CHIRAG SHAH is groom­ing Punekars with his fin­ish­ing school

The art of groom­ing, and de­vel­op­ing grace and poise is dif­fi­cult for a lay­man, but CHIRAG SHAH, with his groom­ing school AR­RISTA SCHOOL OF FI­NESSE, is mak­ing it easy to achieve. Ci­tadel gets talk­ing to this young pro­fes­sional to find out more about his in


Self-im­prove­ment is the best en­hance­ment, they say. Some­one has rightly said – be the per­son you want t o meet. Yet, chances are, most of us are strug­gling with be­ing not just pre­sentable but also ac­cept­able. We ed­u­cate our­selves in the best pos­si­ble way, but the fine-tun­ing of per­son­al­ity is left un­touched. Your per­son­al­ity and how you ap­pear to a per­son is vi­tal to your suc­cess with him or her. And this is where Pune’s very own groom­ing school comes into pic­ture – Ar­rista School of Fi­nesse. Run by young Chirag Shah, they are into work­ing with lead­ing cor­po­rate and aca­demic brands in train­ing their staff and man­age­ment teams with var­i­ous dis­ci­plines, right from groom­ing, busi­ness eti­quette to mo­ti­va­tion, team-build­ing and off­site and sales and lead man­age­ment. In busi­ness for the last four years, they can be cred­ited to hav­ing trained more than 4,500 peo­ple across var­i­ous in­dus­tries, with clients like Kir­loskar Brothers, Ruby Hall Hospi­tal, Forbes Mar­shall, Elec­tron­ica Hitech, Cy­bage Soft­ware, Per­sis­tent Sys­tems, Birla SunLife, BU Bhan­dari Mercedes Benz, BMW Bavaria Mo­tors, DSK Benelli, FIAT In­dia, My Car, and more. Ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tutes in­clude Ness Wa­dia, MIT, Indira, FLAME, etc. Ar­rista even holds camps for teenagers on groom­ing, table man­ners and on other fun ac­tiv­i­ties like ro­bot­ics, aero-modelling and pho­tog­ra­phy. In the past, they have con­ducted a work­shop for se­nior in­spec­tors at the Ma­ha­rash­tra Po­lice Academy, Nasik, on Cit­i­zen First ap­proach. In a short span, Chirag has man­aged to make his point through his groom­ing school. There is a lot more to his work than one can per­ceive.


Be­fore un­der­stand­ing what Ar­rista is all about, we want to know how Chirag be­gan his ca­reer and the path that led him to Ar­rista. His is an in­ter­est­ing back­ground, which must be spo­ken of. Hold­ing a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Busi­ness Man­age­ment (Mar­ket­ing) and Golf Man­age­ment Op­er­a­tions from Grif­fith Univer­sity – Aus­tralia, he later did his Master’s in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion – Ser­vices Mar­ket­ing & Man­age­ment from S.P. Jain School of Global Man­age­ment, Sin­ga­pore. “I was awarded the S.P. Jain Alumni Award for Pro­fes­sional Ex­cel­lence in 2010. I worked for sev­eral years in the bank­ing in­dus­try in In­dia, where I held po­si­tions both in Bar­clays Bank PLC, where I re­ceived the ‘Be­yond Lim­its Award’ in 2008, and DBS Bank Ltd as the City Head – Con­sumer Bank­ing (Pune & Kol­ha­pur Re­gions), where I won the ‘Group Chair­man’s Award’ in 2009 and 2010. I am reg­u­larly in­vited to

