CHENNAI: All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players,” wrote William Shakespeare in his play As You Like It. If theatre is a reflection of life and a medium to tell people’s stories, can it be used to bring about positive changes in how people think and act? Training Sideways, an art-based soft skills and behavioural training company is an example.
Co-founded in 2012 by theatre artistes from Chennai-based Evam group, Karthik Kumar, TM Karthik and Sunil Vishnu K, Training Sideways makes use of theatre for team building and sensitising people on issues of relevance. Back in the Evam days, the founders had heard from some of their friends in the corporate who had taken part in plays, as to how theatre had helped them realise the importance of working in a group, etc.
The idea for an initiative to use theatre for corporate softskills training grew from there.
Training Sideways was inspired by a book The Art of Looking Sideways, narrates Sunil. Explaining their work, Sunil says that for them, theatre technique is a conduit to achieve a learning objective in the corporate world. “We typically work with either the learning and development team or the event management team.”
Behavioural training, team building, team bonding and internal communication are some of their areas of work. Their major area of focus is diversity and inclusion, which includes prevention of sexual harassment, women and leadership, and cultural inclusion.
For this purpose, the team makes use of dance, music, role play and games to engage people. For instance, when it comes to prevention of sexual harassment, they have a half-a-day’s workshop where they use role play to make employees understand rules and regulations, also enabling them to build a culture of mutual respect and equal opportunity. For each objective, Training Sideways has designed different kinds of group activity.
However, none of this came easy for the group. When they set out to build this team, initially they spent two years trying to design the best methodology for each cause. Over the years, the team has tweaked these activities to make them more effective. While in the beginning it was just the founders who had put in copious amounts of research into understanding the needs of the corporate world, eventually they began to build the team. “We brought in trainers, designers and content management experts. Of course, our earlier initiative Happy Factory, which was into corporate training gave us some insight into the the corporate world,” says Sunil.
What works in their favour is their sustainable approach, the co-founder adds. “With Training Sideways, companies are not looking at a standalone event or workshop. Depending on the needs, we even have year-round programmes where we keep going back to the companies and employees with whom they have interacted.”
Over the last four years, this Chennai and Bengaluru-based company has worked with over 150 clients and delivered 500 workshops across India and Singapore. They conduct multiple workshops in a day.
When asked whether they want to set up shop abroad, Sunil says, “The Indian market itself is quite huge and we are maximising our resources to tap into the market here.” Their initial funding having come from Ramcharan Associates, at present they are not looking for financial assistance.