Now 17 years old, Sampark Public Relations continues to fly under the radar in India’s increasingly competitive PR market. Its low profile, however, should not detract from its capabilities; Sampark is one of the country’s leading independent agencies and - having grown 30 percent in 2010 - probably demands a little more attention than it is used to receiving.
The firm was founded in 1994 by Bela and NS Rajan. The former began her career with one of India’s oldest PR agencies - Consilium - while the latter headed corporate communications at Essar Group before starting Sampark. Bela now focuses on corporate and lifestyle clients, while also overseeing agency operations. NS, meanwhile, is Sampark’s MD - and can credibly claim to be one of the market’s leading corporate and financial PR practitioners, having counselled the likes of ICICI Prudential, Bajaj Auto, Tech Mahindra and Hutch Vodafone.
Unsurprisingly, given NS Rajan’s background, Sampark first became known for its corporate and financial expertise, but has since broadened its offer considerably to include consumer, technology, healthcare, sports, and lifestyle. The agency remains differentiated by a relatively high average client retention period of six years, with DSP Merryll Lynch (16 years), Bajaj Auto (10 years) and Airtel (seven years) all examples of its commitment to long-term partnerships. Sampark likes to bill itself as a ‘large boutique’, ensuring each client is serviced by the most senior member of the team and retaining an agility in its thinking and execution. The firm recently introduced a specialist financial communication consultancy called Index Brand Capital to help build enduring brands for financial markets, staffed by a team of executives that bring backgrounds from consulting, law, investment banking and brand communication. Sampark also offers comprehensive digital PR and online reputation management skills, through its Index ORM affiliate.
The two founders are supported by a diverse leadership team. Former journalist Ajay Sharma is managing partner and CEO of Index Brand Capital, and has worked in-house at Kotak Mahindra and Essar Group, along with stints at PR agencies Percept Profile and iMatters PR. Senior partner Sudha Sarin joined the firm in 2007 and manages the firm’s North Operations, after previously serving as CEO of corproate/financial firm Good Relations. Sarin also counts experience with EIU India and ABNi/TV18 on her CV. Partner Girish Dikey heads the financial practice and is Sampark’s longest-serving employee, having joined the firm in 1998. Meanwhile, the firm made four senior hires in recent months: Devasis Chattopadhyay as partner to head Index PR; Bakul Gala as partner to oversee the corporate practice; Pranav Thakkar as SVP; and, JS Sai as SVP and head of the Southern region.
Sampark’s impressive 2010 revenue growth was led by the FMCG, entertainment, aviation and healthcare sectors - while its traditional financial strength contributed to the bottomline through such client wins as the National Stock Exchange, Axis Bank and Bain Capital. Other new business included the Bombay Dyeing Group, BIG CBS entertainment channels, Nationwide, Alchemy CApital, Sangam, Spice Mobiles, Go Air and Amway. The firm’s existing clients include Airtel, Cathay Pacific, Ceat, Perfetti in the consumer practice; Siemens, Bajaj Auto, Mahanagar Gas, S Kumar’s and Kirloskar Brothers in corporate; HDFC Bank, DSP Blackrock, Edelweiss, SKS Microfinance, ICICI Venture, SBI Mutual Fund, Life Insurance Council, Fitch Ratings in its finance practice; Wockhardt and Richfeel for healthcare; Bharti Shipyard, Bombay Realty, Uttam Galva and TERI in its infrastructure practicel and, Euronet, Kuku, Opus Software, TechProcess and NetAmbit in technology.
Campaign highlights included work on behalf of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI), to demonstrate that the organisation - rather than the government - was capable of effectively regulating advertising content in India. The firm’s strategies resulted in a dramatic turnaround in the ASCI’s reputation, with the organisation receiving ten times its usual number of complaints about misleading ads.
“ASCI has worked with Sampark on several industry issues and found that their approach to issue solving is remarkable.” said ASCI secretary general Alan Collaco. “With the team’s understanding of the industry and the lateral thinking they apply, they’ve proved to be extremely valuable partners. They’ve proved time and again that they’re much more than communication partners.”
Adds Bajaj Auto senior marketing manager NitinKochar: “We very much value their contribution on every front which has helped make Bajaj Auto one of the most respected names in the automobile industry today. They have worked very closely with us to contribute substantially with their strategic insights and also make the most of tactical opportunities.”
Sampark is Ketchum’s affiliate in India, and uses the Omnicom agency as its preferred partner in global markets. Indeed, a long-mooted acquisition of the firm by Ketchum is expected to complete soon.—AS