Recently we featured Wheebox, a skill assessment startup, which pegged the skill assessment industry in India to be worth Rs 1,200 crore. Another equally lucrative space for entrepreneurs to look at is the corporate training market. While there are no official reports to the size of this space, experts peg it to be in the region of Rs 6,000 crore. That number is not surprising, given the fact that most corporates attach a great deal of importance to training, and have a regular training calendar for its workforce.
Swapnil Kamat, a serial entrepreneur spotted this opportunity early on to start Work Better in 2008. Before turning into a trainer, Swapnil had an events management venture and a travel venture. He also did a brief stint as brand manager at L’Oreal. Work Better trains employees on behavior and soft skills, and they claim to have so-far trained 75,000 employees across different organizations. Work Better training is conducted mostly for junior level and mid-levels employees in an organization. And the companies they have worked to date include HDFC Bank, J&J, M&M, BCG and Schneider Electric among others.
Seeing his own career movement (graduate from Goa University & MBA from Symbiosis), we asked Swapnil if he believed training can really make a difference? As he himself is trained in marketing, but decided to not do that and become a corporate trainer. He considers this to be an advantage. “We didn’t come from a traditional training background, which helped us be extremely innovative as a training company. We weren’t bound by old, worn out training concepts. We got into training because we thought there was a big gap between what is taught in a classroom and what happened on the ground,” reasons Swapnil. He is also believes that training is about persuasion and influencing, more than anything else. And therefore people with sales/marketing background are good at training as they are used to persuading their customers.
Work Better’s USP says Swapnil, is the practical and implementable training route they have chosen. Theories and mindless games in a training class is a strict no-no. And even after the 2-3 day training, Work Better engages in pre and post training activities for up to 6 months, after classroom training. The most common need gaps they have found is in areas like business communication, managing a team and time management. And because these are very subjective topics, Swapnil says it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of the programs. “The feedback that we get from people who go through our programs, is 4.5/5 on an average. That said, if a person is trained on a subject like writing better emails or how to communicate in a persuasive way, it’s something that he can use every day for the rest of his working life,” explains Swapnil.
A dedicated content team at the startup is responsible for researching, creating various techniques and analysing what module will work best in which format. Work Better also provides tools for online and mobile learning to engage participants after the classroom workshop. They work with clients on a continual basis and one off projects. Today they train close to 18,000 executives a year, through their workshops in close to 36 locations across India. “The growth in our business has been phenomenal. We grew 40% in revenue in the last financial year,” claims Swapnil.
Work Better has been co-founded by Swapnil and his wife Ruchira Karnik, they were also co-founders of the travel venture. At the startup there is a team of 10 full-time employees and another panel of 50 trainers who assist Work Better to conduct different workshops. The core team at Work Better have varied backgrounds, and Swapnil says his philosophy of hiring them has been to see if a person can work with them for the next 10 years, else they don’t hire at all. “It’s better to wait and get the right people than to be in a hurry and hire the wrong ones. I believe the process of employment is a little like a marriage between the person joining and the company. It needs to be very well thought out before the relationship starts,” he says. And the diverse background of his staff also leads to innovation, says Swapnil – because their different viewpoints help in framing better training programs.
With offices in Mumbai and Goa, Work Better is in a happy space at this time. With many big names in their kitty as clients, new customer acquisition has become easy for them. However, Swapnil admits getting the first few customers was their biggest challenge. “We were very lucky to have extremely supportive families that provided us with the money and moral support we required to start and sustain ourselves. Without our parents support, confidence and unflinching faith in us, we would have never managed to get this venture off the ground 5 years back,” says Swapnil.