In Conversation With Konkana Bakshi

Konkana Bakshi is a national etiquette expert, sought out industry leader, and the owner of business, social and personal enhancement etiquette schools Savoir Faire and Tres Chic. Her clients range from students and brides to Fortune 500 companies, and her workshops cover topics that focus on the finer things in life. Her engaging disposition and straightforward approach to etiquette are informative, stylish and fun. In conversation with her.

Konkana you were a model, did music videos, participated in pageants and won titles. So what inspired you to train in London Image Institute, New York Film Academie and Swiss Finishing Schools and then launch Savoir Faire and Tres Chic?
As I travelled to several countries for International beauty pageants from a young age, I realised the value of an elegant, confident image. These beauty pageants gave me an opportunity to learn about different cultures as I was interacting with 76 contestants from different cultural backgrounds. The knowledge was invaluable and I wanted to take it a step further. So I enrolled myself in New York Film Academie where the faculty taught me body language, expressing my thoughts through emotion and voice modulation for stage performances. And then I went to Swiss Finishing School. I was clear in my mind that being socially polished was a necessity equivalent to a strong academic degree. My mother was in the diamond industry and I often interacted with diamond merchants and their families. On such occasions, I would get requests to host important dinners and meet International clientele. That is when I realised there could be a place for a platform that offers training in corporate and social etiquette. I gave wings to my vision and hosted my first workshop in Mumbai with Sabira Merchant, Dilip Cherian and Chris Gethen.

Tell us about your vision for Savoir Faire and Tres Chic.
Savoir Faire académie started with training for business and corporate etiquette; we are expanding our offerings to include social etiquette, art appreciation and training luxury professionals about the finer things in life to facilitate quality interaction with clients. At Tres Chic, where I am the principle consultant, we offer personal image consultancy, consult bridal clients and social skills. We have private consultancy for clients who require a tailored programme. My vision is to continue providing excellence at the académie and our workshops. I get inspired by clients' real transformation. It makes me happy and I feel worthy of contributing to someone's life.

Savoir Faire and Tres chic are niche. Was the idea met with skepticism? What were your roadblocks?
I started Savoir Faire three years back without a clue that one day I would be known as founder and chairperson of the finest finishing school in India!! I didn't have any expectations. I just did one workshop to gauge its potential and I got a great response! I was and still am very concerned about this field as India is a very price sensitive market. China infact shows a lot of enthusiasm about finishing schools and that is why some of the finest European finishing school have extended their services to China. I hope, with time, India realises the value of investing in social skills as much as formal education.

Do you feel the success of Savoir Faire is an indicator of a tide turning in the approach to protocol?
The adage 'you can't judge a book by its cover' is only partially true. Research shows we make assumptions about another person within seconds of the first meeting. While you can't control what someone else thinks, you must make an effort to put your best foot forward. According to research done by Harvard University, The Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute, approximately 85% of professional success is based on soft skills i.e. personal conduct, the ability to put others at ease and multicultural awareness. So it is no surprise that a company may be interested in perceiving your social skills before they hire you because knowing how to handle one's self with poise adds to an individual’s effectiveness when representing an organisation at social and business meetings. It's true, you are judged by the manner in which you choose people to view you as a professional… it's all in the details.

Do share some tips for aspiring entrepreneurs
There is no secret to success for the self-employed. The only thing that works is a good combination of planning and hard work. Whatever you do, do not give up. A business can experience highs and lows. Just do not let them discourage you into quitting. A woman has the best chances of success as an entrepreneur if she knows how to create the right balance. It is necessary to plan well and involve people who will be honest and supportive throughout the ups and downs of your new business.

What is the way ahead?
I look forward to the continuous quest of understanding, a better meaning of doing business and building a brand.