Our PR interview series* will visit India today: in our latest interview with Xavier Prabhu, Founder and Chief Mentor of the Indian communication group Businesshubs, you will learn why PR is highly localized in India (as all well-executed international PR efforts should be) and why a lot of overseas companies fail here in their overall marketing and PR strategies. Additionally, you will read about the mobile revolution here and the increasing acceptance of the new communication channels in this market.

* The series is based on phone or face-to-face interviews and written input, therefore please excuse language mistakes which might reflect foreign language influences.

 

1. What is the latest trend (change) in PR you have identified in your region?

Xavier Prabhu: PR has been around in India for three decades now. Today it is not just one of the biggest growth markets for the entire industry on a global scale, but also an exciting market where new lessons are learnt and the boundaries stretched. It is still to get to the levels of the western world but my gut feel is that somewhere it will strike a path of its own and not just follow what the west has done.

The biggest trend we’re seeing across India is a lot of M&A activity, resulting in less independent agencies across the country. A recent example is Publicis Groupe acquiring one of the major Indian agencies. We’re also seeing companies move beyond media relations into new ideas and tools, and I am not only talking about digital or social media.

As a consequence of the extremely dynamic development of certain sectors in India and a buoyant job market where even average talents have multiple options, employer branding and internal communication are gaining traction.

The game changer within Indian economy is going to be mobile. Today we have 650 million mobile connections with 12 million being added every month. 3G is being rolled out and broadband wireless access nationwide is also a reality. A whole lot of innovation is happening driven by this and PR will need to adopt and learn how and where it can fit in or leverage this.

 

2. How does your agency react / handle / embrace this?

XP: We recently created two new brands: MindSpark is focusing on employer branding, marcomm support etc., whereas DialogueS has a focus on online marketing support and social media campaigns. MindSpark already has attained traction and will be spun off as a separate company sometime next year, and if all goes well DialogueS will also by 2012.

Additionally, we are focusing a lot on consulting as all this leads to clutter and often a client needs advice or guidance on how to make sense of this and navigate the waters. That hopefully should be a new brand by 2012 and a new company quickly thereafter.

Altogether, the direction we are heading is for us to become a branding and communication group with multiple specialized brands covering the entire spectrum.

 

3. Can you give a recent example from a project?

XP: For a German insurance giant’s growing IT presence in India, we successfully provided environmental branding support. This is almost like a new advertising campaign, except that it is on the walls and interiors of a facility and targeted at employees working there. There is more to come in this area with this client and also another $110 million IT services firm, where we will be breaking out an environmental branding campaign to create a sense of belonging.

Another idea we are toying with and have yet to make significant progress with is to create our own digital newspaper for all of our clients, and also to communicate the knowledge and thought leadership we have in this area.

With regards to social media, we have done a LinkedIn specific campaign for a leading global industry association in India. We launched a new portal in a niche area to create an ongoing engagement platform targeting embedded engineers for a large US-based engineering MNC. We also conceptualized, launched and transitioned a blog for a leading player in CRM and a vote generating campaign for a leading company from another sector, who was participating in a global contest where online votes count.

 

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Read more about PR in India in part 2 of the interview with PR expert Xavier Prabhu and  learn, why celebrities might not always be the best “ambassadors” for a company entering the Indian market, and why a diligent market segmentation is crucial before targeting Indian customers.

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Xavier Prabhu is the Founder and Chief Mentor of Businesshubs, a fledging branding and communication group with three brands under it: PRHUB (a full services PR firm which is a medium sized agency in the Indian context with dynamic growth), MindSpark (a graphic and interactive design firm) and DialogueS (online and social media support). He is a Board member of one of the largest B-schools in India and is a frequent speaker on topics like branding, marketing communication, PR, social media both in India and overseas. PRHUB, the group’s flagship brand was ranked by Holmes Report as one of the emerging firms out of Asia and ranked by a social media site as Top 2 in HR in India. Xavier regularly writes articles for leading media on various topics and will soon host a chat show in a regional TV channel in India on secrets of successful entrepreneurs. Off work, he loves being father to his two children, traveling, reading and writing.