Wine etiquette, simplified

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.
– Old saying

Some of the greatest pleasures of life lie in simplicity. The humble grapes that are fermented into wine only go on to prove this point.

Whoever invented wine – intentionally or by accident – may have never thought the drink would go on to perennially grace fine-dining tables across the world.

Let us explore what is it that has had many a connoisseur appreciating, adulating and finally commending this drink as nonpareil.

New world, new tastes

At one point in time, wines were synonymous with the vineyards of France. While Bordeaux and Burgundy still remain eternal favourites, Italian, South African and Californian wines have also made inroads into the connoisseurs’ taste buds.

Some of the latest wines in the market are from our own country. Areas near Nashik and Bangalore have come up very well as the new wine districts of the world.

Know your wine

Let’s tease your taste buds now by learning how to know your wine better. A wine is distinguished by:

~ Name of the shipper/producer (For example, Cockburn Smithes, Sula Vineyards, Davenport Vineyards, etc)

~ Area or region where it is produced (Alsace, Bordeaux, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Hunter Valley, Canberra region, etc)

~ The year of production

~ The kind of grape from which it is manufactured, determining the texture and smoothness. White grapes include chardonnay, marsanne, riesling, etc while examples of red or black grapes are barbera, cabernet franc, pinotage, etc

~ The aroma or bouquet (a distinctive and characteristic fragrance) of the wine

Certain years – when the crops were exceptionally good, resulting in excellent wines – are called vintage years.

Each wine-producing region has its own list of vintage years. It is well known that the more aged the wine, the steeper the price. This is because as the wine matures, it acquires a flavour and texture that is simply fantastic. Vintage wines are especially very expensive.

In general, wines have between 11 to 14 per cent alcohol. It may not sound very intoxicating, but trust me, you can get very drunk on wine!

Wine bottles are generally stored in cellars or in cool, dark places at a tilted angle such that when the bottle is full, the wine touches the cork. Nowadays one can also find wines in regular sealed bottles.

Red wine

Red wine is made of black grapes. It is usually served at room temperature, ie, 14 to 18 degree centigrade (remember, room temperature is with reference to France, where wine originated.)

In India, you can keep it in the fridge. It is an ideal accompaniment for red meat.

Red wine glasses are smaller than white wine glasses and have a broader rim.

If stored correctly, most red wines last for two to three years after opening. Ideally, they should be stored in a rack where the temperature can be maintained 17 degree centigrade or below.

Bottles should be stored horizontally or titled at an angle. They should not be exposed to sunlight or to extreme changes in temperature.

Some red wines that can be stored for three to 10 years include vintage port (red wine mixed with brandy), red Bordeaux (red wine manufactured in the Bordeaux), some cabernet sauvignon (cabernet is a type of grape variety) or merlot-based wines (merlot is a grape variety), etc.

Apart from the taste, red wine is purportedly good for the heart and makes your skin glow, so long as it is consumed in moderate quantities (not more than two glasses per day).

White wine

White wine may be produced from white grapes or even from black grapes whose skin is peeled off. It is served chilled at about 8 to 10 degree centigrade.

White wine glasses have a narrow rim. The wine goes well with white meat (sea food or chicken). Generally, white wines are drier than red wines (ie, they do not leave a sweet aftertaste).

Most white wines are best drunk within a year after opening. Storage conditions should be similar to that of red wines. The rarities that can be stored for longer periods – three to years — include the better chardonnays, vintage champagnes and the fully sweet white wines.


Celebrations and champagne go together, for what reflects a spirited environment better than the bubbly, effervescent champagne?

Champagne is made from a mixture of black and white grapes. After fermentation, it is infused with carbon while bottling.

It is also known as sparkling wine. But remember, only the sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France is called champagne. The rest are simply called sparkling wines.

While the manufacturing technique is similar, champagne is known to be more complex-flavoured (the flavours and the aroma are subtle) and less fruity than other sparkling wines.

In general, champagnes are also aged longer than sparkling wines. Some examples of sparkling wines produced outside of Champagne include Mousseux (France), Cava (Spain), Sekt (Germany) and Spumante (Italy).

