Communication firms should be focused on their expertise & results: Atul Ahluwalia

Atul Ahluwalia, Founding Partner at First Partners talks about the journey of his entrepreneurial venture, lessons learnt, future plans and more

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jul 23, 2020 10:44 AM
first partner

First Partners, one of the youngest and fastest-growing PR firms in India, recently completed four years in the public relations industry. Strengthened by a cohesive network across the country (Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai) and strong ties with prominent media platforms, First Partners has become one of the most awarded PR consultancies of the country.

Commenting on the occasion, Atul Ahluwalia, Founding Partner at First Partners shared, “Personalized attention to client needs, focus on high quality of work and strategic interventions are the hallmarks of what has made First Partners among the most awarded firms in a short span of time”.

 Exchange4media caught up with Atul Ahluwalia as he let us in on their four-year journey, lessons learnt, future plans and more.

 Edited Excerpts:-

 How has the four years journey been? What were the key lessons learnt along the way?

These last four years have been one filled contentment that comes from seeing your creation take root, sprout, and gradually grow from strength to strength. In spite of being a late entrant in a field teeming with established, well-known names and brands, I am happy to say today, that First Partners has succeeded in creating its niche in the industry. We have the best of people and the finest clients that have made all this possible.

 Along the way, we have understood many things and learnt still more. One essential aspect of business, which we hope to have firmly grasped during these last few years of our existence, has been the undeniable power of focus. Communication firms or any service-oriented agency need to be focused on their expertise and results.

We have also realized the critical importance of both creativity in everything we do, and of productive, directed innovation in all we achieve. This credo lies at the heart of our organizational DNA and uplifts and enthuses each aspect of our work—be it internal or external.

 How did the genesis of "First Partners" take place? What was the basic purpose and ideation behind the establishment?

First Partners is a response to the relatively unserved need of business leaders who are looking to solve their business problems with the potent tool of communications. Consequently, we intended our agency to be the first port of call for organizations who were looking at the highest quality of support as well as personal attention to their often nuanced yet extremely critical business requirements.

 Contextually, with our individual professional exposures as leaders in our respective fields, the founders understood that clients really appreciate—and need—personal, bespoke solutions and undivided attention. Unfortunately, the business imperatives as they are today may not permit most firms to do this. Hence, the idea of First Partners was born.

 All along, our purpose and mission has been to work with a finite yet premium set of clients where our senior management time could be fully deployed. We hoped to go deep into problem-solving areas and really help clients in achieving their stated business goals. Using innovation, something we have always taken a lead on in the country, First Partners is helping its clients with insight-driven, data-supported strategic and tactical advisories ever since its inception.

 Essentially, First Partners is a pioneering CXO firm with complete focus on, not impotent outputs, but on superior and impactful outcomes. The response to this gives us an unadulterated, single-focus outlook on the clients’ business goals and priorities. Using this as the true-north, First Partners’ team deep dives into all the possible relevant data available to arrive at insights which go into the formation of determinant strategies.   

 How has been your experience as an entrepreneur? How is the scenario different on the other side of the table?

Both professionally, and on a personal note too, this has been a gratifying journey for me. It is important at this point to underscore this is an ongoing journey, we still have unseen leagues to cover. I believe that while starting all anew might seem to be forbidding, if not intimidating, for some, in my case it was a continuation in many ways. There has always been for me the personal comfort of my old and trusted colleagues with whom I had the honour of commencing on this new venture—to quote Tennyson, “Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me.”

 Being the captain of your ship, as an entrepreneur, gives you the flexibility and the independence to step out and beyond, and boldly undertake challenges, which you feel are important to make your brand work and triumph. Of course, having a great team and a killer of an idea—our BOC© model helped immensely.

The true satisfaction that comes to one as an entrepreneur as varied from an employee is that al your shortcomings are yours alone—as are your achievements. For us at First Partners, becoming the most awarded and recognized new agency, and the freedom that we now have in chiselling our destiny—that is what makes me want to get out of bed and go to work each morning. 

 What are the changes that you have witnessed along the way in the PR industry?

 A lot has evolved—most of it good, undoubtedly—in the time I have been privileged to spend in our communications industry. For starters, it is nice to have whole many campaign-focused strategies which now dominate our industry. A look at the various award citations is enough to prove this fact where an ever-increasing number of firms are winning all due to their impressive campaigns for their clients. 

Secondly, digital has evolved from being an addendum to an enabler. This is particularly true today during the COVID crisis and I believe that all things digital—from design, to planning to execution—is now going to be the rule rather than the odd exception. 

Thirdly, and in a good sense, there has been a burgeoning influx of professionals with a journalistic or media background into our communications industry. This has led to a definite rise in both the quality and the volume of good content to the benefit of our sector in totality. I understand that this may be an effect of the media downsizing currently underway, but as long as this is to the gain and advantage of our industry, I think it is a win-win for all concerned. 

Fourthly, and finally, since a sure sign of great evolution is specialization, within the communications industry too, a number of task and domain focused agencies have emerged and are doing fairly well in many cases. Consequently, there are niche communication firms, which are focusing on such verticals as start-ups, lifestyle, BFSI, political support, and of course, tech. 

What are your expansion plans? How has COVID experience shaped your communication strategy?

 In the coming months, we are looking at building on our core strengths and taking them to such under-represented areas such as Public Affairs.

 We are also keenly working on augmenting our digital offerings in a major way and this should become a primary direction of our future plans in many ways. This is both learning from our client expectations and a response to the current pandemic crisis we are facing.

 As an agency with a strong and robust focus on business outcomes, we plan to take this strength to the next level by developing our programs on leadership and CEO equity in a very rigorous and intellectually oriented manner.

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