Interview with Xavier Prabhu, Founder of PR HUB India.
How would you characterize the PR business in your country/region? Have there been any significant changes in the past few years?
I would characterize the PR business in India as being in between the second or third stage of evolution if we were to take the US as at the fourth stage. The key trends that we see are:
- outbound work out of India is likely to leap as Indian companies go global with a vengeance acquiring and establishing presence in markets overseas; infact this will change the contours since it then positions India not as a market for local PR services but a market where global PR itself originates;
- more and more maturing of the local industry with the processes and systems getting more aligned to the global ones;
- increased footprint of the large global players in India and most large and medium firms getting aligned to some global network or the other over a period of time;
- the large global players unless they grow inorganically cannot dominate the marketplace in India for some time to come due to variety of reasons;
- there will be some attempts at vertical focus though it has not been a successful model in India;
- the fee levels will raise in India to global levels or at least closer to it
Are there specific challenges that are exclusive to your country/region in terms of PR and communications work?
Talent – the first and the biggest will be the scale of the people issue that the industry faces. The industry at some level is going to see 300-400% growth which is placing enormous pressure on the HR side of the firms. There is acute shortage at the entry level despite new institutions springing up and despite salary levels increasing significantly which is going to worsen over the near future; this is going to drive many firms to sheer desperation and see quality of hiring being the worst impacted. In the middle level too there is going to be pressure as people arrive there through quick and often hasty promotions probably ill-equipped to do the best at that level; this has two implications – they are not going to be able to provide the right kind of leadership and training to the new joinees who inturn will be disappointed and leave in droves complicating already a big challenge.
Business – the immense growth in business is going to result in mushrooming of new PR firms which will further commoditize the lower end/media relations part of work done by public relations firms. They will also bring significant price pressure onto the bigger firms. The growth in business will not allow the firms to make investment in business or processes as much as they would love to leading to some kind of drop in delivery and quality of services; the clients will start doing a roulette on the PR firms.
What sectors provide the most opportunity for business and growth in your country/region?
Retail, FMCG, Telecom, HR, Professional Services, Banking & financial services, Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals, Engineering, Manufacturing, Aviation, IT / B2B Tech, BPO and Automotive.
If the list looks large and almost like every sector possible, well, at the rate Indian economy is growing it would be a surprise if no sector is part of this growth story.
How much of the business out of your office is truly global in scope?
20 – 30%.
How would you describe the local media scene? How has it changed? What media outlets are especially important to you, from both a local and global perspective?
Chaotic, unpredictable and in some patches increasingly commercial. There is explosion of media vehicles and options and while that is good news for a company or a PR firm it is not so as there is lack of direction or differential editorial focus between many of them leading to clutter. In some groups, there is also increasing attempts to link business news and related information to some sort of commercial consideration which is a new challenge which may or may not be unique to this region.
The media most important varies from client to client, market to market but for most corporate clients the media of priority in the order are:
- Business and mainline English dailies
- Business and mainline magazines
- Electronic media
- TV channels
- Leading trade magazines
- Vernacular dailies
- Vernacular magazines
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