speak and be a pan­el­list at many events and func­tions at aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions and cor­po­rates. I an avid golfer and have won many club and na­tional level tour­na­ments.” His rea­son to leave his job and start up some­thing like Ar­rista came from his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as a banker and just look­ing around him. It was just a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion. “Dur­ing my days as a banker, I saw sev­eral of my col­leagues strug­gling with ba­sic things such as spo­ken and writ­ten English, smart dress­ing, ba­sic hy­giene and groom­ing, din­ing eti­quette and even public speak­ing. I re­alised that we as In­di­ans are ex­tremely good at what we do, and are will­ing to put in the num­ber of hours re­quired for any job, but I felt that some­where we lack the abil­ity to present our­selves in a pol­ished man­ner. I re­alised that if this com­po­nent were to be added to our per­son­al­i­ties, it would create a dy­na­mite com­bi­na­tion of a dash­ing per­son­al­ity and a hard­work­ing and sin­cere per­son. This would work to be a fab­u­lous mantra for suc­cess! This was our im­pe­tus to start work­ing on The Ar­rista Project!” Of course, you can­not start any­thing just on a whim. It does take an im­mense amount of time. Chirag re­veals, “It took us to two years to work out the con­tent, cur­ricu­lum, brand­ing and of­fer­ings and we brought on sub­ject mat­ter ex­perts to guide us through each mod­ule. My mother, Man­isha Gokhale Shah, had served as Dean for many known aca­demic in­sti­tutes such as Sym­bio­sis, Sin­hagad and FLAME, and her guid­ance and men­tor­ship was price­less.” What the cur­ricu­lum con­sists of is quite vi­tal in achiev­ing what you want. Ar­rista of­fers an in­ter­est­ing range; Chirag gives the de­tails for one’s pe­rusal. “Ar­rista School of Fi­nesse ini­tially be­gan with three cour­ses: 1) Pol­ished Pro­fes­sional (for work­ing pro­fes­sion­als and stu­dents fin­ish­ing their higher stud­ies), 2) Per­fect Lady (Work­ing Women and Homemak­ers), and 3) Young Adult (teenagers). Over the last four years, our of­fer­ings have ex­panded to highly cus­tomised cor­po­rate train­ings on sales ef­fec­tive­ness, cus­tomer cen­tric­ity, busi­ness and so­cial eti­quette, emo­tional in­tel­li­gence and many more mod­ules. We even of­fer our ser­vices in or­gan­is­ing lead­er­ship off­site and team build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. I also, in my in­di­vid­ual ca­pac­ity, am in­vited as a mo­ti­va­tional speaker at sev­eral fo­rums. We have also created a pro­gramme ded­i­cated to women’s em­pow­er­ment and help­ing work­ing women and homemak­ers create con­fi­dence in their per­son­al­i­ties. Last year, we also con­ducted a suc­cess­ful sum­mer camp for 75 chil­dren on var­i­ous fun ac­tiv­i­ties rang­ing from de­sign­ing an­droid games, pho­tog­ra­phy, ro­bot­ics and aero modelling.”


Pas­sion is what keeps you go­ing ahead. And you want to see your pas­sion beget fruit. In case of Ar­rista, Chirag has seen fruit­ful re­sults in his four-year-old long jour­ney. He di­vulges, “The jour­ney has been the most en­rich­ing and chal­leng­ing phase of my life, and Ar­rista has grown from strength to strength. We have con­ducted more than 80 cor­po­rate train­ings, span­ning 27 in­sti­tu­tional and cor­po­rate clients. More than 4,500 peo­ple have un­der­gone our train­ing pro­grammes at some stage in the last four years. Our re­sults are ev­i­dent in the tes­ti­mo­ni­als that our clients have rou­tinely pro­vided to us and we can see stark dif­fer­ences in our par­tic­i­pants as well.” Their job is not easy, of course. All good things never come eas­ily. “Given the fact that ours is a be­havioural train­ing and not a prod­uct or tech­ni­cal train­ing, the change in its re­cip­i­ents takes time to come. The key is to con­duct reg­u­lar train­ing in­ter­ven­tions and re­fresh­ers and not just treat train­ings as an event. We have a ro­bust process for post-train­ing eval­u­a­tions to check ef­fec­tive­ness, which are con­ducted any­time be­tween 60-80 days after the main train­ing pro­gramme,” Chirag adds. There were strug­gles and hur­dles that came Chirag’s way. In fact, in his words, he will con­tinue to face

