Instilling a new corporate culture through board game sessions

Updated: Oct 15, 2017, 12:26 IST | Kusumita Das

The Board Game Company, a Mumbai-based startup that takes next generation board games to corporates to aid employee training, team building, stress management and, sometimes, just fun

A couple of months ago, the managing director of a foreign consultancy firm based in Mumbai was concerned that his employees weren't mingling with each other. On the surface they seemed cordial, but there were undercurrents of hostility. "It's a young company, where all employees are between 25 and 35 years old. The MD wanted to instill motivation and a feeling of positivity," says Jill Veera, of The Board Game Company, a Mumbai-based startup that takes next generation board games to corporates to aid employee training, team building, stress management and, sometimes, just fun.

Jill and Kunal Veera founded The Board Game Company in June
Jill and Kunal Veera founded The Board Game Company in June 

"We designed a six-game session for the firm, one per month. When the aim is to bring in transformation, we need a longer programme. In the first two sessions, we observed that people were distanced from each other. There was very little communication happening between departments. We had broken the team into groups, and, people would request us to put them in other groups where they could latch on to their friends," says Jill. The objective of the sessions was not known to the employees. "By the third session, the change was palpable. People started telling us how the environment in their office had become livelier. They had also begun to hang out with each other."

The startup that launched in June was founded by Jill and her husband Kunal Veera, also a board game enthusiast. The couple has held over 50 sessions since and have 100 games in their repertoire of which two games -- Bazaar and Gespo -- they've designed themselves. The former is a game of barter while the latter is a game of gestures. "The awareness of next generation board games in India is very low, even in cities like Mumbai. People don't know much beyond Monopoly, Business, Game of Life etc. There's a perception that board games are serious business. We wanted to create some warm-up games to get people into the groove. Hence, Bazaar and Gespo," Jill says, adding that both games are crowd favourites.

The team works closely with the respective HR departments to design a session. "Most HR teams tell us that employees are distanced from each other. We ensure that departments play together and the games are such that you will need to rely on your team to make the next move," she adds. It's vital to analyse an objective to select the games for the session. "The objective could be team building, resource management, or even addressing an issue through games. Understanding your target audience is critical. For instance, for a film production company, the focus would be on creative games as opposed to strategic games for a finance firm."

Jill and Kunal tied the knot in February this year. "Board games are Kunal's lifeline. Ours was an arranged marriage and I remember for our first meeting itself, he took me for a board game session. It was an important aspect for him to gauge our compatibility," she laughs. Hailing from corporate backgrounds, they were familiar with the usual team-building exercises companies engage in. "There are monthly dinners, quarterly off-sites, where people mostly hang out with those they were close to. The lines stay intact still. Nothing breaks barriers more seamlessly than a board game session. It's the easiest and most fun organic conversation generator."

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