeys of the most accomplished female leaders in the Hospitality Industry; thought she had to be there among the innovators. Finally I get to speak with her and my recent dream gets checked! She has been busy travelling around the globe and working tirelessly on the upcoming India Wine Awards, which has emerged as the most authoritative wine competition in the country. She and her team is working actively towards the 2018 India Wine Awards at the moment.
Ms. Sonal Holland, MW is India’s most accomplished wine professional. The first Indian to have been bestowed with this prestigious global title, she has won numerous awards in her incredible journey to become the only Master of Wine in a nation of one billion people!
Sonal’s professional achievements include her role as the former corporate head of wine and beverages at home-grown luxury hospitality conglomerate, ITC Hotels. Currently, she is the Wine Buyer and Consultant for luxury food retail chain Foodhall, and is also the Director of the wine program for the rapidly expanding restaurant group, Gourmet Investments.
The Early life
Sonal is a Mumbai Girl, did her schooling and later hotel management from the prestigious IHM Mumbai. She then got her MBA from the University of Mumbai; post which she joined The Oberoi Hotels and Resorts as the Sales Manager- National Sales, handling Mumbai Area. She has also worked with Kelly services as Director of Sales – India. Her last stint before she founded the Sonal Holland Wine Academy in 2013; was with the ITC Hotels as the Divisional Head (All India) – Wine & Beverages.
She has studied Wine and Viticulture at the Institute of Masters of Wine and has earned her Diploma in Wines and Spirits at WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust). In 2016, Holland was named Master of Wine (MW) from the London-based Institute of Masters of Wine. Prior to the MW, Holland received Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits from Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)
Wine Education: India’s foremost wine-centric institution, The Sonal Holland Wine Academy has distinguished itself as a world-class educator in India’s beverage scene. Founded in 2009, Sonal Holland Wine Academy is a licensed collaborator with Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) headquartered in London, offering the most sought after wine qualifications across India.
Her refreshing, jargon-free approach to demystify vino has endeared her to budding oenophiles in a land of whisky lovers. An initiative spearheaded by her in 2017, The India Wine Insider (IWI) is the most ambitious and comprehensive survey on the urban Indian wine consumer.
India Wine Awards: Powered by Sonal, is the most authoritative wine competition in the nation, led by India’s most qualified wine professionals. The inaugural edition of India Wine Awards in 2017, established itself as the ultimate consumer-guide to ranking the best wines (domestic and international), available in the country.
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Monday, 1 October 2018

I can - Ms. Ranju Alex

I connected with Ms. Ranju Alex, a few days ago when one of my colleagues spoke about her being a very dynamic lady, a super achiever and someone who had contributed so much to the industry. I was told that she deserved to be featured on Indian Women in Hospitality. I had heard of her but didn’t have the opportunity to meet her or interact with her  and this was the perfect opportunity to connect with the lady. She was extremely warm and she liked the IWH platform and the kind of work we were doing, it was truly humbling. What I liked about her was that she is extremely forthcoming and someone who can be called the ‘take charge‘ person. It’s a pleasure to share her inspirational and incredible journey here.
Ms. Ranju Alex is the Multi-Property Vice President, Bengaluru & Kochi and General Manager for Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield. It is a dual role and she looks after 18 hotels. Prior to this, she served as the General Manager of the JW Marriott Kolkata and Multi Property Vice President for East India, Bhutan and Bangladesh. She is a true champion of the values and commitment towards service excellence which encompasses taking care of associates and their career development plans. She enjoys the diversity of dealing with guests, meeting individually with department heads, exploring opportunities for improvement, solving concerns and moving forward together as a team.
Ms. Alex is very passionate about women empowerment and advocates it at her workplace. Her work towards gender diversity has resulted in her being invited by several countries like Sweden, Netherlands, UK and the US as a key note speaker on women related issues. After 17 year tenure with The Oberoi Group, Ranju moved to Marriott International. Over the years she has received various accolades to her name, despite being a super achiever in every realm of her professional career, her commitment to work has never come in the way of her leading a fulfilling personal life. She acknowledges that her husband and children are her greatest treasures. A firm believer in ‘health is wealth’, she is a health and fitness conscious person who loves her sports; tennis and swimming, as much as she loves cooking for friends and family. Travelling is another  hobby that she follows, as it allows her to spend quality time with her family. Ms. Alex is an avid reader, having a home library of 6000 books; she is also passionate about charity. She believes in living life to the fullest and maximizing every moment of her time to it’s full potential and capacity, be it professionally or personally.
The Early Life
Ms. Ranju Alex says that she is a Bihari by birth but was born and brought up in the Steel city of Durgapur, West Bengal by virtue of her father being posted there. Though she was from a conservative background, she was blessed to have very modern parents who believed in education for girls and their subsequent financial independence. She was educated at the prestigious Carmel Convent School and was an above average student. She was never the topper but strangely she never aspired to be one! Her aspirations were very different right from her early days. She was  interested in doing something that her heart and mind wanted to do and not something that the society expected her to. She was not very clear on the exact path but one thing she was certain about was that the path had to be very different. She did try to take the much trodden path of taking up Science hoping to be selected for Engineering but the destiny had different plans. She was struck by a serious neurological disorder which forced her to the hospital bed for over two years with slim chances of survival. Survive she did and that experience reiterated her belief that she needed to make something of her life; where she was given a second chance! and hence started her journey in hotels- a world that attracted her but a world that she had absolutely no clue of!
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Friday, 28 September 2018

