The traditional image of finishing schools is of the Swiss Alps, where elegant young ladies from well-to-do families learn to walk, talk and make conversation before entering polite society.
Now India is looking to the model for the three million or so graduates it produces every year to refine the skills they need to succeed in business and give the country a sharper edge in the global marketplace.
AdvertisementThe "finishing schools" in Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore are to open later this year, as part of a two-million-dollar project by the Indian School of Integrated Learning (ISIL) and British training firm Speak First.
"The finishing school is taking graduates and anyone else of that academic level through a programme which will give them all the skills that a business could possibly want," Speak First's Amanda Vickers told AFP in Mumbai.
"A lot of people (in India) are academically really well qualified, very bright and intelligent, all the things that most businesses want. But where there is a gap is in the skills that you need to succeed in business."
India has seen massive foreign investment into the likes of its IT, banking and outsourcing sectors, attracted by a massive, educated -- and cheaper -- workforce, fuelling close to double-digit economic growth in recent years.
But both Vickers, Speak First's managing director, and ISIL chairman Vijay Moza said Indian employees could do better when it comes to "soft skills".
Misunderstandings have often arisen from telephone manners or email etiquette with clients and even colleagues based elsewhere in the world that may just be a simple case of cultural difference, they said.
A common bugbear among foreign businesses and individuals here is of many Indians not wanting to say "no", leading to frustrations when requests are not completed on time or even at all, said Vickers.
Too much respect for clients and superiors can be construed as a lack of directness while attempts to be more direct can come across as aggression, she added.
Teaching communication, interpersonal and negotiating skills as well as cultural awareness is simply "reflecting a business need" in an increasingly globalised world, she said.
For his part, Moza said he has heard frequent complaints from company bosses not just about many graduates' lack of workplace skills but the time and money it costs to get them up to speed.
"Finishing schools" would help fill the gap left by the Indian education system that does not have the resources to teach personality development, said Moza.
It could also improve the employment rate, he said, quoting a 2005 Nasscom-McKinsey report that said only 30 percent of Indian graduates were suitable for jobs in the offshore IT sector or outsourcing industries.
ISIL was also looking for tie-ups with universities to offer courses so that "by the time students come out of college they will be ready for a job", he added.
Trainers for the schools are currently preparing for the start of courses in November, running through class programmes using role-plays, discussions and flip-charts.
Graduates to middle managers and above will soon be in class on either full-time, one-year courses or part-time working towards a vocational qualification.
"Soft skills training has huge potential but what's more important is that we have to put all these things together. By 2020 India is going to be a superpower with China and the US," said Moza.
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