Point of View - Mr. Ujjwal Satyal

Posted On December ,

"The industry should treat the graduates with dignity and train them for better and standardized promotion of course based on their performance"

Mr. Ujjwal Satyal is probably the most popular name in the Hospitality Education in Nepal. A Veteran Educator, a Creative Food & Beverage Expert, a Great Kitchen Designer, a Dedicated Mentor, Mr. Satyal is a complete package of knowledge and expertise in himself. He has been an Idol of many hospitality graduates of the country. Lets hear from Mr. Satyal in the following interview.

(Interview Published in 91st Issue of Food & Wine Magazine)


1. Being native of Kathmandu and born and brought up in well to do family, you had lots of choices for your education and career. Why & how did you get involved in hospitality education?

It seems like I was born with hospitality blood in me. Not that my family is from hospitality background but I was impressed by a career talk organized at St. Xavier School way back in 1976. I was in class eleven and we used to have career speakers from various walks of life but mostly there would be doctors, engineers, architects, army officials and some others, thought to be, the selected prestigious jobs then. I was not impressed with any of them. But then one day we had a personality from hotel industry brief us on hotel and its prospects. I was not so much impressed by the prospect as much as the person. I was struck by the personality and grooming of the presenter. That was the day, 15th March, 1976 when my inner sense told me this career is for you, Ujjwal.

After completing my Senior Cambridge, I wanted to pursue hotel management for my higher studies but there were none in Nepal. I completed my graduation in hotel management form New Delhi in 1981.It was from then that I had a mind to get involved in hospitality education in Nepal.

2. How do you compare hospitality education now and then when you started your career?  

As I told you, there was no institution in Nepal offering management in hospitality. The only institution was HMTTC under Tourism Ministry offering basic level trainings. The higher level jobs of the hotels were covered by international experts. The Nepalese were doing basic and menial jobs with few exceptions.

Now the country has many national and international institutions with linkages with renowned universities offering tourism and hospitality education in Nepal.

3. It is heard that the students enrolling in hospitality education in current years are less competent than the students enrolled in the past. Do you feel the same? What has to be done to lure more competent students to this sector?

I would not say they are less competent but not serious in hospitality studies. I feel most have joined because it is glamorous and consist of lot of practical exposure. Most have enrolled as a stepping stone to go abroad. I think the students from Hotel and Tourism background in +2 standards should be briefed more on hospitality and its meaning. They should be informed that everyone cannot survive in this environment unless you are very smart and carry a good personality and posture. The pay scale in the hospitality industry of our country is still very low. Retaining these graduates has become a major challenge. Upgrading the quality of our product and service will bring high yield tourist with high value, which will thus make the industry very sound in paying higher scale to the staff. The fundamental answer to lure anybody to any job is the remuneration, at least in Nepal till now.

4. In recent days a hospitality graduate is being hired in entry level position in good star categorized hotels whereas in the past a hospitality graduates were hired in executive or at least supervisor level. Why is this happening?

This is simply the demand and supply formula. The graduates however must be enrolled higher than the staff with basic training but starting as an executive will certainly create a gap in institutional learning and industrial practices. I certainly feel  that a graduate should understand the industrial culture before moving up the ladder for his/her own  better and stern future. The industry should treat the graduates with dignity and train them for better and standardized promotion of course based on their performance. Working at entry level will teach you the basic tricks of the trade (e.g. gulping a meat ball without your superior knowing it) which will be very beneficial upon your promotion. There is not shortcut to top unless the property belongs to your father or uncle. If you do not know the way to the top, you fall knowing the way up only then.

5. What sort of students should enroll in hospitality education?

The students with hospitality and tourism background in their family who will have some fundamental understanding of the field. The students who know the meaning of hospitality and is willing to serve in the industry.  Students with charming personality and ability to withstand pressure of long working hours.  People with patience and lot of perseverance. The students should be dedicated to make their career in this field. Students who like meeting people from different walks of life.  Students who are no short tempered.

We must understand and convince the prospective students that their interest in cooking is not the answer to pursue hospitality management as higher studies. Students with eagerness to develop themselves as an all rounder are the type of candidates who should enroll into hospitality education.

6. There is numerous hospitality education institution established in recent years. How is it going to impact hospitality education of Nepal?

Many the merrier is definitely not the answer to educational institutions. A recognized regulatory body is certainly required to set standard guidelines for licensing and monitoring the progress. The industry cannot evaluate the quality of a graduate if standardization is not enforced and offering jobs at a certain level will be a problem. This will hamper the level of position and the salary. There should be one and only one authority to grant license to hospitality institution which has the expertise in setting standards and monitoring the progress. It should have the authority to penalize if the standard and the guidelines are not met, as it is dealing with student’s future.

7. Recently, it is announced that NATHM is going to offer scholarship seats to SAARC countries. How will our country or hospitality sector will be benefitted?

We must learn to give. We have been taking for too long. We are very happy in receiving. In fact giving offers more happiness. The giver is always at the top and receiver at the bottom. Nepal has been host to many typology of tourism and now we want to add one more type that is Educational Tourism. We want to inform the SAARC nations that we have good institution for hospitality education. We want to capitalize the fact that among SAARC nations Nepal is a neutral destination with great climate for higher education. To inform about our sound hospitality education infrastructure we have proposed to offer scholarship to member countries. Simultaneously we will also be enrolling students on fees from these countries. The students coming from these countries will be here for 4 years with possibilities of their friends and families visiting them. An institution with national and international students will foster better understanding of cultural background and relation among all participating nations. Nepal and its tourism potentials will be advertised by the students in their respective countries.  Nepal will be known not as a tourism destination but also as a destination for hospitality eduction.

