Akanksha’ 24: Pondicherry University's Annual Institute-Industry Interface Event

Business MInutes

The Department of Tourism Studies, Pondicherry University organized Akanksha’ 24 - the annual two day Institute-Industry Interface Event. Akanksha is the premier flagship programme of the Department which configures Panel Discussions and Special Lectures involving experienced industry practitioners, entrepreneurs, experts from the public sector, and tourism faculty members from across the country who also interact with the students of the Department. 

The resource persons representing the tourism, hospitality, and allied industries deliberated on the pertinent issues that impact their businesses and the prospects and challenges faced by the tourism sector. The event which has become a brand over a period of time is instrumental in the Department achieving centum placement every year. This academic year 2023-24 too, DTS achieved 60 per cent placement in a short span of time and more companies have expressed interest in recruiting the MBA-Tourism & Travel management Students. Akanksha’24 was inaugurated by the Chief Guest Prof.Agita Livina, Professor & Director, Institute of Social, Economic and Humanities Research, Vidzeme Institute of Applied Sciences Latvia. 

The inaugural function was presided by Prof. K.Tharanikkarasu, Vice-Chancellor (i/c), Pondicherry University. Mr.Wilfred Selvaraj, Managing Director, LGT Holidays was the Guest of Honour. Prof..R.C.Anu Chandran, Head of the Department welcomed the gathering. Prof.P.Natarajan Head, Department of Commerce, PU and Prof.Y.Venkata Rao, DSW, PU felicitated the occasion. Dr.Sherry Abraham. Faculty Coordinator for the event delivered the scope of the Institute- Industry Interface Meet, Mr.Muzammil, student coordinator proposed the vote of thanks. 

The highlights of the inaugural session were the handing over of Offer Letters of 12 companies to the placed students and the distribution of the cash awards and certificates instituted by LGT Holidays for the three categories, viz, Certificate for Outstanding Co-Curricular Performance, Certificate for Academic Excellence and Certificate for Distinguished Alumnus of DTS. The Vice-Chancellor and the Guests distributed the Offer Letters.  

In the Inaugural Address, Prof. Agita highlighted the digital and technical skills to be possessed by Tourism Leaders. She also laid accent on developing the entrepreneurial and experimental mindsets of Tourism students. Professor Agita stated that co-creation and co-ideation are going to be the buzz words of Tourism in the next decade and the curriculum of tourism academia need to give due emphasis to such principles. Complexities faced by the industry, she opined could possibly be resolved by forming interdisciplinary teams and MBA Tourism students should be enabled by way of programmes like Akanksha to be part of such endeavours. 

In his presidential address Vice-Chancellor pointed out the need to strengthen destination marketing. Prof.Tharanikkarasu said that the spotlight must be turned to integrate ICT with tourism offerings and services. He brought to fore pragmatic ways and means through which educational institutions offering tourism courses can underscore sustainable tourism management. Working hand in glove with the industry, VC reinforced, is a dire necessity. Mr.Wilfred Selvaraj, Managing Director, LGT Holidays who was the Guest of Honour laid accent on designing programmes for strengthening the functional skill sets of the students.  

Mr.Wilfred noted that innovation and professionalism are going to hold the key for future tourism professionals. He also indicated that problem solving skills have to be nurtured among tourism students. Joint programmes with industry can lead to experienced practitioners mentoring the students and scholars. Mr.Wilfred appreciated the progress of SAFAR Tourism Innovation and Incubation Centre (TIIC) of the Department while urging DTS to encourage students to incept start-ups. During the Inaugural Session, LGT Holidays cash awards and certificates were distributed. Ms.Arathi Agarwal, MBA-TTM second year student received the Certificate for Outstanding Co-Curricular Performance. 

Certificate for Academic Excellence was given to Mr.Muhammed Rishal, MBA-TTM second year and the Certificate for Distinguished Alumnus of DTS was given to Dr.B.George, Head, Dept. of Tourism, Madurai Kamaraj University College. Akanksha’24 configured three Panel Discussions. March 8 being International Women’s Day, the technical sessions commenced with the panel configuring women resource persons. The theme was Women in Tourism: Trends and Challenges. The session delved on the issues and challenges faced by women workforce in tourism and hospitality industries.

The resource persons comprising Ms.S.Swarnarekha, Founder & Proprietor, Trinity Global Destination, Chennai; Ms.Shylaja Chetlur, Actor, Entrepreneur and Filmmaker, Wanderlust Travel lounge, Chennai; Ms.Uma Prajapati, Founder Upasana, Auroville & Tsunamika Auroville; Dr.Irena Liepina, Faculty, Vidzeme Institute of Applied Sciences, Latvia and Ms.Sradha V.Kumar, CEO, Vascco & IPondy emphasized the crucial role women will play as entrepreneurs. The varied and dynamic avenues of tourism ventures will have to be tapped to make the presence of women investors meaningful and productive; the panel noted. 

The second panel discussion was on the theme The Dynamics of New Age Tourism Marketing. The panelists discussed the influences of Artificial Intelligence on Smart Tourism. The complementary part to be played by AI to enhance service delivery in tourism was deliberated in the session. The skills to be developed by tourism marketers in the swiftly changing dynamics of the industry were shared with the students and scholars. The panelists laid stress on the need for constant upgradation of the industry practices and destination knowledge. They added that bridging the gaps in tourism knowledge and practice will essentially make the industry secure.

In addition, the event comprised a session Straight from the Author. This session featured presentation of the book Avoti by the author Mr.Janis Bikse, Faculty, Vidzeme Institute of Applied Sciences, Latvia whose book portrayed the indigenous and organic attractions of Europe and insights on how to tap them for benefits to tourism industry. A Special Lecture by Mr.Uma Shankar Prasad Yadav, Scientist and Deputy Director General (South), Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) was organized on the second day. The resource person dealt with the formulation of standards and conformity assessment as essential tool for tourism industry. Setting appropriate standards framework for adventure, farm, nature-based tourism, etc., Mr.Uma said is the need of the hour. 

As the Event Associate the BIS team from Chennai gave a detailed account of Certification and Quality Control for Tourism and allied industries. On the second day an exclusive panel constituting the alumni of DTS on the theme Equipping DTSians to be Professional tour Leaders- a road map was held. Prof.Clement Lourdes, Director, Culture & Cultural Relations, Pondicherry University was the President of the Valedictory Session. Mr.Naveen Baalaji, CMD, Ocean Spray and Mr.Janmejay Mohanty, Trustee, Bharat Nivas, The Pavillion of India, Auroville were the Guests of Honour. Prof. R.C.Anu Chandran, Head of the Department and Prof.Sampada Kumar Swain spoke on the occasion. 

The Cultural Nite held at Thiruvalluvar Stadium, Pondicherry University turned to be a mélange of spellbound performances of invigorating dances, skits, and solo and group rendering of songs. The Fashion Show was one of the highlights. The event was sponsored by Dhivakar Menan of Menan Studios. The Akanksha Cup Football Tournament held as a curtain raiser earlier had 22 teams participating from all the departments in the University.


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