Champagne is served in flutes or saucers. The shape of the flute ensures that it does not go flat soon. Saucers serve only a small amount of the drink, so that it can be had before the effervescence vanishes.

Champagnes are popularly used to make exciting cocktails. Some cocktails that you may find include Champagne Flamingo (with campari and vodka), Champagne Cocktail (with angostura bitters), Black Velvet (with Guinness), Mimosa (with orange juice), etc.

Fortified wines

Fortified wines are wines mixed with brandy in varied proportions. It results in higher alcohol content and a stronger flavour. Generally, fortified wines have between 17 to 21 per cent alcohol.

The most popular fortified wines include port, sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Málaga and Montilla-Moriles.

Most of them are named after the place where they are produced. Because of the addition of brandy, these wines are stabilised and are less likely to get spoiled once they are opened.

They are commonly used as pre-meal appetisers or post-aperitifs, taken at the end of meals.

Most fortified wines and some cocktails such as martinis can be served as appetisers or post aperitifs.

Wine shopping

The best mantra for wine buyers is: Read up on grape varieties so that you know what kind of wine you want to buy.

The next important thing while buying wine is the name of the shipper or the producer. In the Indian market, there are only two major players – Chateau Indage and Grovers. They have red, white and champagne.

The price range begins from INR 600 onwards.

Check the label for details on how long the wine has been stored. Ideally, it should be a minimum of six months.

If you want to go for international producers, Italian, Californian and Australian wines are hot right now. While offering good quality, these are not as expensive as the French wines.

Once you have settled on the grape variety and shipper, you need to check on the vintage years. Apart from this, most wine bottles available now include the ‘tasting’ notes as a part of the label.

This includes the flavour, the bouquet, what to accompany, after-taste, alcohol content etc.


Self Awareness in Interpersonal Behaviour

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Self Awareness in Interpersonal Behaviour’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 3 May 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at






Assertive Communication

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Assertive Communication’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 30 Mar 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at







Body Language in Communication

These video links contain recordings of a public talk delivered by Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions on ‘Body Language in Communication’ at the HELP Library, Mumbai, India on 15 Jan 2010. We will be glad to have your feedback/comments on the talk at






Dating mantras for Valentine’s Day

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at

From meeting your prospective-would-be with flowers and gifts to lounging over coffee with someone you’re attracted to, the dimensions of dating have undergone a radical change over the years. Now, dating does not necessarily indicate commitment or a serious relationship.

How different is dating today?

“It’s not really about boyfriends or girlfriends,” says Radhika Pingale, a college student from Pune. “I would say it is about spending quality time with a person you find interesting and probably care about a little more than others. Yes, at times your attraction towards that person is rather high — you might want to eventually look at a relationship. But one shouldn’t assume that going on a date with a person means the person would be ready for a commitment.”

While dating in India has traditionally been associated with two people seeing each other with the possibility of marriage as a backdrop, the scope seems to have broadened now. It is more about meeting to explore a relationship and knowing more about each other. It can boost an existing relationship, or initiate one.

How do you approach a person for a date?

This is something that gives a lot of us the jitters. How do you go about approaching someone that you like, without ending up with a black eye or being rejected?

“Honesty is the key, I would suggest,” says Romit Jhaveri, a chemical engineer. “If you like someone and want to ask him/her out, I think you must let the person know why. Once the person is comfortable with your intentions, s/he would be more comfortable going out with you.”

It is not advisable to ask a stranger out. A certain degree of acquaintance and friendship is necessary. A casual “How about catching up for coffee this evening?” is likely to get a better response than a nervous “Uhh… actually, I was wondering if, you know, we could meet up for dinner? I mean, if you don’t mind, of course, just to get to know each other better?”

You must sound confident. If you are jittery, the other person is likely to doubt your intentions. Be friendly, casual, but sincere, to make the person comfortable. Do not pull the person into a relationship without his/her consent.

A few things to be remembered when you ask someone out the first time:

– Be there in person. Avoid asking your partner out over the phone or any other medium. It is easier to clarify misunderstandings, if any, when you are face-to-face.

– Ensure you have privacy. Do not ask a person out in front of a group of friends. There’s a great likelihood of at least one of you turning red in the face with embarrassment.

