India's intriguing approach to PR poaching
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

India's intriguing approach to PR poaching

Arun Sudhaman

Talent is regularly cited as the biggest challenge facing the PR industry, and nowhere does this seem more pronounced than in Asia. A couple of years ago, I noted that India's war for talent resembled a kind of industrial fratricide, and my visits since then have done little to dissuade me from this notion. A rapidly growing industry, coupled with new international agencies and ever more exacting standards, has contributed to turnover rates and wage inflation that is very difficult for PR firms, and their in-house brethren, to effectively manage. So I was intrigued to learn, at a recent session with Indian PR agency heads in Delhi, that the country's PRCAI actually has a formal policy to regulate poaching. Maybe I'm just not particularly enlightened about the arcane workings of PR trade bodies, but this struck me as a relatively bold move. The policy states that member firms will not hire staff that have been with a competitor for less than a year. It covers all of the PRCAI's member agencies which, with a few notable exceptions, means all of the country's major PR firms. But does it work? Well, yes and no. So far, says PRCAI president Sharif Rangnekar, there have been only two disputes. Rangnekar, who also heads Integral PR, says:
It has worked to a great extent and has been appreciated by all of our members. What is good is that everyone sees value in it. I am also told that now more heads of agencies and HR speak to each other to discuss candidates that may intend to violate the norm.
So far, so good. But it is difficult to say if the policy is actually being enforced or ignored, particularly as junior- or mid-level turnover in India's PR industry does not appear to be abating. A nice idea? Undoubtedly, and welcome recognition that a problem like this can perhaps only be tackled by a collective effort. If firms don't make that effort, though, the best intentions quickly unravel. As I am often reminded where trade bodies are concerned, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch.  
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