"The PR industry in India needs to take strategic initiatives at the industry level where PR as a concept should be made to understand to the businesses at large along with the benefits and measurability of it"
In 2014, while working in the corporate communications and branding department, Chirag Bagaria, Director, Ace Proton Communications & Digital Media Private Limited, during a stint with a creative and digital agency, coined the idea to pave his path of an entrepreneurial journey.
It all started from a little space in his uncle's office and with a few likeminded people who came together to initiate a PR firm that covers innumerable functions and services of the communications spectrum. The company today offers valued services like social media management, influencer marketing, conceptualising and executing turn-key event properties, etc. Chirag strongly feels that the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the country is growing by leaps and bounds, and is grateful to our Hon. PM Shri Narendra Modi and his team for focussing on developing entrepreneurship in the country.
In an exhilarating conversation with the visionary, The CEO Magazine grabbed a chance to talk more about the company, his plans, trends, industrial shift, technology, ecosystem and more;
TCM: How do you decide the best way of reaching the end-user, what's your preferred medium?
Chirag: We are happy that clients these days have started realising the value of boutique PR agencies over larger agencies which have become timeworn. We are smaller, faster and positive; just like our name Proton. Our teams are agile and work as an in-house team for the brands. We research the perception that the brand has built over a period of time, we also analyse the kind of response it has been able to garner from the media and then target geographies. Once this is done, our planning and intelligence team map out the right and qualitative media outlets for the brand. We have successfully completed many campaigns on various mediums like print, digital, radio and television.
TCM: Do the growing market trends and competition pressure tense you?
Chirag: Not at all, in fact, our smaller size gives us the nimbleness to identify and respond to market trends quickly. India is such a huge market and we feel that the benefits and importance of PR services and consulting have not been understood and utilised by all the businesses effectively. Some companies and start-ups also have burnt their hands while working with fly by night operators and freelancers. Inspiring confidence in them by helping them measure the ROI on PR will help genuine PR firms bring back these companies in the market.
TCM: What problem does your firm solve that the business cannot by itself?
Chirag: We structure our solutions around the problems that businesses can seldom solve by themselves. Every client comes to us with a specific business problem; however there a handful of common concerns like:
TCM: What are the challenges that your company faces in the present scenario?
Chirag: The entire industry is facing a challenge in the form of getting good personnel to run the show. Since personnel are also the greatest cost to PR firms, it is particularly important to unlock the value of this essential asset through proper training. We believe the current syllabi of the mass media and graduate courses are not structured to make the graduates understand the nuances of the job and there is an erratic emphasis on PR tools versus process or tactical skills in the courses. To solve this, we now have accepted to be on the board of studies of a couple of institutions from where we regularly hire people and are jointly developing programs that combine the needs of the industry and the academia. It is a great start and we believe that people are our most vital resource.
TCM: What is your current business model for a strategically designed PR service?
Chirag: We follow the classic services agency model. First, and the more widely prevalent one is the retainer ship model, where the agency signs up an annual contract with the client, with the mandate to handle everything to do with their reputation – media relations, crisis management, brand and corporate PR, etc. The second method is a one-off service model; the agency here is engaged for a specific event, to manage the media relations. The revenue is mutually agreed as a fixed amount, depending on the kind of work warranted pre and post-event. This is a short-term engagement.
TCM: What nature of clients are you associated with?
Chirag: We are associated with clients across the sectors and every organization size. Be it large corporate, SMEs, start-up firms, individuals from the politics and entertainment background; we have a mixed bag of clients.
TCM: What's on the cards for your PR firm?
Chirag: There are many things on the anvil in 2020. To begin with, we are initiating two events IPs. These will be executed by the third quarter of FY2020-21. Also, we are increasing the services profile, so that existing clients can be offered more services. We are planning to introduce a special package for political clients encompassing online reputation management, social media management, PR, event management, etc.
TCM: If I was your client, why would I choose you over your peers?
Chirag: I would say this to any prospective client; choose any agency based on their understanding of the consumers and the media. At Proton Communications, we lay emphasis on research. After understanding the client needs, we request a minimum of 8 days to present the first cut of our plan. The 8-day period is spent heavily on the ration of 70:30; 70% for research and 30% for media intelligence and chalking out solutions. This combined with our strengths makes us a formidable business partner that any brand would like to partner with.
TCM: With such a fast-growing team, how do you make sure everybody stays motivated?
Chirag: Teams are one of the best ways to get things done in any business. When you take a group of independently talented people and create a team in which they can merge their talents, not only will a remarkable amount of energy and creativity be released, but their performance, loyalty and engagement will be greatly improved. We have built a team-oriented structure, they are assigned goals and are encouraged to be informal; this helps in cross-training employees and eventually offers better opportunities for self-development.
TCM: What are the achievements and awards earned by the company?
Chirag: We as a company earlier never believed in the concept of awards; as a result of which we never participated in any awards by ourselves in the last 5 years. A smile on the face of the client and a pat on our back has been our biggest achievement. However, last year we got the Philip Kotler Award for upcoming PR Agency in India and Indian Women Achievers Award to one of our female directors for Outstanding Leadership in PR Fraternity.
TCM: How do you ensure quality and accountability in the corporate structure?
Chirag: In the services sector, it will be difficult for any firm to survive if it constantly does not improve quality and accountability. In this world of hyper-competition, everyone has to keep running faster to be in the same place. We ensure thorough training, regular meetings and brainstorming sessions that our quality and accountability are the best that we can provide. Anything less than best is just not acceptable.
TCM: What advice would you like to give the budding entrepreneurs?
Chirag: First and foremost is invest in good people; find them and retain them. Second is have a constant enthusiasm to learn and train both; the PR scenario in the country is fast evolving. A PR business owner should always be keen to learn about the new things happening and then training the resources and empowering them with information and processes.
Snehal Shriwastava, Director handles the operations of the company. Although coming from an academic background she picked up the nuances of the agency swiftly. Under her leadership, a lot of digital media services have added to the portfolio, today digital media contributes as much as PR to our revenues.
Anil Prabhakar, Chief Mentor takes care of executing several strategic projects, he is a luxury and lifestyle marketing and communications professional with domain expertise in luxury, fashion and lifestyle space. He has worked in India and UAE as a profit centre head with international organizations. He is actively involved in consumer and business events. As a member of the GJEPC's seminar committee, Anil is a sought-after anchor and speaker at knowledge forums.