'A strong business plan, innovation and timely action can help any firm stay independent'

Kicking off e4m's 'Rising India Series,' Media Mantra Director Udit Pathak talks about the changes in the industry over the past 3 decades, the expansion strategy of the agency, and more,

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Jun 9, 2021 10:46 AM
Udit Pathak

The growth of Public Relations in India has been outstanding since its inception. In fact, Public Relations, as an industry is growing rapidly in the Covid times too due to the escalated need for brand recall and positioning. The Public Relations market is forecasted to reach $130.5 billion globally by 2025, at a CAGR of 10.50% during 2020-2025 along with 12.5% annual growth in the Indian market.

The growing need to gain a competitive advantage is acting as a catalyst for the PR industry in India. This has invariably given rise to the indigenous PR agencies in the country. The remarkable work done by these agencies has been much appreciated by the Indian market, which has also become an indispensable part of the changing media dynamics of the country.

It is noteworthy to highlight the distinctive work done by these independent indigenous PR agencies which have taken the baton forward and made India visible on the world map of Public Relations. In this series called ‘The Rising India,' exchange4media will focus and talk about some of the distinguished Indian PR agencies, how Public relations has evolved in these last 3 decades and how the independent, indigenous work has helped India rise on the global level. 

The first story focuses on a dream project visioned by a young couple with an entrepreneurial bent of mind, Media Mantra. Established in 2012, the organisation, which believes in being boutique and nimble in its approach, is highly process-driven. The agency ranks in the top 10 PR agencies of India with having more than 70 employees. Being the 2nd fastest growing public relations agency in Asia, it has a growth rate of 75% year on year.

Media Mantra has remarkably grown over the years through client and journalist referrals to emerge today as one of the top PR agencies in India. With a 70% client retention rate, the organisation entails a prodigious clientele list, a passionate and experienced team, and a brilliant company trajectory. Currently, the public relations firm represents a wide variety of brands ranging from start-ups, education, BFSI sector, health and corporate giants.

Agency's inventive PR-centric strategies have helped various clients including industry veterans to touch new milestones at a fair pace. Alongside, agency's esteemed proficiency in accelerating start-up visibility today, it has well positioned itself as a must-go-place for startups.

Also, Media Mantra has a section called 'Start-up Mantra' exclusively catering to the needs of start-up clients. This section, incepted in 2014, has lesser commercials involved.

In a one-on-one interaction with exchange4media, Udit Pathak, Director, Media Mantra, spoke about the rise of Media Mantra, key driving factors, changes in the industry over the past 3 decades, staying away from acquisitions and mergers, expansion strategy, and more.

Edited Excerpts:-

How has the PR landscape changed in the last 3 decades for independent and indigenous PR firms?

The PR landscape in India has changed drastically over the last three decades. Not only has the industry witnessed the growth of established firms but various independent firms have also entered the market and have been performing well.

I would also like to highlight that the Indian Public Relations segment is not just restricted to securing media coverage and maintaining media relations of clients anymore. The industry has evolved significantly over the years and the firms have stepped up their game as they now go an extra mile to help brands and start-ups achieve their business objectives.

The viable story pegs are utilized not just for procuring coverage but businesses now use the power of Public Relations and communications so that their brand voice is heard and their messaging is shared with their target audience effectively across multiple channels.

How is the industry evolving with innovation being the key? How are PR agencies coping with it?

It is an undeniable fact that the PR industry has been evolving significantly and with evolution, innovation is complimentary.

Not only have the PR firms incorporated cutting-edge digital solutions in their operations but they are also bringing about innovations in their strategies in order to have an edge in the market especially to sail through the turbulent times of the global pandemic.

In fact, the concept of work from home was one such newly introduced concept in the industry since in pre-pandemic times, PR was all about physical meetings and one on one interactions. But it is now working in the digital space considering that it is the need of the hour and hence all the PR firms are imbibing the same to ensure the operations run seamlessly and to cope up with the changing times.

On the whole, the PR industry has been quite open and flexible to adapt to the changes.

However, the Public Relations industry needs to understand that in the coming times, firms should focus on hiring CCO (Chief Creative Officer) instead of a CEO. I say this because the talent at this position will be able to mentor the firms to tread on the path of innovation and will act as a guidepost on their journey of creativity and storytelling in brand communication.

I sincerely urge the firms to consider this point and make it an important part of their operational strategy because considering innovations in the industry will be the new norm in times ahead; the need for creative storytelling and top-notch communication strategies will rise which only a CCO would be able to suffice.

In the last decades, we have witnessed major acquisitions and mergers between Indian and global agencies. How hard is it to stay independent and expand?

One aspect that I would like to point out here is that being independent isn’t impossible and rather it is an individual choice. One can work as an independent firm and grow exponentially and there could be no other perfect example than our PR industry.

Speaking about our Indian market, we have various independent Public Relations firms who have not only been performing well but have been successful enough to earn the tag of being the ‘leading PR firm’. A name that undoubtedly tops the list is Adfactors PR. Adding to it, even we at Media Mantra are an independent PR and integrated communications firm and have been recognized for rising from the grassroot levels and thriving on our own.

The independent firms in the industry have been strong enough to fight the battles on their own and what could be a better example than the pandemic. A PR firm that can survive during such challenging times will indeed be future-ready for any kind of crisis that lands their way and can survive and grow despite being independent.

Acquisitions and mergers aren't the necessary targets for growth in the PR industry. All it takes is timely steps, a strong business plan, innovations in strategies along with a clear focus on yearly growth and hiring the right talent and any firm can independently maintain its strong presence, its stature, and its position in the PR industry and even expand its presence in both national and international markets!

What is your view on the next 10 years of India as a global leader and an emerging market? How do you see the growth and engagement for the agencies?

Well, the growth of the Public Relations industry and specifically of the independent PR firms will indeed be at a significant pace in the times ahead.

We are presently facing a rough phase right now due to the coronavirus and the situation is uncontrollable. But we have also seen sectors like healthcare, tech, ed-tech, and gaming booming, and owing to these sectors, the Public Relations industry will also flourish.

All we need to do so is just hang in tightly, devise a solid campaign strategy, and be resilient in our approach and indeed PR will rise and shine just like never before.

Adding to it, I strongly feel that campaigns like Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Vocal for Local will push the local manufacturing market and the rise in petrol prices will lead to the increased preference for EVs and hence the demand for PR will also increase.

The PR industry will also foray into these unexplored and non-prominent segments which will grow in the coming times and with them, the need for state-of-the-art and innovative communication solutions and robust Public Relations strategies will also grow.

Some of the agencies have expanded and have offices globally. Do you see Indian agencies going abroad and acquiring local agencies?

While I am not sure about Indian firms acquiring local firms abroad but I am sure that Indian PR firms will be keen to expand their footprints at the global level now. The concept of work from home will indeed be a blessing in disguise in such scenarios as we no longer need physical offices for work.

All we need is a good talent who can manage all the operations, constant communication, strong organisational strategies and business model, and we can easily have a global presence.

In fact, we had plans to open physical offices of Media Mantra in the international market in the year 2020 but due to the pandemic, we had to pause all our strategies and deals. Of course, we will resume our plan to enter the global markets using the power of remote working as and when the situation will be feasible. 

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