– Let the conversation be natural. Do not rehearse your lines – nevermind if your fave movie star does it in his/her movies. It’ll only make you nervous and you’ll end up feeling like a clown.

– Begin with small talk. The other person may be taken aback if you jump to the topic of meeting up somewhere out of the blue. Steer the conversation towards catching up on a date.

What can you do on a date?

A date with an acquaintance is bound to be very different from a date with your steady partner. In the latter case, the comfort level is already established and you are likely to know the person’s likes and dislikes.
When dating an acquaintance, what to do depends on the nature of the relationship.

A couple of hours at a coffee shop is the safest bet if the person is relatively unknown. Else, you can try a casual lunch or dinner (not the candle-lit ones). Of course, in this case go to a restaurant that serves a variety of cuisines, not just your favourite one. Preferably, ask for suggestions from your date before freezing on the rendezvous, so that his/her tastes are taken into account.

There are a few unconventional ideas as well, in case both of you are not the flowers-and-chocolates kind.

If you know each others’ likes and hobbies well, you could try trekking, maybe even with a group of friends. Else, some quality time spent together in community work – at an orphanage, a photography expedition around the city, a bowling parlour or a pottery workshop – can make for an interesting date.

In such cases, ensure both of you are into it and that one person is not bored at the end of the day. Such activities not only help you bond better, but also help you discover a lot of facets to each others’ personalities.

How to prepare for a date

Make an effort to let your partner have a pleasant time. You need not go over the top, but do keep a few simple things in mind:

– Dress well. You need not buy a new dress for every date or don designer wear. Simply wearing well-pressed and well-maintained clothes suitable for the ambience goes a long way to show that you value the occasion.

– Do not over-accessorise. Dress up the way you would when you go for any social occasion. Being well-groomed does not mean being overdressed. You need to be comfortable with what you wear.

– Use a deodorant. Body odour is an absolute turn-off. If you are using a perfume, use it minimally. Some people are allergic to perfume; you need to be sensitive to that.

– Be on time. Excuses such as ‘stuck in traffic’, ‘the boss called for a meeting’ and ‘there were guests at home’ do not create a good impression.

– If you are not very familiar or close to your date, do not embarrass him/her with a gift. If you insist on buying a gift, let it be something that lends a casual touch to the occasion – such as a simple bouquet or a small pack of chocolates. Avoid red roses and heart-shaped items if you think the other person is unaware of your romantic interest in him/her.

Dating etiquette

“It’s so embarrassing to be with a person who is ill-mannered or awkward in social situations,” says Pingale – something that many would echo. “Once I was out for a movie with this guy who I thought was rather cute. But when we met another friend of mine at the movie hall and I introduced them to each other, this guy did not even shake hands! He just said ‘hi’ shyly and looked away.”

While social etiquette is applicable to dating as well, do not go over the top – you run the risk of appearing over-courteous and artificial.

Some pointers:

– If it is late in the night when you decide to get back home, offer to drop the lady home if she does not have her own vehicle. Do not expect her to invite you in for a coffee. The drop home gesture is meant purely for security.

– Chivalry is not yet outdated, though the men may not be expected to open the doors all the time or let the lady in first everywhere. Be practical. You need to be relaxed on a date; do not be too formal.

– If you plan to go on a date that requires some preparation like booking of tickets, making reservations in a restaurant, etc, the person initiating the date should take care of these before the date. Do not disappoint your partner by being disorganised.

– Respect each other’s views and do not expect your date to agree with or appreciate whatever you do. Also, be assertive – you need not agree with everything that your partner says simply to please him/her. It can be irritating when the other person realises you are faking it.

– Brush up on dining etiquette and other aspects of formal social behaviour if you are not well versed with it. Avoid embarrassing your date.

– If you do not want to be seen with your date by certain people, choose a meeting place accordingly. It is extremely ill-mannered to request your date to walk at a distance because you can see your uncle across the street!

Jumpstart your career

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at

What is the key to success?

That is the question on every young, ambitious executive’s mind these days. The bare essentials such as hard work, discipline, time and stress management and good work still hold good. But here are a few tips that could add to your persona and make your career soar.