prob­lems. “For starters, con­vinc­ing peo­ple that train­ing and chang­ing them­selves is never an easy task. Se­condly, cor­po­rates are al­ways hard pressed for time and bud­gets, and spend­ing on train­ing re­mains less of a pri­or­ity as com­pared to other key busi­ness ex­penses. Also, get­ting re­peat busi­ness from the same clients is a big chal­lenge. I have no­ticed peo­ple will be happy to spend large sums of money on en­ter­tain­ment or hol­i­days, and never bar­gain for dis­counts with restau­rants or air­lines, but when it comes to in­vest­ing in them­selves for train­ing, they are al­ways look­ing for price re­duc­tions. These are some of the prac­ti­cal chal­lenges,” he con­fesses. This does ring true for most cor­po­rates.


Most prod­ucts or ser­vices are in ex­is­tence to­day be­cause there is a great need for it amongst the masses. You re­alise it only through ex­pe­ri­ence. For Chirag, dur­ing train­ing or hav­ing work­shops, the re­al­i­sa­tion must have come that a school like his is much needed. He agrees whole­heart­edly, “Life skills, bet­ter known as softer-skills, are not yet taught in our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. None of the cur­ricu­lums, be it schools, col­leges or uni­ver­si­ties, re­ally have a ro­bust plat­form or pro­gramme to in­stil cer­tain be­hav­iour driven val­ues or de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills. These are vi­tal for de­vel­op­ing well-rounded pro­fes­sion­als and en­trepreneurs in the fu­ture, and hence that’s where Ar­rista has an in­te­gral role to play. We are also look­ing to part­ner with the Govern­ment of In­dia for the Na­tional Skill De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme.” Dur­ing the train­ing or work­shops, mem­o­ries are created, which be­come a sort of teacher for any­thing you do in the fu­ture. These mem­o­ries stay with you till eter­nity. Chirag does have a few such mem­o­ries that he wants to share, “I think hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity to con­duct a train­ing pro­gramme for se­nior of­fi­cers of the Ma­ha­rash­tra Po­lice at the Po­lice Academy in Nasik was a very mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence for me. Firstly, I had to con­duct the en­tire train­ing pro­gramme in Marathi, and that was an­other facet of our of­fer­ing that we could be versatile in the lan­guage that we used to de­liver the ses­sion. I also got to see first-hand what chal­lenges our of­fi­cers face in their daily jobs, and what con­straints they have when it comes to ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties. Yet, they brave on to serve and pro­tect us. These are ex­tremely smart, in­tel­li­gent and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple, and such train­ings should be a reg­u­lar fea­ture in their ca­reers.”


In the last four years, Chirag and Ar­rista have made progress to­gether step by step. But there is more to come. Chirag does have big plans slated out. He de­tails, “I am keen to bring more struc­ture to our pro­grammes and of­fer­ings. I would like to make it eas­ier for cor­po­rates to choose our ser­vices as part of pack­ages or plans. This would make their de­ci­sion-mak­ing process easy. We are also con­tin­u­ously look­ing for new fac­ulty who can add an ex­tra flavour to our ses­sions. I hope we can see Ar­rista be­come a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized brand in In­dia with clients in all the ma­jor cities.” Those who dream big have a mantra that they fol­low to the end. Chirag has one too and is will­ing to share it with others so that they can fol­low it, “I have re­lent­lessly strived for achiev­ing ex­cel­lence in the small­est of things that we have done at Ar­rista. Be it our so­cial me­dia pres­ence, or the way our train­ers present them­selves, to the hand­outs in each of the par­tic­i­pants dock­ets, or to the qual­ity of in­ter­ac­tions and anec­dotes used in train­ings, we have paid attention to the mi­nut­est of de­tails. This al­lows us to re­duce our mis­takes and pain­stak­ingly pro­vide a qual­ity ser­vice. In my opin­ion, to be able to do this time and again is great!” A cer­tain level of groom­ing goes a long way in mak­ing the per­son you are bet­ter. With Chirag Shah and his Ar­rista School of Fi­nesse, the trail has cer­tainly be­come smoother.

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