Startup Reflex uses theatre and music to train corporate leaders


According to ReportsnReports, the corporate training market in India is worth $1 billion and has the potential to be a multi-billion-dollar business. Reflex is looking to tap into this opportunity with its bespoke training solutions.

Oftentimes organisations look at numbers and forget to understand the human element that makes a person valuable to an organisation. Or, a chief marketing officer may be praised or criticised just before the appraisals, instead of being tracked on performance. Or, the discord between leadership that begins during mergers, or over managing change in the digital world, and creates a power struggle in the C-suite.

To help organisations to avoid such pitfalls a startup called Reflex was born in November 2015. Founded by ex-trainers Nithya Menon and Manoj Thelakkat, the company hopes to make use of theatre and music to train leaders to understand the complexity of running an organisation.

The founding team of Reflex.

“We understand the entire organisation and the employee problems before creating a programming through theatre and music,” says Manoj, Founder of Reflex and CEO of Flex-I Partners, a leadership search firm. According to him, theatre and music bring the real solution out and people begin to learn about the value that the management wants to communicate.

Manoj believes that automation and digital are creating unnecessary fear in organisations about job losses and loss of revenue streams. “Leaders have to engage with experiential training to sensitise teams about AI and automation,” says Manoj.

The opportunity for training in India with experiential is huge. According to ReportsnReports, the corporate training market in India is a $1-billion business and has the potential to be a multi-billion-dollar opportunity in the future.

A good example of a management crisis is the turmoil at Infosys in 2014 when the organisation was moving from a founder-led to a management led organisation. The crisis still continues although Vishal Sikka, who has just resigned, had averted that crisis by submitting his vision for the company and the board supported the organisation’s move towards “design thinking”. Infosys managed to train 80 percent of its 220,000 employees on the company’s future vision.

Today, Reflex has more than five large corporates paying for this new form of training.

The beginning

Reflex has its roots in C-suite leader search company Flex-I Partners, which works with Fortune 500 clients , has been closing CXO mandates and specialises in diversity hiring, national hiring in GCC nations and relocation hiring. Manoj is the founder of Flex-I Partners, and often spoke with Nithya, who had worked with him in the past, about the market for corporate training. In 2014 and 2015 while speaking with leaders about training programmes, Nithya and Manoj realised that most of them complained that they were attending training programmes as an HR mandate and were putting in the hours just to have a tick mark in the internal performance records. Both of them started this company out of this opportunity.

In December 2015, the duo began chalking out a plan to make corporate training fun rather than making it bureaucratic and mandate-oriented. Their first opportunity came from an oil and gas company in the Middle East, which selected Reflex to use theatre to make employees know the key roles of their leaders and the pressures of the job therein.

They also had modules on communicating better with each other and also on negotiation skills in the market. “It is still early days, but the knowledge shows us that organisations learn more from such experiential training,” says Nithya.

“Training is very important on top of all learning modules that prepare leaders to reskill during the digital era,” says Gaurav Vohra, Co-founder of Jigsaw Academy.

There are more than a million large SMBs in India which have a turnover of more than Rs 10 crore and each of them are waiting to train their senior teams. Corporate training is largely a mom and pop business in India and yet it presents a great opportunity as data predicts India to become the third largest economy by 2030.

Some of the well-known corporate training firms include StillWater, Centum Learning, MPact, Mentora and Dale Carnegie. There are several other companies that offer the same level of training. However, the market is so huge in India that there is room for all of them to become large businesses.

Reflex has invested less than Rs 30 lakh in the business. Nithya refused to disclose revenues.

However, the numbers are on their side. There are more than 30 million corporate and SMB employees (private sector) in India and there are close to 100 million PF and ESI accounts in India. If that’s one measure of the market size in India, then Reflex is on the money about the market. It is about time their method of music and theatre-based training brings out the best in the leadership community.


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