A parallel career

If you were not in your present career, where would you have been? Would the doctor have been a singer? The software developer a magician? A lot of us are fond of certain things that could have been the core of our activities had our present career not been so demanding of our time.

Well, you own your life. So, resolve to pursue that activity whole-heartedly. Give it at least four hours a week. Doing what you really enjoy not only makes you happy, it also improves your productivity at the workplace. As you know you cannot have time for your exciting pursuit unless you finish work on time, you naturally become more disciplined and punctual.

You can  probably indulge in these activities on a freelance basis, if your terms of employment allow it, adding a neat sum to your income. How about teaching the neighbour’s child how to play guitar for a few hours a week, or writing an article for a magazine once a month? Opportunities abound; you just have to identify what you love doing and go after it.

Enhance work relationships and environment

While the focus of your career is definitely performance oriented, one cannot work in isolation. Work relationships are an important aspect influencing professional growth.

Ajay Gupta, a senior IT professional with Oracle in Bangalore, says, “While I have initiated my growth through relevant certifications and upgradation, I must say my managers and work environment have contributed a lot to my success.”

The statement rings true almost universally. So make sure that one of the things you do this year is to improve your relationships at work. Remember, the relationships have to symbiotic, not parasitic. A healthy give and take of ideas and opinions is essential. Also, share the credit for your success with your teammates and superiors. While the effort may have been largely yours, the influences come from a lot of external forces.

Not all of us may be blessed with conducive work environments. However, resolve not to make that an excuse to sulk. Instead, take the initiative to change things. Do you think the processes are not in place and ad hoc decisions are hampering your performance? Why wait for the boss to mend things? Do it yourself. Assert your ideas to make the workplace fun to be in. Brainstorm with your colleagues and present a compilation of ideas to your boss. You are sure to be noticed for your enterprise and leadership skills.

Be observant and open to learning

Learning and growth result not only because of big breakthroughs, but also due to the cumulative effect of little lessons we learn every day. Be a pro-active and conscious learner.

While landing a plum assignment or bagging an offer from an industry leader does provide an impetus to your career, what really goes into these achievements is what you learn everyday on the job. Says Savitha Kasha, a lawyer practising in Mumbai [ Images ], “The high-profile cases come in only once in a while. What helps me succeed in those is my experience from the so-called mundane activities. Observing the way your opponent argues, the way judges put across queries in a routine case, the way seniors approach an issue — all of these have contributed to learning.”

Do not wait for those D-days to learn and grow. It is your entire personality, rather than your technical skills, that matter at higher levels in an organisation, preserve and implement these precious lessons.


It’s the name of the game now. And it’s easy. While good performance and hard work definitely count, networking goes a long way in presenting you with opportunities to enhance your career growth.

For instance, there are a lot of business networking groups online. You can google your way into an e-group that has members in your area of work, and participate in discussions. Also, professional clubs and associations that charge only a nominal membership fee are good places to gather contacts and learn more about the industry.

These contacts come in handy when you look for new jobs or new clients in your current job. They can also be of great help in supplying industry-specific information that helps you improve your presentations and knowledge about your profession. There is a lot of information out there that is already compiled and ready to use. Avoid re-inventing the wheel and putting in long hours of research when you can ask for help. Of course, the aim is not to be lazy and get others to do your work, but it does save a lot of productive time.

Be a life-long student

A lot of us may be glad about finishing with school and college, safe that we don’t have to mug up for those exams anymore. Do not discount the power of education. An additional academic qualification always helps when it comes to choosing people for vertical growth or important assignments.

You need not take a break from your career to acquire another degree or diploma. There are a lot of distance learning programmes available at universities and professional bodies, which add value to your resume. Sign up for a programme relevant to your field of work. A master’s degree definitely adds spark to your resume, even if it is from an open university.

Continued interest in academia reflects to your employers that you are eager to learn more while doing well on the job. It presents a positive image that is sure to better your prospects.

You will always grow in your career, so long as you pursue it passionately. What goes a long way in determining a sustained zeal to grow is whether you enjoy your work or not. As Henry Ford says, “Work does more than get us a living; it gets us our life.”

