Yashwant’s gone

Comment, Back of House

Top of the week to you.

Yashwant Shroff is someone you should know for his effect on our industry is one of the greatest contributions a single person could make. Shroff who passed away at 53 last week, pioneered trade journalism in Indian hospitality with the Hotel & Foodservice (H&FS) magazine in 1986.

This ranks alongside Jamsetji Tata building the Taj in 1903, the launch of the Dadar catering college (IHM) and Thangam Philip’s Modern Cookery book.

The H&FS, which is still around today, was the direct inspiration for the Express Hotelier & Caterer and eventually to other trade publications such as ours and tens more.

The sheer volume of information and thought in the public domain specifically on Indian hospitality is staggering. Two if not three generations of Indian hoteliers can thank Yashwant for planting the seed which gave birth to the forest of knowledge which they benefit from everyday. For a developing nation and booming industry, having information to access is oxygen.

Was Yashwant ahead of his time? No. Media essentially reflects its subject and time. The only differences between publications are the approach and quality of treatment. H&FS set the benchmark for many years before surrendering the mantle.

Yashwant’s legacy extends beyond the magazine. The H&FS was the platform on which today’s industry staples were launched; the suppliers directory, the exhibition and the awards. They were his creations which we cannot do without today.

Due credit goes to Meenakshi, his colleague and later wife, for continuing the work. The awards were industry must-seen events for a few years before winding down, the directory is regularly updated. The exhibition – HOSTS – still sets the benchmark in India.

With time, as his vision was realised, Yashwant slipped behind a curtain, preferring to be the observer. Ever so rarely, he would come out to mingle. That is how I first met him and led to me moving from hospitality operations to journalism.

His absence led to the rise of doomsayers, though ‘there was logic to his work, whose thinking was different and much more deep rooted than obvious’ as Pradeep Gopalan describes him.

He was one of those who struck a chord in most people he met. So while a few really knew him, many will not forget him. His legacy is that he flagged off an industry which still jostles for his mantle.

Have a good week.

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