Since India opened up its economy in the early Nineties, the nation’s PR industry has witnessed a boom in small owner-led agencies. The past 10 years, characterised by purring economic growth, has only accelerated this trend. Undoubtedly, many of these firms will fall by the wayside as the market matures. One that will not is seven-year old player Avian Media - one of the brightest of a bunch of entrepreneurial PR agencies that are helping to drive innovation in the country’s PR industry.
Avian was founded in 2003 by Nikhil Khanna, a 15-year PR veteran who was formerly a director of corporate consultancy Good Relations. Khanna launched the firm with one anchor client, Airbus, which he had handled for a decade in the Nineties. Since then the New Delhi-based firm has grown steadily to the point where it now has operations in five cities, including Bangalore and Mumbai. Khanna is supported by an experienced leadership team: CEO and business partner Nitin Mantri joined in 2006 after working as a director at Pleon in Europe, overseeing the agency’s corporate and B2B practices.
In 2010, Avian also bolsted its senior ranks. Girish Huria joined as COO after more than a decade with Genesis Burson-Marsteller, to oversee new business, strategic counsel, crisis and campaign planning. Carolina Bajaj came aboard as associate director in Mumbai to oversee the Western region and establish a sports practice. The leadership team is rounded out by Delhi region head Manash Kalita.
In 2010, Avian grew by an impressive 40 percent, thanks to growth in its traditional area of strength - corporate, specifically focusing on infrastructure, defence, automotive and aviation. Key new clients included high-profile wins of Alcatel-Lucent, Exl and Ford India, bolstered by the agency’s decision to launch a technology and telecoms practice - which also netted new business from Mach, Force 10 and CPA. The new sports practice won the WSG account, while other new clients included California Pizza Kitchen, Sujan Luxury Hotels and Mothercare. They join a client portfolio that already includes Airbus, BAE Systems, BP, Villeroy and Boch, DLF Brands, MBDA Missle Systems and IATA.
In terms of campaigns, a highlight was Avian’s work for Ford India. In a single day the agency helped to launch the car giant’s 28-dealer network across India, to try and change poor perceptions of Ford’s after sales service. The dealer network launch was timed to precede the rollout of the small Figo car, which hit the mark to resounding success.
“For the past three years Avian Media has consistently delivered in terms of both results and counsel,” says BAE Systems head of corporate communications for strategic markets, Guy Douglas. “They understand the realities of business and take a mature approach - they would never suggest that a press release is the answer.”
Douglas’ view is reinforced by Airbus corporate communications head Justin Dubon. “For me, there are probably three key qualities that best describe my experience of working with Avian since 2003 - flexibility, creativity and professionalism,” explains Dubon. “They’re flexible - always comfortable with the rapid evolution of corporate direction, programmes and budget. They’re creative - the team are continually analysing our business and generating the new ideas that drive marketing programmes, producing compelling work every time. They’re professional - the whole team has a very strong, hand-on work ethic - with full involvement of the team no matter how senior - from strategic planning right down to tactical implementation. Their emphasis is constantly on delivering results and generating return on investment for Airbus’ shareholders.”
Avian works primarily in India but has inked a series of deals to support international agencies: Kreab Gavin Anderson, FD, Cohn & Wolfe, Reptile Communications, the Hoffman Agency and Brunswick.—AS