Dining etiquette, demystified

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at

The gorgeous Julia Roberts got away with her gaffe in Pretty Woman when she unsuccessfully tried to saw her way through a French delicacy with fine-dining cutlery.

But we lesser mortals might just end up creating a very bad impression if we do the same.

For instance, your boss may take you for a lunch meeting at a plush restaurant. You order an exotic continental dish. The treat arrives and you attack it with fork and knife — a clash of cutlery, a clumsy push against the water goblet and there flies your chunk of meat out of your plate and… onto your boss’ shirt!

It’s a horrifying scenario. But you need not worry. Ease your fine-dining worries with these handy tips on dining etiquette.


At a formal luncheon or dinner, wait for an indication from your host before you seat yourself. The host may have a certain seating arrangement in mind.

In very formal events, there will be place holders with your name on the table to guide you.

In many cases, however, the host will either guide you to your seat personally or indicate that you may sit where you please.

Gentlemen, please remember chivalry is not yet dead! While the ladies may not give you condemning looks, they will appreciate it if you wait for them to be seated before you sit.


Now we come to the problem area — cutlery.

While many of us may not use a fork and knife at home, you are expected to adhere to some global norms at business lunches and other formal dos.

Sounds intimidating? It’s not, actually. We’ll tell you why…

~ Take it for granted that the place settings on your table will be correctly arranged by the server. This means you are provided with the adequate number of forks, knives and spoons for each course that is to follow.

~ Wondering which fork and which knife to pick up from the entire spread?

Simple rule: Work your way from the outside to the inside. This means the outermost fork and knife are meant for your first course (usually salads or starters) and so on.

The number of forks and knives also indicate the number of courses in the meal (This tip is particularly handy for those who like to save space for dessert).

~ The dessert spoon and fork (if necessary) are placed parallel to each other above the dinner plate.

~ The side plate (often referred to as the bread and butter plate) is to your left, along with the salad plate. The liquids — including water, wines and tea or coffee cups — are to your right.

~ It is customary that you maintain the place settings through the meal. If you pick up your wine glass or water goblet to have a sip, place it back in the same position.

How to…

Now we come to the ‘how to’ part:

~ Holding your cutlery

As indicated by the place settings, hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right.

Europeans prefer to hold the fork in their left hand with the tines pointing towards the diner. The knife is held in the right, with the sharp edge facing inwards.

Americans prefer to cut the food using the fork and knife. After using the knife, place it on your plate and eat with your fork, tines facing upwards.

Either way of eating is acceptable.

~ Slicing through

While cutting up a dish, use the fork to hold the food down and cut with the knife.

The pressure of your index finger on top of the knife should be enough to slice through the dish.

Avoid sawing (back and forth motion) with your knife; it will seem as if you are hacking your meal!

Always cut bite-sized pieces of food, so you are not embarrassed while trying to fit a huge chunk into your mouth.

~ Taking a breather?

When you pause during a meal, you may place the fork on the left and the knife on the right side of the plate, so that they cross over at the centre of the plate.

~ Second helping

If you need to pass your plate for a second helping, place the fork and knife parallel to each other at the right side of the plate, to make room for the food.

~ The end

The end of the meal is usually indicated by placing the fork (tines up or down) and the knife (blade facing you) parallel to each other diagonally across the plate, with the handles pointing right.

Napkin guidelines

~ While it is acceptable to place the napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated, people usually prefer to follow the host’s lead.

If it is a small luncheon napkin, you can unfold it completely before placing it on your lap. In case of a large dinner napkin, fold it in half, lengthwise.

~ Use your napkin to gently blot your lips during the meal. Remember, it is not a towel to blow your nose or wipe your face!

~ If you need to get up during the meal, place your napkin on your chair to indicate you will be back.

~ At the end of the meal, place the napkin neatly on the table to your right.

Do not fold the napkin; at the same time, take care not to leave it in a crumpled heap.

