A Successful Failure

Circa 1988, I was chosen for the Management Trainee Program of the fabled Oberoi Centre for Learning & Development aka OCLD, then known as Oberoi School of Hotel Management (OSHM).

Interestingly, the path to this successful selection involved a lot of drive, humility, diligence, and industriousness.

I had always aspired to join the hotel industry. In the 1980s, there were very few people who wished to truck with this industry, unlike now. I learned of the OSHM during this time and read whatever magazines I could on the industry and Oberoi Hotels.

Gen Z (students and new industry workers) may have heard of such ‘prehistoric times – the non-internet age’ from their parents but may find it difficult to comprehend; nowadays any thirst for knowledge is easily quenched online.

A distant relative worked at Oberoi Hotels, Bombay and I requested to be connected with him. I met him for the first time and went to his home to try and understand something about an industry I knew practically nothing about. He was most helpful and supplied me with magazines, newsletters, and brochures, etc., apart from tutelage on the Oberoi way.

IHM Bombay had a professor who was a family friend and I connected with her, to understand what the hotel industry was about. She was very kind to allow me to use the institution’s library to study books on the industry. Lillicrap’s Food & Beverage Service – a reference used even today, was one such book. I poured over all this reading with keen interest, making notes along the way.

All this preparation began a year earlier while in my second year of graduation, and I used this time to also prepare for GMAT and GRE as I was told this would be useful in the OSHM selection process. I simultaneously worked hard to develop my General Knowledge using library time effectively.

Come D-Day, I was all fired up and floated through my college selection (I was the only one selected from at least 100 students). The next stage was at The Hotel Oberoi Towers where I got through the Group Discussion, the written test, and the pre-final interview.

Having got through four stages, 3 months later I was called for my final interview with PRS (Biki) Oberoi and the board of directors at The Oberoi New Delhi. Of all the hundred-odd selectees called in for the final interview, I found myself in the final 18.

Imagine my dismay, when this final 18 were assembled at the end of the interview selection process and told that 15 of them had made the grade. I was among the rejected 3 candidates, who after seemingly getting through the 5th and final stage of selection, had to now fly back home downcast and woebegone and take fresh stock of my life.

I analysed the reason for my rejection and figured that the uncertainty amongst the interview panel, of my passion and sincerity for the hotel industry, probably weighed heavily against me. Being an Economics graduate, my seriousness for this service industry was probably in question. I realised that to show my seriousness for the OSHM, I would have to prove my passion for this industry, the next time I came up before the Oberoi Panel.

I joined a two-year course in Hotel Administration and Food Technology at Sophia Polytechnic, Bombay. During this time did my industrial training at Oberoi Towers, Nariman Point, and then at Sea Rock Bandra.

A year later, when the OSHM selection began, I requested my graduation college to allow me to attend the 1st stage of selection. The rest is history. I sailed through all five stages successfully. In Delhi, at the final interview, I was quite startled when Biki Oberoi told me I had put on some weight since my previous attempt a year ago!

And, that is how I joined the OSHM batch of 1988-90.

Well, the learnings I would encourage here are:

Failures happen… They must encourage and exhort you to do better. Look at ways to convert failures into success. Many of us may achieve success without going through the failure stage and this is dangerous as it does not prepare us for the real world. Popular belief says that ‘failure is bad.’ You need to redefine this for your situation.

Analyse failure. Do not simply disregard it, as it could happen again in a different form unless you are able to fathom the reason for it.

Hard work, hard work, hard work. There is no better formula for success.

Focus on what you want to achieve. Keep your focus constant. Do not say ‘I will try this and if it works – well and good, else I will do something else.’

Without passion for what you want to achieve, you are like an empty vessel. Aspire for something by design and not by default.

For Gen Z who has passed out this year from their catering schools, it is indeed a trying time. Many of you are waiting for the appointment letters you were promised during hotel selections done pre Covid-19, and many are still sitting out waiting for employment.

This is not your personal failure… it is the environment that has played a trick on you. Instead of rueing your luck, look at how you could use this time to upskill yourself or possibly join an organisation as a trainee instead of an employee – for the experience.

Create your future instead of waiting for the future to create you.

Ramiah G. Daniels – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

This article has appeared in Champions of Hospitality October 2020

This article has appeared in Hospitium, December 2020

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