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Making better Purchase Managers

Nitin-NagraleProcurement in hospitality, unlike in other industries, is simple yet complex in terms of making the right purchase as it directly impacts the image and business of the hotel. “We need professionals in purchase and procurement in the hospitality segment,” says Nitin Nagrale, Founder and General Secretary, Hospitality Purchasing Managers Forum and an expert in procurement and materials, as he shares his plans of introducing training programmes and short-term courses for purchase managers with Mohana M.

How different is procurement in the hospitality industry vis-à-vis other industries?

Having served in the hospitality industry for over two decades, I must say that other industries are far more progressed in matters related to procurement and purchase.

Ineptly, when it comes to procurement in the hospitality segment, we indulge so much into our self-attained knowledge and experiences, that technical know how and methods elude our perception. This approach could largely be an outcome of lack of specific professional courses for procurement management in hospitality; or for that matter, any training course to groom procurement heads of hotels. Ideally, like in other industries, there have to be methodologies and procedures backed by techniques and researched data that can be widely accepted and followed in the hospitality segment.

In a major initiative, in keeping with the agenda of the Hospitality Purchasing Managers’ Forum (HPMF), we have introduced a course in affiliation with the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute for procurement in hospitality. HPMF has just launched the world’s first-ever Certified Hospitality Procurement Manager course in India. The books have already arrived and the first batch of 50 students will be appearing for exams in six months.

What is the vision of HPMF?

Over the last decade, there was an influx of hotels with new groups entering into India and the sudden demand for purchasing managers had to be met instantaneously. Many youngsters then joined as purchasing managers and heavily depended upon external support. Most of the purchasing done in the hospitality segment is largely based on the experiences shared by seniors or by self-assessment.

In the absence of a formal body to represent the hospitality procurement and purchase, in 2010 some of us decided to form a professional forum and HPMF filled the gap by serving as a platform to groom purchase heads and assist them in every possible way to hone their skills. One of the prime objectives was to provide structured education and training to all those entering this field.

With a little over 1000 members, we actively exchange notes and share knowledge at platforms like the Clean India Show. Thus, by providing enough knowledge, the purchase managers can perform better and take the right decisions for their organization.

What has been the achievement  so far?

Above all, the continuous networking and exposure at various events have strengthened the confidence among the purchase managers which has resulted in many of them getting awarded as the Best Purchase Manager of the year. The first award was initiated by HPMF and thereafter many other organisations have introduced similar awards. The industry began recognizing purchase heads and that elevated their status and resultantly, their confidence. It further encouraged purchase managers to excel in their performances to get recognition.

The introduction of the certification course is another big achievement and it will bring about a major difference in the very approach to handling procurement in the coming times.

In the last five years, HPMF has successfully sent delegations of purchase to attend international shows like FHA, Hotex, etc., hosted in different countries; thus exposing them to different cultures and procurement patterns.

What are your plans for the future?

Besides education, 20 purchase managers of different hotels are writing a book on Basics of Hospitality Procurement. We plan to publish the book by this year end.

There are plans to start scholarship programmes for entry level procurement managers. The whole idea is to address purchase right at the bottom level and to churn out robust, educated and well trained professional for the industry. Yet in the formulation stage, hotel groups will be invited to nominate two purchase managers for the scholarship programme sponsored by HPMF.

Another initiate would be the third party exposure through an exchange programme whereby a purchase manager of a particular hotel will be sent for a two-week training to another hotel. This will encourage learning on different grounds and help exploring new practices, and thereafter implementing and executing at the in house.

How do you look at procurement retaining quality in products purchased vis-à-vis the cost factor?

HPMFI would agree that procurement is infamously viewed in probably every industry. It is natural that whenever it comes to money, the people involved come under a larger scanner. However, there are several checkpoints or controls which do not allow procurement to deviate or forsake its integrity. Procurement today, operates very responsibly and has more commitment towards the organization.

Coming to the cost factor, few years back, the selection of products at competitive prices was a criterion that influenced the purchase heavily but today this is not the case anymore. Factors such as quality, consistency, reliability & credibility of the vendor are measured first and then the cost is considered. In fact, if a supplier tries to throw in a cheaper product, he is thrown out at the entry level itself.

The purchase manager creates an equilibrium between cost and quality and quality always gets preference over cost. This is a fact throughout the hospitality industry.

Hotels are subjected to stiff competition all the time and no organization would want to have cheaper products in the face of dissatisfied customers. Cheaper price means cheaper product which results in dissatisfied customer. Hence, organisations would always want to have at least acceptable quality products if not the best.

What is the need of the  industry today?

Well informed purchase manager takes correct decisions. At the individual level, HPMF is creating a knowledge base and modules for reference and also circulating a lot of white paper and articles to keep
its members up to date. With regards to procurement of cleaning products, there are select companies from whom we purchase. Our priority is in understanding the cost per use. There are limitations in understanding technicalities where equipment and other cleaning products are concerned. We make purchases with the assistance of our engineers and housekeepers who enable us to take the correct decision.

We call upon the companies to provide us with essential knowledge to understand products which we are not good at assessing.

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