10 dining mantras

i. Never speak with food in your mouth.

ii. If you are not comfortable using a fork to eat rice, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the server for a spoon.

iii. Do not ask for permission to smoke on the dinner table. It is considered rude. Preferably do not smoke at all, unless the host takes the lead or grants you permission.

iv. Avoid answering calls and messages on your cell phone during a meal, unless it is very urgent. Ideally, the cell phone should be on the silent or discreet mode.

v. If you happen to drop a fork, spoon or knife during the meal, do not pick it up. You may ask the server for a replacement.

vi. Do not rest your elbows on the table during the meal. When you are not using the cutlery, place your hands on your lap. It is acceptable to lightly rest your wrists on the table.

vii. Avoid ordering finger foods, so that your fingers don’t get messy. If you do, try to use a fork to eat these.

Also, never order the most expensive item on the menu unless your host urges you to try that dish.

viii. Do not slurp while having soup. Wait for hot food items to cool sufficiently before you have them. It is not acceptable if you blow on hot food to cool it.

ix. If you want to have bread or rolls with soup, tear a bite-sized piece, place it on the side plate, butter it with the butter knife and then pick it up with the fork. Do not hold the bread in your hand while buttering it.

x. If you want something you cannot reach, politely ask the person nearest to it to pass it to you. Never reach across your neighbour’s plate to get something.

Thank you!

Burp! Had a nice, sumptuous meal? Hold on, you still have work to do.

Remember to thank your host for a wonderful meal.

Your host would definitely appreciate a thank-you card or note or some flowers that you could send across the next day.

6 ‘soft’ skills you need for success

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at

A reputed software company in India is all geared up for a client visit. The clients have indicated that, after inspecting the progress of the project they have outsourced, they would like to meet the team members working on it. Why? To select one team member for a stint onsite — something almost every software engineer aspires for.

Ravi has been one of the most active members in the project and has done a wonderful job. He is technically brilliant, but has some concerns:

Will he able to communicate his performance to the client in an impressive manner so that he is chosen?
Why do his team mates not prefer to come to him for solutions and go to less capable people instead?
His project manager doesn’t seem to be very warm towards him either, although he does drop in those occasional mails appreciating his work.

Here is a typical scenario in an IT company; or for that matter, any organisation where interpersonal communication is involved. Or, like in Ravi’s case, where an employee suffers from a lack of interpersonal skills.

Are technical/ job-related skills enough?

Technical and job-related skills are a must, but they are NOT sufficient when it comes to progressing up the ladder.

With the traditional paternalistic style of leadership becoming passé, professional managers expect their teams to be proactive and communicate openly.

“Soft skills are very important in business. It is essential to be technically sound, but one should also have the ability to convey the idea to the masses in the simplest possible manner,” says Mayurkumar Gadewar, an ERP consultant with Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

With the boom in outsourcing taking root across industries, many professionals and subject matter experts directly deal with their clients on a regular basis.

Their approachability and people skills are what ultimately sustain the contract their employers have bagged.

“Planning is necessary but execution is also equally important. And it takes soft skills to execute any idea because it involves dealing with people directly,” says Gadewar.

6 soft skills for every hard-nosed professional

Behavioural training experts say there are several soft skills are required in these circumstances. Some of them include:

i. Interpersonal skills

ii. Team spirit

iii. Social grace

iv. Business etiquette

v. Negotiation skills

vi. Behavioural traits such as attitude, motivation and time management

Do you have these? If your answer is yes, good for you.

But if your answer is no, then you know it is time to approach either a training organisation or a training consultant.

Will formal training enhance your soft skills?

There is a lot of argument in the industry as to whether it is possible to enhance soft skills in a few hours of training, especially when one considers the fact that a person has lived with those traits all his life. To this, the answer is harsh but real — a professional who wants to do well in his/ her career does not really have a choice.

In the initial years of your career, your technical abilities are important to get good assignments. However, when it comes to growing in an organisation, it is your personality that matters, more so in large organisations where several people with similar technical expertise will compete for a promotion.

Training on soft skills becomes all the more relevant in a country like India where the education system does not delve into personality development.

“Soft skills training is essential because we do not have it in our academic curricula. Therefore, corporate houses have to take up the task of grooming employees who are the link between the company and the external world, so that they are able to present themselves better, ” says Sumeet Mehta, an equity research analyst with Fortis Securities Ltd.

Be your own trainer!

