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The independent firm – endangered or thriving?

18-March-2011
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The independent firm – endangered or thriving?

In an age of global collaborations and strategic acquisitions, independent firms are wooed actively. What is the future like for them? Can they hold their own against conglomerates with deep pockets and clout?

For Achal Paul, Director, Buzz Communications Ltd, there were two sides to the story. While independent firms had greater control over their operations and resources, a larger group offered the financial stability and better infrastructure.

Sunil Agarwal, MD, 2020 MSL, formerly 2020 Media prior to the acquisition by MSL, said, “We are happy with the acquisition. A lot of firms will be moving in that direction.” Speaking on the advantages of the acquisition, he said that it had offered access to a large intranet and also resources.

Disagreeing with this, N Chandramouli, CEO, Blue Lotus, asserted, “Blue Lotus will remain independent for the next decade or more.” He added that independent or part of a larger group, what mattered was innovation. Independent firms were a show of true grass root entrepreneurship, according to him. He further said, “There is a symbiotic bondage between independent and the larger agency.”

Nitin Mantri, CEO, Avian Media, noted that there were advantages in both. An independent agency had greater control over creativity and was more nimble, he said, pointing out that there were enough global firms too that were independent. He added that industry dynamics also drove growth.

Meanwhile, laying down some ground realities, Chandramouli admitted that it was easy running an independent firm. They were permanently looking for a larger growth, resources were not easily available. “PR is an enormous challenge,” he said, adding, “Degree of fatigue is far greater in PR.”

Comparing the independent firms with larger entities, Arvind Agrawal, CEO, Atherstone Investor Communications Ltd, said smaller firms were niche, whereas larger ones were general. Small firms offered customised solutions while the larger entities offered one-size-fits-all solutions. According to him, “If there is threat to the dilution of the core values, then it is better to remain independent. Security and system orientation are needed by the small agencies in India more than the money.”

Chandramouli, too, felt that till the time there was drive and newness, it was better to be independent. In combining with a larger entity, there would be compromises that need to be made. “You will only sell once, you can’t sell again and again, hence, it is important to hold out for as long as you can,” he advised.

The industry experts were speaking at the second exchange4media India PR and Corporate Communications Conference, which was held in Delhi on March 16, 2011. Achal Paul moderated this session, which was titled ‘The Independent Firm: Is it an endangered species?’.

The Conference was presented by Adfactors Public Relations. CVB News Service was the co-sponsor. Eikona was the measurement partner, while ISB&M School of Communication was the academic partner. Insights were provided by Penn Schoen Berland.
 

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