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BW Businessworld

A Time For Image Makeover

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What does a company expects from its employees? Other than efficiency and loyalty, it is somebody who is smart enough to deal with people and problems. To justify the deals and consultancy, they need to look authentic and approachable. Suman Agarwal is a Master Image Consultant from the Federation of Image Professionals International (FIPI– UK). As the co-founder, guide, trainer and consultant at ICBI - Image Consulting Business Institute — Agarwal has 15 years of experience in services including aviation, hospitality and training industry.  Starting off as a cabin crew in Jet Airways in 1996, Agarwal went on to become the grooming and recruitment in charge in 2001. She started her own company in 2009. She was trained by Judith Rasband, the senior most image consultant in the world, who later became a curriculum partner.

Agarwal talks to BW Online's Poonam Kumar about why corporations, individuals and housewives need image management.

What was the idea behind the image consulting business?
After being a professional for several years, I realised the need to do something that what be the need of the hour in India, something that gives me a great satisfaction and something that I can relate to my experience and I am passionate about doing, hence after a lot of research, I realised that this is my calling. Image Management is a big miss as far as India is concerned.  A lacunae exists in India.  It is a multi-billion dollar industry abroad. It's time people/ corporates benefitted through image makeovers and etiquette guidance in India. We got started in setting up our company, which is now called First Impression Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

What made you start the Image Consulting Business Institute?
First impression consulting was formed in 2009 to create an industry of Image Management in India. (Industry First), It went in a phased manner to cater each aspect of the industry. It started Image Consulting Business Institute (ICBI) offering a business program for image consultants. After completion of training, the image consultant receives all required certifications and accreditations  to carry on independent business of image management or offer services to individuals/ group workshops/ and corporates.

The company not only trains these consultants but also creates their business identity in terms of logo, website and social media presence. It then goes on the give complete business, system and marketing support to them. With more than 200 consultants in ten cities, the company has now launched career programs and short courses in image management. There are 40 franchisees centers in the 10 cities. The company employs about 150 people as of now.

Why do corporates need Image Consultants?
Many corporations seek the services of our systematically-trained image consultants on retainer or assignment basis to build positive customer perception, leading to enhanced customer loyalty and retention.

Employee Image Audit – ICBI-trained image consultants conduct employee image audit with stakeholders like customers, partners and the employees themselves, providing you with a clear picture of the current image.

Client Need Analysis – The image consultants study your work environment and the customer-facing environment. Coupled with the Employee Image Audit, they analyze the areas of employee image that require correction, providing recommendations based on the observations.

Employee Dress Code – Employee dress code is a projection of the organization's image. In fact, research shows that office dress code has a positive impact on productivity.

Whether it is power dressing, casual tailored formals or casual attire, ICBI-trained consultants carry the knowledge of attire that suits different industries from banking to manufacturing to service industries or departments. Their services include creating the company uniform or drawing up the corporate dress code for employees, including the Friday casual dress code.

The consultants also offer training programs for employees, regarding the rules of your company or industry attire. These training programs can be offered at different levels of the corporate hierarchy – entry level that is, trainees, management cadre, senior level executives, and employees traveling to international locations, sales and service executives as well as front office executives. They also provide individualized services required at the senior levels.

Event Dress Code – ICBI-trained Consultants offer their consulting services towards internal or external conference and event dress code which creates greater recall value and lasting impressions of the event, resulting in higher returns for the marketing rupee spent.

Grooming – The consultants also offer training in grooming either in the form of on-site or off-site group and individual coaching.

Body Language & Etiquette – On-site training from consultants supports internal HR programs, imparting business etiquette to customer-facing employees with exposure to domestic or international situations as well as for back-office employees.

Vocal Communication-ICBI-trained image consultants offer training in vocal communication for front-office staff, streamlining this critical service factor.

Who all are your targeted clients?
Individuals and groups who need image consulting include:

  • High Net worth Individuals

  • Celebrities and their wives

  • Socialites

  • Wealthy Housewives

  • College and University Students looking for success at their first interviews

  • Professionals in different domains – Doctors, Lawyers, Financial Advisors and more

  • People in the Public Eye – like Politicians, Corporate Communications Professionals

  • Service industries like Retail, Hospitality, Airlines, Healthcare

  • HR, Recruitment, Training Companies

  • Consultancy Firms

  • Corporate professionals at different stages of their career

  • Corporations looking towards creating a corporate identity that enhances their corporate image and work ethic, involving code of conduct for different levels, days like Casual Fridays and different occasions

Why does a person need an image consultant? How does this help in career building?
In today's world, practically everyone realizes the need to create a positive first impression. From succeeding at the first job interview, having a successful first meeting, creating a great impression at a new job or role, to having a great first date, success depends on the first impression. Millions of successful people in different spheres of life – corporate executives, lawyers, doctors, other professionals, High Net worth Individuals (HNI), socialites, housewives, celebrity wives and many more recognize that the right image makes people attribute confidence, superior ability and other positive elements to them. It opens doors, giving them access to decision makers, greater success in hiring and salary levels, allowing them to lead satisfied personal, professional and social lives. Hence, rather than leave it to chance, they make a conscious effort to project the right image.

Image consultants can choose among multiple career options to follow the one most suited to them. The options are many more than can be listed:

  • Individual coaching to individuals and companies

  • Group coaching to individuals and companies

  • Corporate image consultants

  • Retail image consultants

  • Specific service – Marriages, Other special occasions

  • Specific target market – Celebrities, Corporate Identity, Service Professionals

  • Specific domain – International travel and interaction

  • Sell a line of clothing or accessory – Hold a show and assist clients in making a personal choice

  • Deliver keynote addresses

  • Write columns and books

  • Teach in community education classes and academic institutions

Is image consulting all about personality development?
Image Management is not personality development, which focuses only on the self, nor is it image makeover or grooming which focus on the outside. It is about managing the "image from the inside out", creating the right image based on the real self (Inside) and projecting it based on the occasion (Outside). As such, it is comprehensive as opposed to personality development which focuses only on the inside, and makeover and grooming which focus solely on the outside. It combines all the different aspects of the person, including the inner self, characteristics, goals, as well as the outer environment, the differing roles and occasions the person undertakes when working towards achieving the image goal.

What are the courses and fee structure of ICBI? What is the duration of the training?

  • Image Consulting Partner Program: Training to be a Image Consultant 9 months with practical assignments, fees come to Rs 2.6 lakh

  • International Program: Training to be image consultant with international exposure. It's a 9- month with practical assignments abroad. Fees total Rs 4 lakh

  • Diploma in Image Management: The course involves intensive classroom sessions of 10 units, for the Foundation and Advanced Learning in addition to Industry Learning through compulsory project requirements with companies. Investment required is Rs 71,695

  • Advanced Diploma in Image Management. An advanced course with a total of 16 Units of curriculum for turning out a well-rounded professional who carries not just technical expertise, but also all the important factors that go into making you a Leader within your chosen profession of Image Management. Total fees come to Rs 1,21,330

Other than professionals do you provide training to graduates/schoolmates? What is the training procedure? Is it in sessions? How long is one session?
We offer training in specific need based requirements: - Job Ready is a comprehensive program on how to project a powerful image and get the best jobs, a higher position and remuneration. Future Adult is a comprehensive program to help every teenager build a powerful image for their future. Marriage Ready is a comprehensive program that helps every girl become marriage ready. Super Housewives is a comprehensive program about how to transform one from a simple Housewife to a Lifestyle Super Housewife. The duration for above courses is 48 -60 hours of guided learning during weekdays, weekends and fast track batches.