B Hajong, (MCS), Director of Employment & Craftsmen Training-cum- Executive Director, MSSDS inaugurating the webinar. Handout image

The spread of global pandemic COVID-19 resulted in unprecedented situations across the nation.

The nationwide lockdown caused huge disruption to all activities; particularly the hotel and hospitality sector faced a major drawback.

However, the Central Government issued a new set of guidelines for the opening of shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants.

Now, this sector is all set to resume by adopting new social norms pertaining to health, hygiene, food safety, and social distancing.

To discuss how this new normal going to affect the food and restaurant industry, around 130 stakeholders associated with food and restaurant industry in Meghalaya has deliberated on various issues during the webinar ‘Future of food and restaurant industry amidst COVID 19 crisis: Redefining modalities’ recently.

This webinar as a part of the MSOP entrepreneurship webinar series which was launched by IPE Global, Managed Services Operating Partner (MSOP) for Meghalaya State Skill Development Society (MSSDS), Government of Meghalaya under Supporting Human Capital Development in Meghalaya (SHCDM), supported by the Asian Development Bank.

The webinar was inaugurated by B Hajong, (MCS), Director of Employment & Craftsmen Training-cum- Executive Director, MSSDS, and chaired by A S Suting, general manager, ISC & ED Meghalaya Basin Management Authority & OSD State Council of Science, Technology & Environment (SCSTE) Government of Meghalaya.

The key panelists were Rahul Kumar, lecturer, Institute of Hotel Management, Shillong; Shiladitya Samaddar, Lead Affiliation Assessment Certification SME Hospitality, Tata Strive, and Khraw Kharpuri, owner, The Chicken Wagon – Shillong’s first food truck, Meghalaya.

The webinar was moderated by Zulfiqar Sheth, MSOP entrepreneurship lead IPE Global.

In the inaugural remarks, B Hajong stated that due to COVID-19, the economy had been hit severely and crippled many industries, including the food and restaurant industry.

Due to which, many people have become jobless.

He added that in Meghalaya, many youths are inclined to work towards the hotel industry and due to the pandemic, there will be a change in values and norms in this sector.

Hajong focused on three principles to be followed: social distancing, sanitization, and general hygiene, to be incorporated by everyone.

He appreciated IPE Global for taking the initiative to discuss, identify, and plan the action to mitigate the challenges and support people through its entrepreneurship.

A S Suting discussed the ramifications caused due to the pandemic and emphasized on becoming self-sufficient with the need to set up new systems.

“Every calamity poses an opportunity and this is the time to design a new system of the inclusive supply chain with direct farmers to consumers market chain,” he added.

While Shiladitya through his presentation gave an insight into the challenges and the precautionary measures that the food industry will have to opt for post-COVID-19.

He reiterated that it’s the time to go local and re-think to build the industry with precautions in terms of handling every service.

“One has to be innovative and go biophilic. Hot food and citrus are the need of the hour. Local income generation opportunity will be a viable option now,” he suggested.

Rahul Kumar discussed post-COVID- 19 norms that would be required to follow.

“Conducting Awareness Training programs, encouraging employees to inform about symptoms, changing the layout of restaurants, from table setting to promoting healthy food, by using gloves and masks will be the new normal”, he stated.

MSOP entrepreneur Kharpuri shared his inspiring journey of becoming an entrepreneur through his dedication and absolute faith in his work.

He mentioned that in such difficult times, being idle was not the way out, but instead doing something for the community should be the way forward.

He shared his insights on teamwork and taking the initiative of cleaning localities and sanitizing places to deliver food.

The interactive webinar attracted many engaging questions and suggestions related to the food industry and the new normal post-COVID-19 by the food and restaurant owners in the state.

The MSOP entrepreneurship component is closely working with the entrepreneurs of the Meghalaya to help adapt and design mitigation plan amidst the COVOD-19 crisis.

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