With over four decades experience in the sector, K Corp’s Sunil Kapur shares his thoughts on how hospitality will change, writes LBB’s Natasha Patel
The hospitality sector has been one of the industries hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and although restrictions have been easing, things are nothing like they were at the start of this year – and perhaps they never will be again. In India, a country where lockdown was lifted after a short time due to the sheer volume of people needing to work, the industry has been especially hard hit.
In India, those who have worked in restaurants and bars haven’t been sitting idle. And for a country who reveres guests as gods, a passion for serving and feeding has meant that those hardest hit by the pandemic have been taken care of thanks to a number of charitable endeavours. One such is the #Mission30M campaign spearheaded by Robin Hood Army and K Hospitality Corp to feed 30 million people across the country while providing nutrition to newborns during the pandemic. The campaign was backed by MullenLowe Lintas Group's PR division, GolinOpinion to attract attention for this good cause the two initiatives have been working on.
K Corp’s chairman Sunil Kapur tells LBB’s Natasha Patel about this project and how he sees the hospitality sector changing for the better once Covid is over.
LBB> How has the pandemic affected the hospitality industry in India?
Sunil> While the pandemic has brought the hospitality industry to a stop, the continuous efforts of the entire industry to bring in technological innovations and new safety protocols will ensure the industry bounces back with stronger momentum leading out of the crisis.
While there are big challenges facing the industry today, leading companies with sound business models will do extremely well coming out of the crisis, and have great opportunities ahead for them.
LBB> You have plenty of experience in the sector and so with that in mind do you think things will ever go back to how they were pre-Covid?
Sunil> I believe that we will only go forward from here; with new concepts, new business models, and with guests who are waiting to return to their favourite bar or restaurant to eat and socialise. Food is an integral part of our lives, and we thrive in an environment where we are celebrating and creating memories with others in social settings. The amount of messages I have gotten from people waiting for a brand of ours like Copper Chimney, for example, to reopen is truly heart-warming.
LBB> When you started K Hospitality Corp over 40 years ago what were your aims for the business?
Sunil> While I have stepped away from an active role over the past few years, and am focused on our family foundation, KCorp Charitable Foundation, our F&B company, K Hospitality Corp has over the last 40+ years proudly grown into one of India’s largest home-grown hospitality and food service corporations.
Today K Hospitality operates over 500+ outlets across multiple business verticals in the hospitality sector, serving over 35 million people a year. Built on the foundation of creating positive and memorable experiences for people, K Hospitality Corp has expanded into a leadership position across restaurants, bars, travel retail, food courts, banqueting and catering.
LBB> During the pandemic you worked to feed 30 million people with Mission 30M. This is such a lovely idea, what inspired it and how did the public react?
Sunil> Mission 30M was really an inspiring initiative led by the great team at Robin Hood Army. We have been really proud to associate with them, even last year for their Mission 5M initiative, so when we heard about Mission 30M, where over 30 million people were being served, we jumped at the opportunity to help with food and grains to distribute across the country.
As part of our charitable foundation we are focused on a mission of Food & Nutrition for all, and have been associated with various initiatives through our Karuna Seva initiative where we served over 10 lakh meals to those in need and at the frontline during the lockdown, supported 50 villages with nutrition and first 1000 days support for new born children, and various other initiatives over the years. We hope to bring in more participants to help grow and build on this initiative of Food & Nutrition for all, as only together we can solve the challenge of malnutrition in our country.
LBB> There have been so many unsung heroes in India that have come to the forefront during the pandemic, do you hope that K Corp will be given the same recognition?
Sunil> No but I do hope that others read about this, and take the first step to play even a tiny part in fighting malnutrition and hunger in the country. The numbers are staggering and its one of the biggest challenges facing our country today. Even if each person helps with a meal, or adopts a child to help them get the right nutrition for the first 1000 days of their lives, it can have a multiplier effect across the country.
LBB> What changes have you seen in the industry since the start of the pandemic and how do you think these will pan out in the future?
Sunil> The much-needed importance of hygiene, safety and focus on systems and protocols, will now be reinforced throughout the industry from small to large players. The focus on wellness, nutrition and good-for-you options will grow as people get more conscious on their life choices and eating habits.
LBB> Tell us about what hospitality sector in India, what makes it so unique?
Sunil> We live in a country where guests are treated as god. We have multiple cuisines, religions, cultures and customs. This diversity is what makes it unique and special. We live to serve, and our passion for the hospitality and food industry rules everything we do.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Sunil> When Covid and the lockdown hit, with the migrant crisis and livelihoods dramatically affected, what I wanted to share was that within the first week itself, just from within our company itself, we had over a hundred people from all walks of life volunteer from our teams and step forward to risk themselves and come out each day and cook to serve hot food to those who needed it the most.
These Karuna Seva warriors as we called them are just a few of the thousands across the country from the hospitality sector who, along with organizations such as NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India) got together to serve people, despite being in the middle of one of the worst crises that has ever hit the hospitality sector. So when restaurants do open up, do come out and support all these warriors, and help get the industry and its people back on their effort, sooner rather than later!