While organisations are definitely investing in augmenting their staff’s people skills, here are some inputs for professionals and students who would like to initiate the process themselves:

i. Be a part of team activities

It could be either as a part of your church choir, or an NGO, or your local youth circle.

Observe your own behaviour in the group and how you relate to others.

ii. Ask family members or close friends to write down your best and worst traits.

Ideally, have at least four to five people do this for you.

Evaluate the common traits all of them have mentioned. Thus, you can be aware of your strengths and work improving your weaknesses.

iii. How well do you manage your time?


Can you do more in life? Or is your day too crammed with activities? Effective time management is very essential in the corporate world.

iv. Introspect on how you react to feedback.

In organisations, people skills mostly come into the picture when there is feedback given — be it for an idea, an executed project or a presentation.

You are judged by the way you respond to feedback.

Do you get defensive?

Do you insist you were right?

Do you meekly accept criticism?

Remember, people tend to be judged and stereotyped according to their responses. You will, too.

v. How good are you at critiquing?

While responding to feedback is one side of the coin, giving feedback is the other side.

Are you aggressive? Pessimistic? Do you believe in constructive criticism? Or prefer to be the yes-man?

vi. Live consciously

Any organisation is manned by people, therefore soft skills are all about how you deal with people and present yourself.

Though it may be easier said than done, soft skills can be enhanced simply by being aware of oneself and living consciously.

Want to speak good English?

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions
(Published at

We generally associate language with communication. However, the repercussions of having language skills, or lacking them, go way beyond communication. Our command over the language we communicate in everyday determines how confident we are about presenting ourselves. It even reflects in our body language and self esteem.

Being fluent in English is important, considering it is the universal language of business communication. For those looking to improve their skills, here are a few tips.


As a baby, you began learning your mother tongue simply by listening and observing. This is the most natural method of learning a language. If you think grammar and rules of syntax bog you down, go back to the primal mode of learning — listen and observe.

Be alert when you listen to someone speaking English, be it at your workplace, at a party or on television. Watch out for common expressions and usages. If you are able to grasp regularly used ways of greeting and small talk, you will be able to initiate speaking more confidently. Start noting simple things: If you meet someone at a party, do you always end up saying, ‘Hi! Nice meeting you…’?

How about introducing variations here? Observe how others talk and try varying your greeting. Why not try saying ‘How do you do?’ or ‘How are you doing?’ Greetings and introduction lines may seem trivial, but if you are not fluent in a language, you often tend to avoid even these, thus ending all prospects of communication. If you can break this barrier, you can take your first step into the realm of English speaking.


While listening to English speakers definitely helps, it is important to read if you wish to expedite the process of improving. Most people are put off by this because they associate reading with big, literary books. However, what we are talking about is reading anything and everything written in correct English. Therefore, your range of choices could extend from comic strips to newspaper articles, gadget manuals to movie reviews.

While reading, try and get a feel of the language and usage of words. More importantly, note the use of articles (a, an, the) and prepositions (in, on, at, from, into, over, under, etc) as these are areas where the most common errors are committed.

Improve your vocabulary

We are not asking you to learn the dictionary by rote! Can you commit yourself to learning two new words a day? You could come across these anywhere — while reading, on a news channel, on a sign at the shopping mall, on a billboard, etc. Make the effort to look up the exact meaning of the word in the dictionary, instead of adopting the easier route of understanding the meaning from the context.

If possible, maintain a book where you can note down the new words everyday, along with the context, so you remember them better. Write down the dictionary meaning and also frame a sentence using the word, so it is now registered in your memory. Go through this book periodically to refresh your memory and use the words in your conversations, emails and letters. A few minutes each way, coupled with an eye for observation and an ear for new words is all it takes to improve your vocabulary.

You could also subscribe to services like that will e-mail a new word every day; this mail will include both the dictionary meanings and usage in sentences.

Prepare for small talk

Speaking English fluently is not just about making corporate presentations and giving long speeches. It is about expressing your views on the most mundane of things. How often do you meet a new person and face an awkward silence after the initial greeting because you don’t know what to talk about? Worse, you may wish to initiate a conversation but may not be confident of putting something across correctly.

