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Indian powerhouse Adfactors—which, with fee income of $18m is the only firm from the sub-continent to rank in the world’s top 100—is best known for its work in the corporate and financial realm, but its continued excellence in the SABRE Awards competitions this year reflect its growth into a well-rounded full-service firm capable of delivering great creativity as well as strategic counsel. That’s partly the result of adding a new value—innovation—to those that established Adfactors as a market leader: freedom, transparency, integrity and respect for the individual.
Those values manifest themselves in numerous ways that have differentiated Madan Bahal’s firm from its competitors: an investment in professional development that has seen Adfactors send its rising stars to the Indian School of Business, Indian Institute of Management, and Harvard, among others; an in-house gymnasium and regular yoga classes; and a commitment to corporate responsibility that has led the firm to decline clients in tobacco and gambling as well as major multinationals with dubious environmental records.
Bahal continues to focus plenty of his energy on transforming the firm’s offering, in line with his ambitious goal of becoming one of the world’s top 20 global PR firms, targeting $120m in revenue within six years. That will require further international expansion, but the signs are that Adfactors is ready for the challenge. The firm grew 9% in its most recent fiscal year, and continues to post strong margins.
Long-term clients include some of India’s biggest and most respected companies: Adani Group; Bombay Stock Exchange; Citibank; ICICI Bank; Infosys; Jet Airways; Larsen & Toubro; Mahindra Group; State Bank of India; and Vodafone. Indeed, a good way to measure Adfactors emergence as a PR powerhouse is to observe the facility with which it often bests its domestic rivals on major consumer and brand PR assignments, in addition to its traditional strengths in corporate and financial. That was again reflected over the past year, with new business from Godrej, Hinduja, Star India, Times Network, GoAir and IDFC Bank.
In a little over a decade, Avian Media has expanded from a scrappy start up with three employees into our reigning Indian Consultancy of the Year, with six offices and 160 people delivering fee income of $3.6m, up almost 27% on the previous year. Like all of the best PR firms, Avian’s growth has been driven by a unique culture, which starts with founders Nikhil Khanna and Nitin Mantri’s focus on values and deliverables. It is no surprise that Avian Media was named one of the Holmes Report’s inaugural Best Agencies to Work For in Asia-Pacific — the firm has worked hard to cultivate a workplace that is collaborative, entrepreneurial and creative, last year deploying a new #LEAP2015 workshop to set ambitious goals for the agency.
Edelman’s progress in India was transformed by the 2011 win of the lucrative Tata mandate in association with Rediffusion. The business immediately gave Edelman formidable scale in the market, — it now numbers 400 people across nine offices — something it has leveraged to build out strong capabilities in creative and digital, giving it an edge over many of its competitors in the market.
With Genesis founder and Indian public relations legend Prema Sagar playing a broader regional role as Burson-Marsteller’s Asia-Pacific vice-chair (as well as serving as a valuable member of the global counseling team and the new “Advantage Women” practice), there is a new generation of leadership running the Indian operations. Nikhil Dey is president, overseeing both public relations and public affairs, while 12-year GBM veteran Atul Sharma is chief operating officer; Sanjay Arora leads the corporate and financial practice; and Ajit Sahi directs the public affairs business.
But while Genesis remains best known for its strong corporate, financial and public affairs capabilities, it’s some of the new offerings that are generating buzz. The firm’s live newsroom is providing real-time support for clients in crisis (helpful, one suspects, in winning the Maggi business, which started with a project and has grown to include the launch of 25 new products in India). Its content studio and digital design operation, as well as its training facilities, support BM clients but also operate as standalone businesses.
Similarly, while the firm continues to work with established clients such as Ford, Colgate-Palmolive, Toruism New Zealand, and Diageo’s United Spirits business, it has started to attract a younger, more dynamic client set, including low-cost airline IndiGo and healthcare wearables pioneer Fitbit. Significant wins over the past year include Britannia, L’Oréal, Make in India, and Star Sports.
The firm has 350 people in India, as well as affiliates in adjacent markets such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.—PH
Since the twin acquisitions of Hanmer and 20:20, scale has never been a problem for MSLGroup in India, with the launch of Publicis Consultants Asia adding to an offering that now numbers eight major offices and 24 network operations in the country. Increasingly, neither is growth, thanks to a leadership transition that saw Amit Misra and Chetan Mahajan take over the firm as co-managing directors.
Under the duo’s leadership, MSLGroup is an increasingly cohesive force that has won such marquee clients as Vibrant Gujarat Global CEO Conclave, Swachch Bharat Mission, Gates Foundation, Coca-Cola, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Marico, Nissan, Reckitt Benckiser and Xiaomi — making for an impressive client roster that also includes UTC, Honda, Volkswagen, Monsanto, Star Plus, Nike and Facebook.
That performance helped to drive margin growth of 11% last year, along with a revenue/employee increase of 6% over the past 3 years. Much of that is spurred by an increasingly integrated offering, with digital revenues up 32%, reflecting an offering that is now built around an impressive integrated planning methodology.
Accordingly, much of MSLGroup’s work is more integrated than most, including reseller community management for Flipkart; seeding Uber nationwide; and prestigious government initiatives like Swachch Bharat and Vibrant Gujarat. And the firm has worked to realign its talent base in line with these shifts, dissolving some positions and creating greater responsibilities for others.— AS
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