November 2013

November 20th, 2013 by Robbie Swales

I fly to Mumbai from London with BA on Saturday in October.  I watch two movies, eat two meals, have a snooze and do some knitting. Modern travel! When I end up at my favourite Mumbai hotel, the Sun n Sands at Juhu Beach, I hardly feel I have just travelled 4,000 miles. I imagine that if I’d done a six week journey at sea and endured a couple of storms then I really would feel as though I had travelled a sixth of the way around the globe.

The trip to Mumbai includes a visit for Mohan Madgulkar, Head of Steps in India, and me to our bank to transfer Steps’ accounts to Pune. This should make our banking much easier – but please don’t get me started on the banking system in India! Let me just say that’s it is extremely bureaucratic! (As Mohan told me “The British introduced bureaucracy to India, and then the Indians perfected it.”)

Off to Bangalore with Mohan.  We team up with two of our Bangalore based actors Bharath and Ruchi, who are to deliver, with Mohan, a half day ‘Results Through People’ programme for Intel managers. The hotel is near Bangalore airport and is fantastic. All set in beautiful gardens, with a swimming pool at the centre. All the ‘rooms’ are apartment size: sitting room, large double bedroom and two bathrooms.  (Two bathrooms? Why? One off the bedroom and the other off the sitting room!) But also a very good size to run a rehearsal in. (The sitting room, not the bathroom).

While Mohan rehearses with Bharath and Ruchi I am interviewed by a journalist from the Economic Times of India, Shreya Roy. This paper is one of the biggest circulation newspapers in India (it is similar to the Financial Times in the UK).  The article is to be about the use of drama based training in India and how companies are increasingly incorporating drama initiatives into their learning and development offerings. [You can now read the completed article here].

The Intel programme is three days long. They have booked Devdutt Pattanaik to speak to the delegates. Mohan and the actors carry on rehearsing while I am invited by our client, Charu Priyadarshee, to attend Devdutt’s session.  Devdutt is a mythologist, who invites the delegates to think about Hindu mythology as the basis of their management thinking, rather than slavishly following management ideas from the West. It is a riveting session and gets the delegates delightfully fired up. At Q&A, a manager asks a question about ‘the actual reality of the workplace’. Devdutt replies: ‘I don’t believe in reality, I’m a mythologist!” If you are intrigued by Devdutt and his ideas, and I certainly was, visit his website:

Mohan, Bharath and Ruchi deliver the three hour session at Intel. The engagement of Indian delegates is, dare I say it, even more enthusiastic than many UK delegates. They are jumping up and talking over one another to be the first to challenge and engage with the fictitious characters created by our actors. It turns out to be a hugely successful afternoon. That evening Mohan and I fly back to Pune. I always stay with Mohan and his wife Radhika, such brilliant hospitality. Their eldest daughter Malvika is currently living with a family in Germany for this academic year to perfect her German. Shivalika, their youngest is with them at home.

Next day the team - Mohan, along with Amit and Soham (two of our Pune based actors) - delivers a Sales Force Effectiveness programme at SKF. Again, the engagement of the delegates is total. It is such a thrill for me to see that the drama methodologies we have developed over the past twenty years at Steps are going down a storm in India. It’s very exciting.

The following week Mohan and I are in Delhi running auditions. We meet some very talented actors. The five that we select, we invite to attend a seminar that we run the following day for prospective clients, to introduce them to our drama-based methodologies. Again we find that the attendees enthusiastically engage with the actors in role. The actors stay on after the other delegates have left (well, we were offering food. In my experience, and I’m an actor, food will always attract actors!). The actors told me that seeing the people from business backgrounds getting totally immersed with the scenarios was a revelation. The previous day at the audition workshop the methodologies that we were showing them were relatively academic. It was when they saw non-actors becoming passionate and engaged that they ‘got it’.  Our two days in Delhi had been ably organised by one of our Senior Associates based in Delhi, Mahima Singh.

I flew home having been in Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Delhi for twelve days. It was my seventeenth trip to India in four years. I did a quick sum: I have spent twenty five weeks in India in the last four years. The week after I get back home the Economic Times article is published that we were interviewed for.  I feel a personal sense of pride that the article is called “How theatre based corporate training in India is evolving as a serious tool for leadership”. I believe that Steps has made a major contribution to drama based training being taken seriously in India.


Comment By Comment Given
Marlo Haas Yes Robbie, you are travelling so much that this is how I catch up on what you are doing! Thank you for painting a great picture of drama based training in India. It reinforces the idea that despite differences in culture or background or even experience - there are many more similarities that we can focus on when working internationally.

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