Monday, 11 May 2015

Beating the gender stereotypes!

I did talk about my column right? after sharing the maiden post here is the second one.

In my second write up, I wish to deliberate on the same topic as the last one, the hospitality industry and the careers that it offers. As this is the time of the year when the high school graduates are thinking of getting into different streams of studies and dreaming of building successful careers ahead. I thought of sharing with my readers a very important concern that comes up during my counselling sessions- gender stereotypes! Not that I am a feminist who shouts from the rooftop, but when it comes to dealing with concerned parents of youngsters who are thinking of venturing into a career in the hospitality industry I get asked often how the industry was for the girls.

I am a girl, of course a lady now! Have been in the industry, for almost 18 years. Studied in a hospitality college where the boys to girls ratio was 7:1 (most professional courses show this kind of ratio), a hosteller while there, done my intern ship of 6 months in the second year of college. I have worked in the hotel operations for the first 4 years of my career before getting into academics and after 6 years of that, I am back having one foot in the operations and the other in teaching, learning and development. I haven’t experienced any bias anywhere and the industry is very safe to work in. In fact hotels take great care of their women team members. Within the hotel, which is a 24 hours operation it’s absolute as safe as one’s own home. Women also need to work in shifts but shifts are followed in such a manner that they change at convenient hours such as the afternoon shift getting over at 9 pm. If a shift gets over after 10 pm then the ladies are given a home drop in the hotel car.
In today’s’ day and time most professions work round the clock so employees need to adapt to the  shifts concept, be it a hospital, a hyper mall or a petrol pump. These places are also safe for women to work.

The opportunities that the hotel industry offers are one of the best. Initially they may not be the best paying but in the due course they are also equally challenging and rewarding. In fact the merits are many such as working anywhere in the world, experiencing the product and holiday plans with family being some of them.
Hospitality comes naturally to women, so making a career in the industry can be utilizing their strengths to the core. They also make great managers just like men. In my own experience I have felt the privilege of being a woman at my work place. There is respect, caring and the challenge of walking shoulder to shoulder with the men.
Gender equity is the concept to follow and not gender bias! So hop on and get to know more about the hospitality industry and the career it offers, it’s your passport to the world.

With the idea of attracting the people with the right attitude and make informed decision about studying Hospitality Management or taking up careers in the industry, The Apeejay Institute of Hospitality has organized a free experiential workshop at its campus every Wednesday. Students can enroll in this work shop and experience a feel of the industry as well as get counseling from the experts.

The readers are welcome to send in their queries at , we’ll try our best to address each one of them. Work shop Contact No. 9987178045

Will have my columns posted here on my blog too! What do you think of it?

Careers in the Hospitality Industry

A local newspaper approached me to write a column in their supplement. Now this was an offer that I couldn't resist simply for the love of sharing my thoughts with  people. The thoughts of hospitality as a career as I still feel people in India, in this city need to know it better. This is the first column that I wrote for the supplement.

The Hospitality and Tourism industry offers careers that are dynamic, challenging, thrilling and vibrant in 
nature. The industry offers many opportunities to the people with the right skills set. A recent study by the World Travel & Tourism Council shows that the hospitality industry is the largest employer worldwide hiring 1 in 12 workers, and this number is set to grow with the continued expansion and growth of the sector.

Welcome to this column, where we will be sharing some insights of the industry and also discuss careers. The industry is not really understood well by the masses. Most of them associate it with glamour but there’s a lot of hard work, discipline and the love to serve others that goes hand in hand. Hospitality is all about doing things that come from the heart, manage events and create memorable experiences for the guests. 

Being in the industry for almost two decades and counselling parents and students over the years, I have felt that it is extremely important for the students to know how the hotels operate and what career paths will be available to them. 
Most of the students who want to join the industry have seen a celebrity chef and think that’s what their life would be. There are so many career options apart from being a Chef. The hotel’s core departments are Front office, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage Service and Food Production and Patisserie. A hotel management graduate can work in any of these departments or choose to make a career in Sales and Marketing or Learning and Development after getting some experience in the operational departments. One can go on to become the General Manager or even MD or CEO of a Hospitality company. The ones who are inclined towards teaching can go for higher studies after their graduation and can even earn a PhD. If one dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur, then he or she can start a business be it a restaurant or a facilities company.

With the idea of attracting the people with the right attitude and make informed decision about studying Hospitality Management or taking up careers in the industry, The Apeejay Institute of Hospitality has organized a free experiential workshop at its campus every Wednesday. Students can enroll in this work shop and experience a feel of the industry as well as get counselling from the experts.

The readers are welcome to send in their queries at , we’ll try our best to address each one of them.

Laxmi Todiwan,
Associate Professor, HOD
Apeejay Institute of Hospitality, Navi Mumbai 
No 1, Sector 10 CBD Belapur,  Navi Mumbai  400 614 
T +91 22  2758 9050    6758 9050   Work shop Contact No. 9987178045

Anything first is always very special. This article will remain special to me.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Inspiration - The PureMart Story

Aww I keep forgetting that I have a blog! Have been busy with a million things happening at my end. Most of them are happy things, cheerful things and things that are going to inspire me .....if not others! I have developed some good training content that's happy. Attended some fabulous training sessions in Kolkata and was invited as a trainer for a very prestigious event. I shall certainly share it here on my blog in the due course of time.

But what I want to share  here is a story, a story that may inspire a lot of people. A story that inspired me!

