Every Wednesday and Thursday at 6p.m., a motley group of Mumbai-based SKF Ltd’s employees heads for the staff canteen. The employees, from departments such as engineering solutions, administration,?finance?and?sales aren’t looking for a quick evening snack before they head back to work or leave for home. They go to the canteen to dance.
For over two months now, they have been learning to jive and do the salsa from dance whizz?Sandip Soparrkar. “Life’s taken on a whole new meaning since I learnt to dance,” says 28-year-old Kashmeera Prabhu, an SKF
Shake a leg: Sandip Soparkar (in blue T-shirt) teaches salsa to Lintas executives as a means of de-stressing.
That’s just the kind of remark SKF hoped to hear when it signed on with Soparrkar for biweekly dance lessons for employees. Several firms in Mumbai have discovered the benefits of dance. Soparrkar runs a dance school that conducts or has conducted weekly and biweekly dance classes for firms such as HSBC Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd, McKinsey and Co., Jet Airways Ltd and Lintas India Pvt. Ltd.
“Every time I walk on to the dance floor, I can feel my stress levels melt away and I come out feeling completely relaxed—physically and mentally,” says Samir Deshmukh, 28, who works in the wealth management team of a leading multinational bank.
Apart from the business he gets, Soparrkar, whose students include Bollywood actors Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherji, says he is happy to see the change he is bringing out in the firms. “It’s wonderful to see CEOs drop their ties and blazers to groove with the secretary, the executive assistant or even the newest recruit into the company.”
Soparrkar isn’t the only one to have spotted the business opportunity. Kaytee Namgyal of Salsa India Productions holds dance workshops??for firms. This month, Namgyal, who has schools in Mumbai and Kolkata is opening another one in Pune. His first client in the city? HSBC.
HSBC India CEO Naina Lal Kidwai says her bank started salsa classes after an in-house 80-member team travelled across India and brainstormed with employees to find ways in which the?firm?could help them achieve work-life balance.
That’s a universal motive for companies that sponsor dance workshops or lessons, according to Ronica Jacob, a Delhi-based choreographer. “Delhi is hungry for such recreational and de-stressing activities so even trainers who are not well-versed with the dance form are making money cashing in on the trend,” she says.
Senior executives make it a point to be present at company-sponsored dance classes. For instance, Vilas Bondse, SKF’s?vice-president,?industrial business unit, attends Soparrkar’s dance classes when he is not travelling. Other dance teachers talk of CEOs who regularly let their hair down with co-workers at such workshops, but they won’t name them.
“Learning to dance has been an exhilarating experience for me and my team. Thirty-five of us who have been at it have realized it’s a great way to bond outside the workplace. Visitors to our office often find someone trying to master a new step that was taught at the previous evening’s dance lesson. The positive energy created has been great for productivity,” says Valerie Pinto, chief operating officer, Perfect Relations, a public relations firm that uses Soparrkar’s services.
For instructors, the firms’ interest translates into big money: a popular instructor can charge about Rs1 lakh per workshop. That’s a small price to pay. “It (organizing dance lessons) shows that the company cares for us. It’s not looking at us as mere employees but as people who need to grow their personalities and have fun,” says SKF’s Prabhu.