| Sharon Prabhakar at the centre. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Ruby Bhatia is the brand ambassador, and now, Sharon Prabhakar, stage actress, singer and wife of theatre personality Alyque Padamsee, is the Dean. Aria Finishing school has already roped in some famous names, and it’s just the beginning. Sharon will not only conduct her own workshops from time to time, but will also help fine-tune and update the existing programmes.
After graduating from Dale Carnegie Institute in New York earlier this year, she has been conducting workshops and seminars on “how to present oneself better” since March.
In Calcutta on Tuesday to meet staff and students, she said: “My courses are tailored for the corporate employee. Two or three days, six modules. It’s all a question of attitude, attire, voice modulation, body language… everything matters. With Indians, the information is all in there in the head. But it’s the presentation that matters.”
Sharon explains the ideology behind her courses: “The four Ps — Plan, Prepare, Practise, Present. It’s the package deal that makes the necessary difference, including the outward experience and the extra polish and finesse. In fact, this applies to everyone in everyday life, be it a son asking for pocket money from his father, or a bahu interacting with her saas.
“Communication is everything. It’s not like Dale Carnegie taught me anything I didn’t already know, but it is putting the skills to use at the right moments that separates the ‘smart’ ones and gives them the edge over the competition. In a corporate setting, you are being watched all the time. Of course, first impressions are always all-important.”
And it’s the corporate client that Aria is targeting, with offers of free trials. There are specially designed courses on communication and soft skills for corporate employees, and one batch in each course is reserved for corporate houses.
“The response so far has been huge,” says N.K. Bengani, in charge of the Calcutta centre on Middleton Street. “It’s beyond what we expected. There are of course individuals who want to groom themselves, but companies are literally sending in groups. Khaitan’s Law Firm has signed up 20 of it’s employees.”
Arnab Ganguly of Khaitan’s observes that it is a corporate decision, and they feel it is necessary to groom young lawyers. “Some of us come from good educational backgrounds, but still don’t have the necessary customer skills. It’s not like they don’t know how to handle themselves, because they have to argue in court before judges all the time.”
However, it’s not just the boardroom battles and courtroom dramas that count. “Client relations are very important, since it’s them we interact with all the time and they come from all walks of life. So, we need to work on that. Actually, we are talking to Sharon about that, since she is thinking of starting workshops specifically for lawyers.”
For now though, it’s back to business. “I have been working with the Merchants Chamber of Commerce and the Bombay Business School. But this is my first foray into Calcutta. I am definitely looking forward to it. There is a need for finishing schools, and I am glad to be a part of it,” smiles Dean Sharon.