The ability to make small talk is very important in business and social conversations. Topics for casual conversation could include the weather, sports, current affairs, arts, hobbies, travel, etc. Read up on your area of interest and try framing sentences expressing your opinions. Talk about it with someone close to you so you can check for grammatical accuracy.

Then, gradually build up on your repertoire of conversational topics and start using them whenever you get a chance. Of course, when you talk, do not make it sound like a speech you have learnt by heart. Induce a casual tone and adapt to the occasion.

Make mistakes

Can you learn swimming by standing at the edge of the pool? You have to take the plunge, right? It is the same with language. Unless you use the language, you will never know how good you are at it.

Ask a few people close to you who are good at English to help. Make them interrupt you whenever you make a mistake and ask them to correct you. Be open to feedback. Do not be embarrassed to make mistakes, for that is the only way you will learn. That is how the process of acquiring fluency a language occurs. As a child, you may have made a lot of mistakes before getting a good grasp of your mother tongue. The only difference now is that you are conscious of the mistakes.

Books on grammar are a good supplement to strengthen your command over the language. The good old Wren and Martin for grammar and Word Power by Norman Louis for vocabulary should also help. A lot of web sites including EnglishPage,Grammar Book, Better-English, etc will help you augment your skills.

Finally, all you need is a will to learn and the initiative to begin. That done, it is simply a matter of time and effort!


Revel in Resurrection

– Rukmini Iyer, Director, Exult! Solutions

The energy of a festival is about accessing that aspect of you that the festival represents to you. It matters not whether the festival is associated with a certain religion, country or community. It matters not whether you know or are aware about the festival or not. If your energy resonated with the spirit of the festival, it is reason enough to celebrate – at the level of the unconscious. And when that percolates to the level of the conscious, it is the ecstasy and revelry of the festival that we observe on earth, combined with the solemnity of the rituals associated with it.

The energy of Easter is that of resurrection. Our social conditioning and lifestyles are such that often, we live so that we may die, contented. The Christ taught us to die so that we may live, contented. The concept of death from the Christ’s perspective needs to be viewed from an angle far different from the narrow negative connotation that we have lent it. Death is simply a beautiful process of acceptance of all that is about oneself and embracing it, so that there is contentment with one’s potential at a certain level of awareness. This contentment instantly results in opening up higher levels of potential, leading us to ascension. Death is the point of embrace that opens up a new life. Death is the setting of the moon so that the sun may rise. The empowering aspect of this process is that we are the Earth, rotating and revolving of our own volition – and therefore determining the setting of our moon and the rising of our sun.

This Easter, let us tap into the energy of resurrection in every aspect of our life that we choose to ascend in. For example, if it is your career that you wish to revitalise, embrace everything about your professional life. Embracing is a more active process than resigned acceptance. Be in gratitude to self and to others who have been instrumental in steering you to be where you are, or are not, for this is the foundation on which you will now build. Outline the lessons from successes and failures experienced so far. What is the value that you have created? How far is your vocation a true representation of yourself? Answer these questions and own them. Ownership of a situation is essential if you wish for a right to change it. Accountability is the key to progress. Once you are in that state of ownership and embrace, release the situation to yourself: you are the image of God that you may worship. In this release is death – and the fertile ground for resurrection.

When the Christ said on the Cross, ‘Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do’, it was an acknowledgment of his situation, forgiving himself and his imperfections in the human form that He had earlier not accepted – and releasing himself to Himself. That facilitated the ground for burial of the old and the rising of the new.

This Easter, rise afresh and chart out what you wish to create anew. What value do you intend to create for self and hence for the world? What is your truth? How do you wish to manifest it? The answers will tell you what to work for, provided you are accountable for them. Access the energy of Easter every time you wish to recreate self. If you so intend, there is Easter in every moment of every day.

The Christ was never about a community. The Christ is that aspect of our consciousness that urges us to move towards complete acceptance and embrace of oneself in order to facilitate recreation. If you regard religion as a system of belief and worship, you are limiting your access to yourself. Regard religion as a way of life and it will open up you to yourself. All ways of life naturally lead to more of life, more of self, more of potential.

May this Easter spur a timeless ecstatic loop of resurrection!