Training Sideways is an art-based soft skills behaviorial training company that offers solutions to companies by using theatre, music, and visual arts to deliver measurable training outcomes in an engaging manner.
At a glance
Startup: Training Sideways (Evam Corporate Training Pvt Ltd)
Founders: Sunil Vishnu K, Karthik Kumar, TM Karthik
Year it was founded: 2012
Where it is based: Headquartered in Chennai with offices in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Singapore.
Sector: Learning and development
Problem it solves: Uses art and theatre for corporate training and behavioural management
Funding raised: Undisclosed angel investment
In 2011, when Sunil Vishnu and Karthik Kumar conducted acting workshops in Bengaluru, they received a lot of appreciation. Who would have thought that this very appreciation could lead to the formation of a startup?
Sunil Vishnu, Co-founder of Training Sideways, says: “When the workshop ended, all the participants - primarily part-time actors and working professionals at various companies - gave us feedback regarding the use of art and theatre for corporate training. They said companies need these kinds of methods to open their minds to innovation, to get them to bond, to learn leadership, and many other things.”
That was their Eureka moment – the learning that they needed to start something corporate-specific.
“It led us to think that we could use workshop and the training methodology of theatre for corporate behavioural training. Later on, we included music, dance, visual arts, assimilations, and other things in the experiential space to train,” he added.
The journey begins
And so started the journey of Training Sideways (Evam Corporate Training Pvt Ltd), an art and theatre-based corporate training company. The startup offers behavioural training using experiential methods derived from the world of art, theatre, music, dance and other art forms.
Sunil says, “As a behavioural training company, we work in the areas of training across levels - junior level employees, middle-level employees and leadership. We do everything from team building and leadership workshops to super manager and innovation workshops. We also offer workshops on collaboration and visioning.”
As the second area of expertise, Training Sideways also works on team building and team bonding, towards breaking silos, and bringing together teams’ sort concerns and issues to build high-performing teams.
It also works for engagement at conferences.
“So, we do work with event management companies and we work with large companies for their conferences where we create high energy events of 15-minute flash mobs to 45-minute performances, which 5000 people can deliver. These also go with the theme of the conference and lead to learning something. It is learning by doing,” Sunil says.
And finally, the startup also works around social causes like diversity and inclusion.
“We have worked with women leadership in companies, we work with Prevention of Sexual Harassment, and for inclusion across age, gender and across other diversities. We also work in internal communications of companies where we want to communicate a theme; it could be leadership practices or cultural practices, where they want to use not just emails and memos and posters, but a different format to interact with people. That is where Training Sideways comes in,” he adds.
The quick adaption
Sunil and Karthik, ex-classmates from MICA, set up Evam as an entertainment company in 2003 and ran it for almost eight years before setting up Training Sideways in 2012. The duo was soon joined by TM Karthik, who came with 20 years of corporate experience and is an actor.
Started in Chennai, Training Sideways soon expanded to Bengaluru and Mumbai, and has conducted sessions pan India. It also has a small presence in Singapore. Initially bootstrapped, it soon got equity participation from Ramcharan Associates’ Divyesh Palicha.
In terms of scale, organically the organisation claims to have seen a growth of 20-30 percent in terms of behavioural training. At present, it also claims to have close to around 130-odd clients, including Google, Vodafone, Accenture, Wells Fargo and Ashok Leyland.
Training Sideways has a team of nine trainers and four consultants who help with design; it also works with multiple people who work part time. All their workshops are customised to the needs of the clients.
The revenue model is per workshop/ engagement as a cost; the engagement can last anywhere between a couple of hours to days.
A silent yet dramatic shift
According to a media report, the global corporate training market is slated to grow at a CAGR of 10.55 percent during the period 2016-2020.
The methodology, which started as being used for “employee engagement” in companies in the late 1980s, grew to fight “death by PPT” in 1990s and in 2000s, and is now being embraced as a powerful training methodology.
Other startups like Reflex and Tatva Leadership are also into providing innovative training solutions using theatre.
But speaking about what sets it apart from all the other training companies, Sunil says, “We started fairly early in this journey and have had the advantage of being the first mover. We have built the brand strongly and are the biggest organisation, having worked with almost 130-plus clients. Our various products and models in areas from leadership and middle management to diversity and inclusion to team building are very distinct. Our methodology is copyrighted and original. We also provide complete solutions, not just delivering but also sustaining the programme, and working hand in hand with the Human Resource and the Learning & Development teams for the rest of the year.”
Having run an event firm comes in handy to the founders.
In the future, Training Sideways wants to build strong relationships with its clients and add value to them.
Sunil says, “We have already started working with some of our clients on a consultancy basis where we are helping them think about behavioural training over the whole year. We are also working on diversity and inclusion consultants with companies, planning with them how to build a culture which is about inclusion and can deliver value for the business side.”
The startup also plans to ride the digital wave and reach a wider audience using technology. “Whether it is the use of Virtual Reality or the use of interactive videos, we are looking at them in order to get experiential digital training models,” Sunil signs off.