How can playing musical instruments build a team? That's probably what the 160 employees of Walt Disney India were thinking when a company that is in the business of corporate teambuilding came to the session equipped with percussion instruments that would possibly make for a fine Samba performance. And a Samba performance it was, for within two hours you had a 160-member band tapping their feet in unison to the Samba beat.
This is just one of the "entertaining teambuilding activities," that Catalyst India, a subsidiary of UK-based Catalyst Global and promoted in India by Exper Education, does for its corporate clients.
"I am sure that there are a lot of good companies that are in the business. What separates us from the others is that we use innovative techniques to make the training programme more fun and a lot more interactive for audience. So while you may have your normal corporate event replete with a DJ and dancing, a two-hour session with Catalyst included in the programme will make it a lot more interactive and infuse the fun element in the training programme," says Gaurav Saklani, director, Catalyst India.
"Like instant coffee, Catalyst is in the business of providing what I like to call ‘instant teambuilding’," he adds.
Saklani is one of the trio that has been instrumental in getting Catalyst to India. The other two are CEO Jayant Kripalani and managing director Tarun Chandna.
But how can there be a one-fits-all approach to training where the needs of each company are different? "Catalyst Global has a presence in over 18 countries and the activities are tailor-made to suit a specific country or culture. So while we have common activities such as Beatworks, which trains teams to build a Samba band within a specified time limit, there are other activities, such as Kontiki, which are specific to a particular region, where if it includes Chariot races in Rome, it could be making Formula 1 cars in countries where these races are immensely popular, or then like in India we get teams to make boats and gulers which are very popular with the culture here," says Chandna.
And what about Indian corporate houses who are gung-ho about outdoor activities? Chandna is quick to defend, "Outdoor activities and all are very good teambuilding exercises. But they can be cost-effective only for smaller groups of people."
But what if, he questions, there’s a large group of people, or more importantly, how do you do these exercises with people who may have a health problem? "That’s where we come in."
Kripalani, who has personally conducted some of these sessions at companies such as Google India (see box) and Walt Disney, says, "We have had some tremendous feedback from companies for who we have done these training programmes." He adds that the company has been trained to conduct about 30 activities from the vast repertoire of Catalyst Global’s activities, “but right now we are doing just 12 to start off with."
With most companies giving a serious look at attrition levels, companies like Catalyst, which also does tailor-made training programmes for corporate houses on a build-operate-transfer basis, are playing an important role in helping companies fine-tune their retention techniques. As Kripalani quips: "Once a CEO asked me: what if people left after taking the training? I told him: think about the untrained people who will stay if you don’t give them training."