8. Do you think we have enough resources, expertise and infrastructure to attract foreign students to travel to Nepal to get a hospitality degree? If not, then what is to be done to reach such a level?

We are only focusing on SAARC nations now and the initial course on offer is Bachelor in Hospitality Management. We have enough resources, expertise and infrastructures for the mentioned degree. The objective of NATHM is to bring students to all the quality hospitality education institutions of Nepal and not only at NATHM. We want to promote Nepal as a destination for hospitality education and not just NATHM. I am a graduate of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition from Pusa, New Delhi; so I know the basic standard of resources required to invite the prospective students. But yes, we have to continuously work on upgrading and improving our faculty and resources to be of international standard in near future. It is very necessary to be recognized and familiar with international institutions too. In line with this objective we are building our relation with renowned institutions around the globe. We have become member of IH & RA (International Hotel & Restaurant Association) IAO (International Accreditation Organization) and recently of EUHOFA which is an association of international hotel and tourism schools. We have only two weeks back signed a MOU with Suan Dusit Rajbhat Institute of Thailand. We have accreditation understanding with ICHM in Adelaide, Australia. It is very necessary to put your institution at par with international colleges to be well recognized sector, if we are to pursue our vision of centre of excellence for tourism and hospitality education in the region.

9. You have recently been appointed Principal of NATHM. It is indeed a great milestone.  What next?

With more power come more responsibilities. NATHM being one of the oldest institution in generating skilled work force for the tourism industry was focused on meeting the need of the industry and did not realize the importance of creating posts of recognition compatible with other educational institutions. Only after realizing the need of implementing higher level academic courses as per the industry needs did we realize the importance of post of people at places. The need was even greater with the attachment of international bodies of our status. We have taken a decade each to climb from basic to supervisory in 70s and to middle management in 80s, then to bachelors’ level in 90s and to masters’ level in 2010; so the next step could be doctorate in tourism and hospitality in Nepal itself in future. My job will be to provide NATHM a status of educational institution with equal responsibility to the industry and the ministry. Industry must understand that we are a part of government body and ministry must understand that we have to be more responsible to the industry in meeting their needs.

10. Many people whom you have taught in the past are in good position now. How do you feel?

Great! Simply great. We had a mission of replacing foreign department heads within 10 years of introducing bachelors in hotel management. It happened even before that period. Our focus was more on Food and Beverage areas as we lacked managers in that field, the most. Now we have graduates who are mangers not only in F&B departments but other departments as well. There are others who have become entrepreneurs and educators too. It is a pleasure to be recognized by the students of all levels at the industry. I meet many these days that have had basic trainings from NATHM but are in good and respectable positions after their return from Middle East and other foreign countries. I have even met many of our students in foreign countries in respectable positions. They are in positions to sign bill on your behalf. I get many free meals as GURU DAKSHINA

11. Bachelor Degree in Hospitality of almost all Universities in Nepal and some country is of four years and in many countries including Europe and Americas are of 3 years. What is the basic difference?

The principle difference if the policy adopted by the educational authority and universities of a particular country. The other factor for consideration is the total number of credit hours to be covered and the system of completing a degree. By system, I mean the full time or part time attachment with the colleges. In our country it is mostly full time. As most of our graduates are pursuing their higher studies in America and Australia the four years graduation will facilitate their entry into master level. Moreover you have to abide by the policy guide lines provided by the university with which you have your affiliation or accreditation. Out of these four years, a good credit value will be provided to the industrial exposure for better understanding of the industrial operations.

12. Many European diplomas equivalent to our bachelor degree is awarded based on 50% industrial exposure and 50% class room & practical lab teaching, whereas in Nepal about 70% is classroom & practical lab teaching and only 30% is industrial exposure.  Is this the reason that our students are recruited in entry level position by hospitality industry?

We still follow the traditional method of teaching and that is teacher centered. Now that our degree is of four years it is very necessary to standardize the weight age between theory and practical exposure. We must make sure that the students receive ample practical exposure for better learning outcome and confidence to face the real working environment. We have to work to improve our pedagogy system too. It is understanding and implementing new teaching and training methods and medias.

The reason for our students being recruited at entry level is not the difference in the theory and practical exposure but due to lack of confidence. Our students in Nepal are very knowledgeable and skilled but they are not extrovert. They lack confidence to speak and lead. This has to be cultivated from school level itself. Our fault lies in the system where the students have been taught to listen and not speak and English language is also a barrier. But the brighter side is that the students today certainly have good command of English language.

13. Nepalese hospitality students are going abroad for paid internship whereas hospitality Industry in Nepal charge fee to hospitality interns. Do you think it is justifiable?

BIG NO! It is definitely not justifiable to charge the intern. The industry must plan this program as one of their Social Corporate Responsibilities. The industry must play a crucial role in helping hospitality institutions in generating the qualified workforce required by the country to upgrade the image of Nepal as cheap destination. Quality workforce will play a major role in help change that image. Internship by students is a win win for both the parties industry and the institutions. Since interns are scheduled to work along with the staff, they must be respected by at least duty meals and basic stipend to cover their transportation allowances. There has to be a good understanding between the intern provides and user for timely intern placement on regular basis; so as not hamper the need of the industry at crucial time and season.

14.  What should be done by hostility education sector, government and the hospitality industry so that a day would come that Nepalese hospitality industry will welcome interns by paying stipend.

The industry will welcome interns by paying respect and stipend if the interns are sent on regular basis as a support to the industry. The interns are to be briefed on industrial working environment and menial jobs to be carried out. The interns must understand that they have given the opportunity to learn and understand the industrial culture.