Top 20 communications professionals to watch out for in 2021
exchange4media presents the heroes of the industry who work behind the scenes
The pandemic has redefined the Indian Public Relations & Corporate Communications industry. It gave the abstract face of storytelling a new identity and purpose. Guiding organisations through effective communication strategies during these trying times were the skilled communicators.
The industry is a mixed bag of professionals from different verticals who have been continuously contributing to the industry with their immense knowledge and expertise. exchange4media has recognized 20 such faces from the industry who have worked relentlessly during the course of time to make a mark in the industry.
The names are not as per any ranking and are purely the editorial discretion of the exchange4media group.
Samir Kapur- Adfactors PR
Dr. Samir Kapur is part of the senior management team at Adfactors PR. He works in the capacity of a Director and heads the New Delhi branch. He has more than 25 years of experience in field of corporate communications, investor relations and strategic planning. Prior to Adfactors PR, Samir had served as head of corporate communications at Fullerton India and ESPN Star Sports-India. He also gained rich PR industry experience at consultancy firms such as Vaishnavi and Perfect Relations.
Samir's strength lies in multiple specialities including strategising communication across verticals, external and internal communication, media relations, marketing communication and business analytics and intelligence, crisis communication, and public affairs and government engagement. He is equally adept at conceptualising Digital/Social Media Campaigns for clients across various sectors.
He is an engineer with MBA in finance and marketing. Samir has also equipped himself with 2 PhDs in M&A from AMU in executive doctorate in business management (2005)and one in International Relations & Public Affairs from University of Azteca ( 2020).
Girish Huria- AvianWE
Girish Huria is executive vice president of Growth and New Initiatives at Avian WE in India. In his role, he is responsible for developing and executing corporate marketing efforts, leading new business initiatives and overseeing the company’s business in South India.
With two decades of experience as a communications counsellor, Girish has deep expertise in reputation management, public affairs and crisis communications. Prior to returning to Avian WE in 2019, Girish served as president at Ketchum Sampark. Before that, he was head of corporate communication and CSR at eBay India. He first joined Avian Media (now Avian WE) in 2010 as the agency’s chief operating officer, leading business acquisitions, client service and agency strategy. Throughout his career, Girish has worked in the manufacturing, technology, telecom, consumer, financial services and health care sectors, spearheading award-winning campaigns for companies such as Boeing, Capgemini, Ford, MTV, NASSCOM, PepsiCo and Vodafone to name a few.
Santanu Gogoi – First Partners
Santanu Gogoi is one of the Founding Partners of First Partners. With over 18 years of experience in the public relations industry, he has been at the helm of several tough media assignments during these years. He has extensively managed crisis situations for clients, turning media skeptics into advocates based on fact-based engagement. He understands the Indian national as well as regional media landscape, having managed intense campaigns across the length and width of the country. His experience straddles managing media programmes across a multitude of industry sectors such as Consumer, Corporate, Automobile, Aviation, Defense, Healthcare etc.
Earlier, Santanu worked with Weber Shandwick India for close to 14 years, leaving the firm as its Vice President & Head of Corporate Practice. He joined First Partners as a Founding Partner following the acquisition of his venture by First Partners.
At First Partners, Santanu is deeply involved in shaping the media strategy for the firms’ clients, as well as leveraging media insights to bring to life award winning campaigns.
Rafi Khan – Fleishman Hillard
Recognised as one of the top 100 Influential Game Changers by Exchange4Media, Rafi Khan has over 20 years of extensive experience in developing and implementing communication strategy in line with the business objectives, media and brand management.
A certified A.R.C Crisis Counsellor and Manager, he has extensive experience in managing communication for law firms, manufacturing, education, automotive sector to telecom giants, consumer to healthcare.
He also has held senior management positions in global consultancies and corporate, have guided and trained business leaders of fortune 500 companies on communication issues, built award winning campaigns and also handled several crisis across industries. Rafi has worked with organizations like Perfect Relations, Archetype, Cohn and Wolfe, Weber Shandwick and Fleishman Hillard.
Rekha Rao- Zeno Group
With more than 20 years experience, Rekha Rao, Managing Director at Zeno Group has worked across sectors in communication including advertising, corporate communications, marketing communications, public relations, events, and business development.
Her current role as Managing Director for Zeno, India, is centred around growing the brand and driving its purpose in India. Prior to taking on this role, Rekha has worked with 2020 MSL.
Rekha specializes in driving large-scale Consumer Campaigns, Influencer led programmes, Stakeholder relationships, Public Relations, Consumer Outreach Programmes, Corporate/ Brand Responsibility Programmes, Brand Communications, Public Affairs, Crisis Comms, Consumer Advocacy.