Many things- Ms. Vipula Gandhi

We were batchmates at IHM Mumbai. She was friendly, lively and a fun person to be with. Her speech used to be ‘many more words per minute’ than most of us because she was a fast thinker. She worked hard and was ambitious; she was one of the toppers all though the college years. Focused on what she wanted and achieving not just that but much more. She has lived a life probably just the way she had planned it to be. She is one of the fittest women I know and also a great parent. She keeps giving people around her many professional and personal goals; making her a complete package!  She is truly a star, an inspiration to many men and women. Presenting to you Ms. Vipula Gandhi, Managing Partner at Gallup Inc, and is based at the company’s headquarter in Washington DC. IWH in conversion with her.
IWH: Tell us something about you, your growing up years, life through school, college etc.
Vipula Gandhi: I am the youngest of 3 kids born in middle India to highly educated and middle class parents. I spent my early years in a steel city, Bhilai, where my father worked as an engineer. My parents had difficult childhoods in strained circumstances common to many other  refugees from Pakistan. By the time their only daughter arrived, they had built a reasonable life for themselves. My father bought a car the day I was born to celebrate and ensure that his only daughter comes home from the hospital in a car! As I look back, I am in awe of my forward thinking parents, they raised me just as they did their other two boys- I rode motor bikes and was introduced to the concept of independence very early on. We were not rich but a wholesome and loving rearing made up for a great childhood for all of us. They ensured that I studied in good schools and was supported when I requested help.
I did very well in school and then met my first big failure in life – inability to become a doctor which was my father’s dream! My late father always meant a lot to me. I was lost. I knew from early age that I get energized by delivering great customer service, I applied for IHM because one of my other friends was applying and suggested I would be a good fit. So really not a thought through strategy at that juncture in my life. I just wanted to start doing something to get myself going after the big speed bump. Hospitality was an emerging industry in 1994 and not a place where many middle class parents saw their daughters working.

IWH: What made you select Hospitality as a career? Was it easy making that decision?
Vipula Gandhi: IHM, Mumbai and OCLD years shaped who I am. Hospitality industry taught me basic fundamentals of business that I still hold dear in my heart – customer is the reason why businesses exist. Everything that we do must have customers’ interest at its center. Having spent 4 years in hotel operations and Sales, I realized that my calling was elsewhere and when offered a sales role in Financial sector I made my move. Then followed 7 years in Banking sector that led me to a Corporate Banking Director role in London with Barclays Bank. In spite of success in this role and an MBA in Finance, I soon felt I needed an intellectual challenge and when head hunted for management consulting role, I changed industry again. I now feel fulfilled helping organizations grow; growing businesses have huge impact on building successful societies. This is my contribution to making this world a better place. When I look back, the industry changes make complete sense  but they looked risky and out of comfort zone when life presented those doors of opportunity. I have lived and worked in Mumbai, Delhi, London, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC.

IWH: What is your current role?
Vipula Gandhi: I am now the Managing Partner for a management consulting firm, Gallup Inc, and based at the company’s headquarter in Washington DC. My teams and I help  C- Suite leaders of Fortune 1000 companies on designing and delivering on business strategy through advise and analytics.

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