PrSpeak Jaideep Shergill
Jaideep Shergill
CEO, MSLGroup India
13 Jul 2013
Globally, the industry is at a crossroad. Growth has plateaued in the West and, in some markets, there is a contraction. Asia, on the other hand, is extremely encouraging. The industry is growing fast in India and faster in China. Asia is where the growth and future innovation will come from. In India, the industry will grow at more than 20 per cent for several years.

A Management Graduate with a Master’s degree in International Business, Jaideep Shergill is the currently Chief Executive Officer of MSLGroup India. At MSLGroup India, Shergill is a key member of the Asia Leadership team and also a member of the India Board for MSLGroup. He brings with him rich experience cumulated over 15 years in the banking and communications industries and diverse markets.

Over the years, he has been instrumental in shaping the organisation, and in his current role, he is directly responsible for growth in the India market by giving strategic direction by evaluating the public relations business and consulting with clients.

In this interaction with exchange4media’s Synjini Nandi, Shergill speaks about the global status of the PR industry, latest trends that have been observed in PR and the way forward for MSLGroup India.

Q. How has the first quarter been for the industry? What, according to you, are the important milestones that will define the way forward for MSLGroup India per se now?
It's been a pretty good quarter, given the circumstances. Globally, the slowdown has affected all industries. India, too, has clocked its lowest growth in a decade. In this backdrop, for the industry to grow at 20 per cent is very encouraging.

For the MSLGroup, the growth path has been clear. We believe that playing an increasingly strategic business role for clients, emphasising on an integrated approach and building capabilities in ‘strategic services’ like content, research and insights, public affairs, financial communications and crisis management will be crucial.

Q. Are you happy with the market share that the network holds in India?
We don't reveal specifics like market share, but I can tell you that MSLGroup is India’s leading PR-led integrated communications network. Yes, we are happy and confident that our growth will outpace the growth of the communications pie in India.

Q. Could you share the global outlook on the status/growth of the PR industry in other key markets? Comparatively, how has it evolved in India?
Globally, the industry is at a crossroad. Growth has plateaued in the West and, in some markets, there is a contraction. It is clear that the industry has to reinvent itself for this age of communications and the empowered consumer.

Asia, on the other hand, is extremely encouraging. The industry is growing fast in India and faster in China. Asia is where the growth and future innovation will come from.

In India, the industry will grow at more than 20 per cent for several years. As the economy grows and businesses understand the value of strategic communications, the industry will benefit.

MSLGroup India in January published the findings of a country-wide survey of PR professionals in its report ‘Public Relations in India: Inside the Industry’s Mind and the 2013 Outlook’. The findings showed that while the overall mood within the industry is bright, there is great awareness of the formidable challenges that it faces. For instance, there is an acute talent shortage. As firms scramble for competent people, salaries get inflated. With fees already so low, profitability is affected. This demand-supply gap can only widen over the next few years. If salary costs become prohibitive, PR businesses will suffer.

Q. MSLGroup India launched Social Hive Digital Practice. Could you elaborate some of the elements that are significant for the initiative?
Social Hive, launched last month in India, is our global digital and social media practice. From ad agencies to media agencies to PR agencies and creative digital agencies - everyone is in the fray. Add to this the fact that there is intense fragmentation of the digital industry.

And so the lines are blurring – between social media and digital agencies only because consumers, and therefore the marketers, are asking for more and asking for offerings that are innovative and different. In recognition of this change, MSLGroup Social Hive has evolved from being a social media agency to an integrated digital offering over the last year and is now competing with everyone in the digital and social media landscape.

With the understanding that today clients are seeking integrated solutions to their marketing/ communication challenges and that digital and social capabilities are central parts of idea-based and fully-integrated client communications solutions, MSLGroup Social Hive reinforces the integrated communications solutions offering to clients. And the strategic storytelling approach helps brands create stronger connections and relationships with the consumer. Through purpose driven, consistent narrative, storytelling engages multiple audiences through diverse media. Alongside Social Hive, MSLGroup launched the proprietary Social Hive Index, which benchmarks a company's social engagement and compares it to its peers.

Q. MSLGroup recently launched two executive reports. What is the rationale behind the same?
Our reports are part of a series of thought leadership papers released by MSLGroup India over the past two years. These include reports on diverse subjects such as the opportunities and challenges before the Indian PR industry, 21 years of economic reforms, the impact of drought on FMCG companies, the rise of India’s gay economy, the e-commerce opportunity in India and an analysis of Brand IPL.

One of our strengths is our content and creative capability. It is our endeavour to showcase our expertise through our innovative and clutter-breaking executive reports. It is also an attempt to showcase to the industry, clients and other stakeholders the strategic thought we bring to the table and how it can benefit businesses.

Q. What are some of the latest trends that have been observed in PR? What were the major wins in the year gone by?
Some trends I have described above, but I would add that the changing nature of media has forced us to adapt. Also, with consumers increasingly creating their own content, starting their own conversations and reducing their dependence on media to take purchase decisions, the way we address them is changing.

Lastly, stakeholder trust in one-way communications is ending. Today, it's all about multiple conversations on multiple platforms. As an industry, we have to adapt to that.

Some of our latest wins are Singapore Tourism Board, Lenovo Smart Phones, Sheth Developers & Realtors, Usha International, V-Guard Industries, and PC Chandra Jewellers, to name a few.

Q. What are some of the targets marked ahead of 2013?
Going forward, MSLGroup will focus on cultivating strong talent, strategic services, and the integration of social content and creative to form comprehensive solutions for local and international clients.

MSL India’s strength lies in the fact that we are open to changing times, accepting newer designs, people engagement, specialised communications and the ability to deliver better. We’ve invested in infrastructure – for example, our new office in Mumbai is now home to MSL India, 20:20 MSL and MSLGroup Creative+. We aim to grow stronger in public affairs and digital PR. I would sum up by saying that we recognise that the world is changing fast, and we intend to stay ahead of the curve.

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