Smm-art brings its get-savvy workshops to city

Kolkata, Apr 28 | Updated: Apr 29 2007, 08:25am hrs
When HMV's managing director Abhik Mitra found that his cassettes and CDs were no match for dirt-cheap pirated versions sold by hawkers, or when farmers of Haryana wanted to know how to handle their new-found millions reaped from real-estate deals, they went to Santosh Nair's Smm-art Consultancy Services.

Now, Smm-art (or smart with a funny spelling) is setting up shop in Kolkata by launching a series of workshops for small businessmen --- to help them hone their skills and communicate fluently with clients --- and insurance agents perplexed by the plethora of schemes.

Smm-art has so far trained over 125 corporate clients from 25 different industries like Asian Paints, Orange, Airtel, Coca Cola, Mahindra & Mahindra, LIC of India, Standard Chartered Bank, Proctor & Gamble, Saint Gobain Glass and Philips. Based in Mumbai, the firm has expanded to Ahmedabad and Thiruvanthapuram.

"While working for Saregama (HMV's new name), we had to come to Kolkata often to study how the market for pirated CDs and cassettes worked," said chief executive officer Kepal Parikh. "But this is for the first time our firm would start working in Kolkata through our popular workshops and seminars."

The Goenkas approached the firm some time in 2001, when Saregama, enjoying years of near monopoly in Hindi film music, saw its sales dwindling in the face of pirated products. Employee morale had hit rock-bottom.

"We were given the task of injecting the zeal back into Saregama's sales force, and looking back, we believe the assignment was handled successfully," Parikh said.

Parikh, who started his career as a sales representative for Eureka Forbes, rose to become the regional head of ICICI Bank's credit card business and now describes himself as a trainer with Smm-art.

One of his more difficult assignments was teaching the intricacies of financial planning to the suddenly-rich farmers of Haryana.

"It wasn't easy," says Parikh. "First, we had to gain their confidence as they had turned cagey overwhelmed by the wealth that had come to them. Then we had to teach them the virtues of investing for the long term as it seemed that they had little idea about securing their future by making intelligent investment." So, does he plan to go to Singur No, says Parikh with a chuckle.