(From Left to Right- Samir Kapur, Girish Huria, Santanu Gogoi, Rafi Khan and Rekha Rao)
Bhavna Jagtiani- Edelman
Bhavna is the Chief Operating Officer at Edelman India. In her communications career spanning nearly two decades, Bhavna has worked for some of the biggest and most admired Indian and global brands. Bhavna has held several leadership roles at Edelman. In 2012, she was posted in Edelman Hong Kong for two years where she led the Consumer business through a period of business growth. She led regional campaign planning and consumer programming for clients such as Starbucks, Sunkist, LinkedIn, WeChat and award-winning consumer work for IKEA. Before moving to Edelman Hong Kong in 2012, Bhavna co-led the Consumer Practice at Edelman India.
Bhavna’s overall experience includes managing corporate and brand communications programmes for leading MNCs and providing counsel to clients on brand positioning, media programmes, market entries, brand marketing communications, crisis and issues management and communications skills training.
Noopur Sharma- PR Pundit
Noopur is a result-oriented leader with 17 years of experience in brand communications. She is a Partner Director at PR Pundit, based in Mumbai. She can be credited for building a formidable reputation for PR Pundit as a leading communications specialist for lifestyle brands in India.
Noopur is driven by creativity and has curated numerous award-winning campaigns in the fashion, lifestyle and retail segments. Her relentless passion and enthusiasm define her professional persona. She has significantly contributed to the firm’s growth by on-boarding a marquee list of client and profitably developing the Consumer Lifestyle practice. She has been responsible for consistently increasing the contribution from the Mumbai region to the revenue of PR Pundit. The Consumer Lifestyle practice contributes more than 25% of PR Pundit’s billing.
Noopur can be credited to establishing PR Pundit as a front runner in the lifestyle practice by securing awards across PR platforms for client programmes.
Karan Punia – Six Degrees BCW
Karan Punia, Managing Director at Six Degree BCW, comes with nearly 20 years of communications experience across sectors with a focus on the technology industry including the telecommunications, IT and internet domains. He actively consults on mandates for building brands, product and sales support, reputation management and crisis mitigation among others.
Punia started his professional journey with Perfect Relations as an Image Associate. He later worked with Text 100 for more than nine years and rose to the rank of Senior Consultant to finally joining Six Degrees BCW 11 years back. He has worked with brands including Google, PepsiCo, Maersk, IKEA, Nokia, British Telecom, Cisco, Motorola, NASSCOM, Tupperware and Virgin Mobile among others.
Sunil Nair- Concept PR
A post graduate in Marketing management for the St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, an entrepreneur by heart, Sunil has over 20 years of experience in corporate and High Tech PR and Marketing Communications. As an Executive Director at Concept PR has risen through the ranks to lead business developments and operations in India for Concept PR in a span of 6 years.
Sunil has worked across sectors including Automobiles, Banking , Cement, Engineering , Education, Financial services , Healthcare and others. He loves to stay fit and is an avid lover of documentaries and followers of main stream politics.
Amardeep Singh – Gutenberg
Amardeep manages Gutenberg’s operations driving seamless running of accounts across its global offices. A leader, with over two decades of experience in Consumer Finance, General Insurance Logistics, Marketing & Communications among others. In a decade long stint with Gutenberg, Amardeep has played a pivotal role in organization building—wearing multiple hats across Finance, Business Development, Servicing, HR, and Administration. He has been an integral part of the journey that led to Gutenberg’s transformation into a global digital marketing communications agency.
Before Gutenberg, Amardeep held diverse roles in Transport & Banking Financial & Insurance Sector. He has also worked in a non-banking financial company and was an underwriter for general risks in the insurance sector.
(From Left to Right- Bhavna Jagtiani, Noopur Sharma, Karan Punia, Sunil Nair and Amardeep Singh)
Schubert Fernandes – MSL
With over 20 years of work experience in the communications and public relations business, Schubert Fernandes, Executive Director – MSL India has imparted counsel to a host of clients and corporates in India and the Middle East. A MSL veteran, he has been with the firm for over 17 years.
Schubert’s areas of expertise cut across Corporate Reputation, while his experience spans the integrated communications spectrum. He has also spent good time building B2B brands while also driving the Corporate & Brand Citizenship practice. Currently, Schubert leads client development and growth nationally for MSL and is based out of the Mumbai office.
Shashikant Somweshar, Current Global
In a career spanning over twenty years, Someshwar has led many successful, high-profile communications campaigns across a diverse blue-chip client set. He was previously Vice President at Perfect Relations before joining Current Global as SVP, Business Operations, APAC and Managing Director, India.
From consulting CXO’s of global companies on corporate image to designing successful brand campaigns and building an army of communication professionals, Shashi has been one of the foundation pillars of the communication landscape that exists in India today.
