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Future of Indian Independent PR Agencies

Recently I had an opportunity to visit the newly opened office of Adfactors PR, one of India’s largest PR agencies and was amazed seeing the magnificent set-up. It seems that it is probably the largest single location office of a PR agency, anywhere in the world. The office boosts of all modern amenities that one would wish for, such as a library, a cafeteria that can accommodate 100 people at a time, a fully equipped gymnasium, indoor games facilities, yoga training, a doctor on call, a green zone in a large open terrace and most importantly an inhouse banquet hall for press conferences, specially designed keeping in mind technical requirements of the broadcast media. The new office reflects the confidence & conviction of one PR agency in the future of the PR business in India and certainly a matter of pride for the Indian PR industry.

Unarguably the PR scene in India is going through a huge transformation. Just about 15 years back, only couple of so called PR agencies operated armed with their fax machines and had employed few foot warriors, who’s job used to distribute press releases on behalf of the clients they were servicing, either by personally meeting the journalists or faxing the same to them. Today India has become one of the most sought after market for the world’s biggest names in the PR business. Most of them have already entered India few years back or finalizing their plans to foray into India.

This has brought the wave of change in the Indian PR business; many independently owned PR agencies either merged themselves with their International partners or have been acquired completely by the international biggies. The message was clear either raise your standards or leave the business. Clients going global and MNCs entering India, demanded more strategic inputs rather than just media clippings.

At one hand international PR agencies bring in more theoretical, data and analysis driven approach and on the other hand there are independent Indian origin agencies bringing in their strong understanding of India’s socio-economic-politico culture of Indian and long experience of working with the Indian media.

Many International PR agencies have been in India for over a decade now, but only very few could make India their profit center (ofcourse not comparable to their other office in US and other developed markets). Some of the reasons could be that it is very difficult to come to terms with the retainer fees offered to them by Indian clients, which largely hovers around 1 Lakh to 1.5 Lakh barring only handful of clients who pay in the range of 5 Lakh to 10 Lakh. Another reason could be that Indian companies gauge their PR success based on their visibility they get in the media, while international PR agencies focus more on strategic business outcomes, but if the strategy, ultimately does not deliver into visibility then it does not make any sense to the Indian clients. Large volume of clients (about 80%) are comfortable paying the retainer fees in the above 1 to 2 Lakh rupees, which is too small as compared to their international payouts, which is in the range of minimum $15000  to $20000.

On the other hand select independent Indian agencies have not only survived the global meltdown and takeover wave but have also grown stupendously when the world was going through the extended downturn.  They are not only growing but are also investing in strengthening their offerings and talent base.

The good news in all this is the opportunity for Indian talent and the promise it holds for thousands of PR professionals working across India. At the end of this tug-of-war, there holds a bright future for Indian professionals to learn and grow in the highly elevated professional organizations. While PR markets across the developed world is at a very matured level, India holds a lot of promise for the business to grow by leaps and bounds. But it is also true that there is an urgent need for investing in the quality of talent available in India.

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