The India PR market continues to draw interest among U.S. firms with an eye on future growth and global expansion.
Late last year, for example, Dentsu Aegis Network bought India-based Perfect Relations for an undisclosed price, while WE Communications, is currently in acquisition talks with Indian PR consultancy Avian Media, according to the Holmes Report.
At the same time, India, the world’s largest democracy, with more than a billion people, is taking pains to increase its appeal among global companies looking to expand their footprint.
In April, for example, India said it will allow local companies to merge with overseas firms, easing rules to help home-grown businesses in the country to boost their operations and breadth.
Arnab Mukherjee, senior VP at Adfactors, India’s largest independent PR firm, says there are three key areas for PR firm owners to keep in mind as they consider acquiring India-based PR firms/agencies, whether via strategic deals, financial transactions or bolt-on acquisitions.
1. Relative unpreparedness of the market. While Indian PR firms have a pretty good handle on media relations—the most widespread application of public relations services now in India—they’re lacking when it comes to mastering other PR disciplines, such as digital PR and crisis communications.
2. Opportunities abound for social media. India-based PR firms are attempting to adopt social media and digital communications with great alacrity. However, they are yet to develop a keen eye for recruiting digital talent and working with social media influencers. (Bangalore, which is known as India’s Silicon Valley, is a magnet for high-tech entrepreneurs.) Hence, the various digital skills tend to be in silos and India-based firms—similar to their U.S. counterparts—need to adopt an integrated model.
3. India PR firms need to assert themselves. Indian PR firms tend to do what is dictated by clients—which is fine, to a degree—rather than have more give-and-take with buyers regarding the most effective communications strategies. To bolster their brands Indian PR firms need to “contextualize” their thinking vis-a-vis both clients and prospects, Mukherjee says. This means they must strengthen their overall capabilities in-house and bake those capabilities into the firm’s DNA (and RFPs). Too many India-based firms have a tactical mind-set regarding PR/marketing campaigns, Mukherjee adds. They need to flip the switch and embrace a holistic, media-agnostic approach that drives business and generates new revenue streams.
PR firm owners should approach Indian PR firms they may want to acquire the same as they do any PR property. “It doesn’t matter who starts the conversation,” Mukherjee says. “Culturally, there’s not much of a problem. The gaps may occur post-acquisition, in terms of understanding the new management and how the process of the new owner works.”
Rick Gould, CPA, J.D., managing partner of Gould+Partners, is the author of “The Ultimate PR Agency Financial Management Handbook: How to Manage By The Numbers for Breakthrough Profitability of 20% or Greater,” and “Doing It The Right Way: 13 Crucial Steps For A Successful PR Agency Merger Or Acquisition.”
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