The background
Sahil Verma, my brother in law, kid sister is married to him. Once came to my office on my birthday and me sitting behind my Prof.'s desk and sharing the donkey's years experience with him. He just told me," Didi (sister) I can't imagine sitting in an office like you for so long.... this was 2 years ago and I was sitting in this kind of an office for 15 years. Not that at the same place, this is my third job. I absolutely love what I do. Have always followed my heart and have chosen my profession and organisations accordingly.
His question made me think. He had just started his pet venture PureMart and was working fulltime too. He was really working round the clock, weekends not spared and would skip some social family gatherings too. My sister was supporting him all she could, she too had a challenging job and was newly married so a home to take care of too.
I loved the way these two were building their dream project. As an elder sister I kept boosting their morale as much as I could....You see I am a professor and a trainer and this quality comes naturally to me!

Rest of the story please read below, as they feature on the cover of  " Business for all" magazine. 

Pure Mart

Sahil Verma was only 26 when he thought of setting up PureMart. The Jammu born and bred boy had spent almost a decade outside his home state to pursue his degree in pharmacy and, subsequently, a job by that time. He was appalled to see people from other parts of the country associating J&K with gun toting terrorists most of the time, besides the scenic beauty and abundant snowfall which the region gets. Or else, saffron and walnuts.

The young and zealous entrepreneur sensed opportunity in the fact that he had easy access to products which were considered ‘delicacies’ and highly prized by others located far away from Kashmir.
While working in Mumbai with Cognizant as a ..?? 2011, he happened to attend a seminar by Amit Grover, CEO Nurture Talent. This, recalls Sahil, was the turn around. When he shared his vision with Grover after the session got over, he received a huge pat on the back which helped embolden him and think of taking a plunge.
As wife Rajani also extended support, Sahil went ahead and submitted his resignation on his birthday in 2011. The next 14- 16 months were spent doing offline research and getting in touch with producers and cultivators directly. This, they were sure, would help enable them have access to the purest saffron while also helping push up profit margins.
PureMart went live in early 2013 with only 10 kilos of walnuts and 20 grams of the aromatic delicacy- saffron by way of inventory. Wife Rajani, who is a co-founder, takes great pride in mentioning that the project was entirely bootstrapped.
Within six months, the site was bubbling with activity and they were even earning a decent profit out of it. At the same time, they also started getting queries from satisfied clients who wanted to know if they could ‘arrange’ other dry fruits like almonds, hazel nuts, dried figs and organic personal care products.
This, shares Sahil, they took as a green signal to try diversifying and adding more products on to their site which had been, during the first six months, confined to walnuts and saffron alone. The new products also seemed to go in line with their overall motto of promoting good health by eating healthy and, more importantly, eating pure foods.
Tells Rajani, “This was also the time when India was beginning to awaken to good health and switching over to organic products, courtesy Baba Ramdev who had single-handedly shaken a nation of its deep slumber and inspired them to switch on to a healthier mode of living. An average middle class family spends anything from 5-8,000 a month on groceries. Switching to organic products will increase their monthly expenditure by only 5-10% but benefit them immensely by strengthening their immune system and making them much healthier.”
To ensure the purity, which they insist is their essence, PureMart source their nuts and saffron directly from cultivators. The organic cereals and kitchen supplies come from Kitchen Organic, with whom they have joined hands only recently. The beauty and health care products are sourced from NeeV Herbals (National Award Winner).
The team which started with only two members aboard had the husband –wife duo handling all operations right from procurement of supplies to receiving orders, packing deliveries, finance, marketing, customer feedback, emails, etc. Sahil had, at that point of time, stood ground on handling it all himself ‘to understand the challenges which my team might face when we grow bigger.’
“Together with my Co-founder wife Rajani Verma, I went to several cities for about a year doing awareness campaigns and other promotions to learn what the people understand about organic products from the north. To our surprise most of them did not even know what a saffron bud or a walnut fruit looked like,” explains Sahil, who always had to carry unadulterated products to show them to his audience.
Almost two years later, they have orders pouring in from all corners of the country and even beyond. They have now delivered products to 3,000 pin codes across the country. From Kanyakumari to Nagaland and Andaman to Kolkatta. Besides, they have also executed more than 2,000 orders from Canada, UK, and Dubai- all of which have a sizeable Indian population. With more business pouring in, PureMart is now a five member team.
Sahil shares, “We got our first order ever the day we launched our site. That was from one of my ex-colleagues based in Mumbai but we have come a long way since. I have personally visited many customers in Mumbai to understand their behaviour and to get feedback from them.”
When asked to explain the challenges faced so farm Sahil takes a minute to reflect on the journey so far. “Delivery is the biggest challenge in e-commerce today. There are two important arms of any e-commerce business- Payment & Delivery Channels. We have been using leading payment partners and delivery partners since inception. But we realized that having one’s own delivery arm helps remove lot many hindrances while also helping build up trust among customers. With that in mind, we have already started our own delivery model in Bangalore where we are now doing one day delivery without any extra charges. We are, keeping our fingers crossed, thinking of getting started in other cities soon too.”
PureMart is now looking forward to expand its reach through multi-channel marketplaces & through organic fairs. They are also looking for like-minded partners from Metro cities to join hands, hoping that would help them set up a more streamlined delivery channel. They are now trying scale up their presence by employing social media

Asked about future plans, Sahil says, “We plan to come up with a Handicrafts and apparels category soon too. We are sure this will help create employment opportunities for artisans across the state.”None of the two co-founders would deny that the road so far has been pockmarked with hurdles and challenges. Inspite of that, they are upbeat and raring to go ahead. Their confidence growing with every successful order they undertake.

Now, thats inspiring right? If there is a dream and a will.... anything is possible. So we must follow our hearts and dare to dream big!

Link to PureMart:

Credits to Business for all magazine.