Kavita Lakhani – Lintas Live
Kavita Lakhani, Executive Director, Lintas Live, comes with 25 years of experience in the Public Relations industry. She has been a profit centre head at Lintas since 2003. Since then, Lintas’ PR business has more than quadrupled in size and retained a significant double-digit margin. Recruiting & career development for the firm’s greatest asset, its talent, are among Kavita’s chief responsibilities. Kavita’s analytical ability to use research to uncover key audience motivators/barriers, gives her insight into framing effective campaign strategies. Her expertise in brand building, message development, public education, crisis management using social/traditional media, make her a sought-after senior counselor.
She has worked at Ogilvy PR and Weber Shandwick, prior to Lintas.
Abhishek Gulyani- Hill and Knowlton Strategies
Abhishek is Chief Executive Officer of Hill + Knowlton Strategies India. With almost two decades of experience in the communications field, he has led many roles during his career that have added value to clients, built and protected reputation of companies and developed creative engagement strategies that make a difference.
In the past, Gulyani has also managed Public Affairs and Communications for American Express in India and South Asia Region. He led the communication strategy for their global corporate payments and travel business.
He is a theatre-enthusiast, a cricketer and an avid reader.
Jyotsna Nanda – Perfect Relations
Jyotsna Nanda comes with nearly 19 years of experience in public relations consultancy and marketing communications for clients involving crisis communications, media relations, media training, internal communications, editorial writing for a wide range of industries including consumer durable, banking and finance, services industry, technology, automotive, healthcare and education verticals.
She has worked with agencies like Hanmer & Partners, Brodeur India , Candour Communications before joining Perfect Relations as Branch Director in 2014.
She has also had a brief stint - a year and about three months with The Times of India, Lucknow reporting on health and civic issues.
(From Left to Right- Schubert Fernandes, Shashikant Someshwar, Kavita Lakhani, Abhishek Gulyani and Jyotsna Dash)
Sudeep Purkasyastha- Jindal
A communications strategist and leader with over two decades of diverse work experience across the entire corporate communications, reputation management and brand communications spectrum while working with some of the largest business houses of the country namely Reliance Industries Limited, Tata Group and Adani Group.
In his current role, he is the Executive Vice President and Head- Group communications and Corporate Brand at Jindal Steel and Power Ltd.
Shubham Mukherjee, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance
A former business journalist, Mukherjee is a media, brand and reputation management professional. In a career spanning around 25 years, he has handled journalism, corporate communication and marketing portfolios.
He leads Communications for ICICI Prudential Life Insurance. Earlier, he was associated with Bain & Company as Head- Marketing, Corporate Communication and Editorial. Before his four-year-long association with Bain & Company, Mukherjee was with The Times of India as the National Business Editor and has a decade and half of experience at The Economic Times in different editorial roles.
Abhinav Srivastava, SPAG Asia & D Y Elephant
MBA Marketing, outgoing and self-motivated with over 19+ years of expertise in creating and executing marketing, branding, advertising, and public relations campaigns that propel brands to success. Abhinav Srivastava joined SPAG as COO – India from Avian WE where he was the Group Business Director, managing integrated marketing and communications strategies across sector clients and handling the firm’s business priorities in India. He has previously been a part of leadership teams at Edelman India, Comma Consulting and Rediffusion Y&R in a career spanning nearly two decades with enriched experience of public affairs, business development, corporate strategy, CSR, financial & investor relations, crisis management and marketing & digital communications across sectors.
Bhanu Arora, Metro
Bhanu Arora is a seasoned Public Affairs professional with around two decades of experience working closely with Government (State & Central) strengthening advocacy to mitigate direct and indirect challenges of largest corporate brands of the country for both Indian as well as Multinational companies.
Arora is presently working as the Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications at METRO Cash and Carry India Private Limited. Previously, he has been part of leadership teams at Pernod Ricard India, Cairn India Ltd , Reliance and Perfect Relations.
Ashim Gupta- Uber
Ashim Gupta started his career by publishing a magazine on Interiors and Lifestyle titled " Good Living". Managed the magazine for 4 years before moving on to a communication profile in a US Based Environment and Engineering consulting firm " Tetra Tech". He currently works as the Head Consumer and Technology Communications, India and South Asia at Uber.
He has over 24 years of experience of working across different organizations including Minda, Max India and Max Healthcare, BCCL, General Motors and others.
Gupta specialized in Brand Management, Corporate Communications, Media Relations, Client Servicing, Business Development .
(From Left to Right- Sudeep Purkayastha, Shubham Mukherjee, Abhinav Srivastava, Bhanu Arora and Ashim Gupta)
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