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Fine tuning

Finishing schools are no longer the domain of brides-to-be and beauty pageant contestants. Corporates across the country are enrolling for etiquette training. Here's why.

So you finally got chosen to be your company's representative to that global conference in Rome. All the late nights, hard work and political correctness eventually paid off. It's time to get packed up and ready to go. Giorgio Armani suit, Dunhill cufflinks, Berluti shoes and Tumi bag. Check, check, check and check. Dressed in designer gear and armed with a working knowledge of Italian- bonjourno, si, grazie-you arrive for lunch at one of Rome's famous trattorias. You're ushered into the restaurant, and as your waiter guides you to your table, you let out a rehearsed grazie, politely offering a si when offered some San Pellegrino.

So far, so smooth. The Italian delegates seem impressed. And then you look down at your plate and find a steely army of cutlery looking back at you, challenging you to make the first move. No, you're not seeing four of everything, they're actually there. It almost seems like a scene from Pretty Woman. What now? There's no Richard Gere to get you out of this one.

If all this sounds familiar, perhaps it's time to get some help. Today it takes more than just an MBA to climb that steep corporate ladder. Dining etiquette is but the tip of the iceberg. (Though the Rhodes scholarship committee's infamous invitation to tea is meant to check precisely that: the candidate's dining etiquette while in conversation).

No one is saying educational qualifications are not important but today's corporate India also gives a lot of weightage to business etiquette, body language and image management. This, in turn, has given impetus to several finishing schools for corporates being set up across the country. Adding a new dimension to the resume, these institutes are thriving as people see them as synonymous with success.

Pria Warrick, president and executive director of her eponymously named finishing school in Delhi, explains: "India has a lot of brain but where we lose out is our presentation. On a global platform, it is essential for our delegates-be they in politics or business or any other sector-to act as ambassadors for the country and the organisation they represent.

This is where we come in. We equip them with the soft skills necessary to deliver and make an impact." Educational qualifications aside, all the finishing schools endorse the fact that there is a lot more to presentation than you presume. If you're still of the opinion that these services are meant for women alone, then you've got a lot of catching up to do. Gloria Starr of the US-based Modern Day Finishing School, says most of the attendees at her school are men. "They range from recent graduates to middle and senior management to presidents of international companies. We school them in impression management, business and social etiquette, dining, communication mastery, telephone etiquette, body language, personal and professional branding and leadership skills."

In fact, several companies-be they MNCs or Indian players-are getting their employees to enrol for these classes. Sanjay Sharma, a senior manager at Accenture, talks about how he attended a two-day Executive Programme along with two clients from the Bharti Airtel Group. With a job profile requiring him to make presentations and entertain global clients, his stint at Pria Warrick's school came in handy. "I did not have a very plush upbringing, so I was not sure about certain things and found it difficult to interact with foreign clients. I was self-conscious and thought that they found me clumsy." Sharma claims to be satisfied with his experience, and says he found the school's "attention to detail and the time taken to understand his requirements" very reassuring.

Interestingly, these schools aren't restricted to the metros alone. Etiquette training centres have popped up even in the mini metros and smalltown India. Ecole Solitaire in Pune, for instance, is a residential finishing school that takes on the business of "transforming corporates into sophisticates". Makes sense. A touch of class never hurt anyone.

Where to go for the finishing touch

Pria Warrick Finishing School
B-495, New Friends Colony, New Delhi 110 065 (India)
Phone: (91)-(11)-26847053 / 41627165 Fax: (91)-(11)-41627166
Known for:
Business etiquette
Social etiquette
Image enhancement
Dining etiquette

Gloria Starr
Phone: 704-596-9866 / 704-941-0578
Known for:
Business attire
Communication style
Presentation skills
Boardroom etiquette
The Art of Conversation

Ecole Solitaire
B-1, Pingale Corner
Lane no 6, North Main Road,
Koregaon Park, Pune 411001
Maharashtra, India.
Phone: 91-20-65234735 / 32921868
Fax: 91-20-26133926
Known for:
International business etiquette
Customer service skills
Effective selling skills
Time management
Effective presentations skills
Communication skills
Telephone etiquette