Extraordinary Ordinary People: Happy Birthday, and Thank You, Mr Kacker

What do young men in Dadar Catering College use to shave their stubble every day in the morning?

Sandpaper. The answer is: Sandpaper.

Well, the answer used to be sandpaper for any young man who came to Food & Beverage (F&B) classes without shaving.

The barber in question was Sanjeev Kacker, the professor who taught F&B (theory and practical) at the Institute of Hotel Management popularly known as Dadar Catering College). He was all of 30 when I first met him and he was already a legend in the Indian hospitality industry. A legend for delivering well-disciplined, charismatic, and competent F&B service professionals to the industry in particular and the world at large.

Mr Kacker was in very good company – he was one of the galaxy of star educators and trainers who were the faculty at IHM Dadar, the premier institute in Asia by a mile. But he was – and still is – a first among equals. I should know, I got a sandpaper shave only once and it did the trick: never needed one ever again.

Students were terrified of and loved him at the same time. He is an Educator-Trainer-Coach par excellence. In the past 16 years, I have been working with training and L&D professionals across the globe and I have often wondered how they operate since most of them segregate training and learning and coaching and the design and development of the testing material from the context of eventual performance. The IHM, of course, had long integrated the Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor aspects of learning and Mr Kacker was one of the great professors who had the training and performance down to an art.

He had many mechanisms to ensure that discipline and hard work were acquired and imbibed and practiced quickly, first time and every time – that’s where the Sandpaper came in. Being well groomed and punctual were the prerequisites and if you weren’t on time, you were outside the class missing everything.

He had an even larger repertoire of models and methods to drill, instil and ensure absolute understanding of performance under any and all circumstances.

But that wasn’t what makes him great. A great family man, a patient listener, a passionate educator, a hard coach, and a compassionate human being with a heart of gold, Kacker led by example and worked as hard as he drove his students. And he taught us to party hard as well. I remember an event, a dinner night that every class planned and executed as a team. After a gruelling few weeks of day and night work, the dinner happened, tickets were sold, people came, all of us worked like a regular restaurant for a day and then after the guests had gone, Kacker sat us all down … and we had a beer drinking competition with all boys and girls (who drank), whoever drank the most beer won. But there was a rule and a lesson in responsibility there too: after every bottle, you had to talk to Kacker and if he thought you were fine, you got your next bottle. The idea was to unwind but stay in good spirits and health. If I remember correctly, Rohini Jog won that Beer title.

Illustration of Sanjeev Kacker by Vinod Hanchate

I met Mr Kacker 30 years ago, and the three years I spent learning from him, have contributed in more than fair measure to the person and learning professional I am today.

There are many stories, anecdotes, and eulogies that IHM students and hospitality professionals can write about Mr Kacker.

Today is his birthday so happy birthday Mr Kacker (November 27). And this Friday (November 29, 2019), after a meaningful, enriching and extraordinary career as an educator, Mr Kacker retires as the Head of Department at IHM Dadar.

I just want to say: Thank you Mr Kacker. You are the rock star on the Indian Hospitality and Education horizon. Thank you for the music.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: