26 July 2017

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Changing Perceptions

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Public relations (PR) is a tough, highly competitive, and fast-based business. However, one entrepreneur is trying to make his mark in this field through Change Agents PR, a full service public relations and branding firm.

“Public Relations agencies need to identify and diagnose the real issues affecting their clients’ businesses. A PR agency needs change agents to put down success criteria, secure management support, and streamline ideas into actionable tasks, which in turn can be converted in to delivery. Change Agents PR was born out to satisfy this very need,” explains Shubhendu Nath, the Founder and CEO of Change Agents PR, when SmallEnterpriseIndia.com asked about the unique selling point of his entrepreneurial venture.

Change Agents PR is a specialty consulting firm based in Bangalore, India, which Nath claims, “has become a unique source for ideas and contacts that help public relations, marketing and branding activities of organisations work synergistically, increase effectiveness and deliver better return on all aspects of investments .We also provide strategies that can make the new whole add up to far more than the sum of the parts. And that adds up to a win-win situation for everybody.”

Nath was born into a serviceman’s family – his father served in the Indian Air Force and hence his upbringing was disciplined. Due to the nature of Nath’s father’s job, he grew up in defense camps across many places of India’s western border wherever his father was posted. After his schooling, Nath wanted to get into Engineering – however, since his family couldn’t afford the fees, he ended up completing his Bachelor of Science with specialisation in Computer Science.

“My early interests were soccer, writing and directing plays, poetry in Hindi and Urdu, and attending literary meets. My college professors often urged me to take up literature seriously. But I drifted towards computer science. My early career was as programmer and then as a lecturer in computer science. But I soon found my calling in Sales and then in Marketing. I worked in various companies such as HCL Frontline, Mayfair, Silicon Infotech, CyberMedia and Jasubhai Digital Media,” says Nath.

An Idea Leads to an Opportunity

So when did the proverbial “entrepreneurial bug” bite him? Nath claims that he had in mind to turn into an entrepreneur by the time he was 30. “My father always encouraged me towards this,” he says. So, in 2003, he setup mEssence Consulting, a brand consulting firm, based out of Mumbai. The firm provided consulting services in brand positioning, brand communications and brand life cycle development services. During that time, many other companies were offering similar services on the market and Nath felt that there wasn’t anything unique mEssence Consulting was offering at that point in time.

“Clients also did not seem to question a lot of practices of the service providers. We used to work with clients belonging to the IT industry and found out that lots of services were deliberately being pushed onto unsuspecting clients for increasing the billings. Clients did, and paid for, most of the activities suggested by the service providers. Yet not much changed on the ground,” comments Nath. “There were many so called ‘big agencies’ who charged huge premium because of their brand name. However, the activities executed by them had hardly any results to show. Also, through most of these agencies serviced IT-related companies, many of the client servicing executives and directors, didn’t even understood technology.”

That’s when Nath started telling most of his clients to question the status quo. He told his clients to ask what is their service providers were delivering and at what cost. “And this is where the idea of Change Agents PR germinated from,” he explains. “Through Change Agents PR, I wanted to see this change happening in the way services are provided on the market. I understand IT industry and media, and hence, technology PR was what I chose to focus on. Today, at Change Agents PR, we ensure that we work absolutely transparently with our clients, and encourage them to ask questions to us for clarifying certain things they might have in mind.”

Nath also claims that if he feels at any point that Change Agents PR is not adding any value anywhere, his company chooses to not work on such a project. “The bottom-line is that a change for good has to be made, and we will facilitate that process. Hence, our corporate tag line was accordingly worded, ‘Facilitating the only constant’,” he is quick to add.

Changing Dreams into Reality

Nath founded Change Agents PR on January 1, 2008, along with Krishnananda Vedavyasachar, the Co-Founder of the company. Prior to founding Change Agents PR together, Vedavyasachar and Nath worked together for Cybermedia (on Dataquest magazine), 14 years ago. “Vedavyasachar is really the bedrock of this venture – he is the quite hard worker, the background manager. He is the one who skillfully managed the entire back-end during the economic slowdown. It was tough for us because barely four months had passed since we started and the slowdown started setting in. Many companies were putting work on hold – however, it was a blessing in disguise for us, because no other form of baptism would have made us tougher,” says Nath.

Since it was clear to Nath and Vedavyasachar that Change Agents PR would be a services company with a clear aim of organic growth for first four to six quarters, both the promoters of the business did not go out to raise funds. Change Agents PR is wholly funded by Nath and Vedavyasachar, with equal equity holding, because since inception the company has been a partnership firm. Nath says that they are currently in the process of incorporating the company as a private limited company. “Registration of companies is an easy process in India today. We went through the motions, and we had services of professionals to help us complete the formalities,” adds Nath.

When Change Agents PR was conceptualised, the full time employees of the firm were Nath and Vedavyasachar, with a team of external consultants working on their projects. Today the company is made up of a team of eight members and has offices cities such as Bangalore and Delhi. The company will soon go operational in Mumbai, in a couple of months. The company’s specialities include B2B and B2C technology public relations, transformation/change in external and internal communications, analyst relations, crisis communications, pan-India PR campaigns, events management, journalist relations, and tracking editorial stories-in-progress.

Nath adds that Change Agents PR has been fortunate to work with companies such as Adaptec, Allied Telesis, Array Networks, Corsair, Sophos, R&M, Parallels, iValue InfoSolutions, Inspan Infotech, Yindusoft Technologies, KTwo Technologies, Emmvee Solar, Fortinet, Unitel Borri, Logitech, and so on. “But then, since our daily life and work does not allow us much time to do it ourselves, Change Agents PR also helps various NGOs (non-government organizations) in philanthropic activities by providing free services. Change Agents PR also donates a fixed percentage of all revenues generated to the mid day meal scheme run by the government,” explains Nath.

Providing Value for Money Services

According to Nath, the services and solutions provided by Change Agents PR are indeed “services” and “solutions”. Nath claims that Change Agents PR avoids big talk and flashy presentations. “We instead solve business problems. What we are good at is finding a clear path through obstacles, finding patterns in chaos and reducing it to its simplest elements. We have a carefully selected a mix of talent in our team, and each one of us do our part well and honestly. We also have a proud record of not losing any client till date. We work like one of our clients’ member and not as an external agency,” comments Nath.

The company’s team currently includes Shubhendu Nath, the Founder and CEO, and the Principal Consultant at Change Agents PR; Krishnananda Vedavyasachar, the Co-Founder and Managing Partner; Sharmee Roy, the Associate Team Leader for Technology Practice, based out of New Delhi, India; and Syed Manzoor Irfan, the Senior Associate for Technology Practice, based out of Bangalore, India. “Change Agents PR is honest in its feedback mechanism. We actually do not chase billings and our team does not work with a revenue target. We believe in Zig Ziglar’s quote which goes on to say, ‘When we do more than we are paid to do, eventually we will be paid more for what we do,’” says Nath.

Nath further adds that PR is effective communication and image management and hence, doing this takes a particular type of personality and business experience. He comments that in order to succeed in the PR industry, companies really need to be interested in people and processes because it’s a balance between deliberative and instinctive thinking to find the right solutions for each situation. “We promise to first understand the needs of the client, and then break it down to deliverable messaging. PR services for technology companies are not one of the easiest tasks. But we love it. Because we know not many PR agencies understand technology and not many techies understand media,” explains Nath.

While many companies appoint “big name” PR agencies based on flashy presentations, not many realize that these PR agencies don’t have people with the right skills to handle specialised PR jobs. “It’s a lot like herding cats – very frustrating and extremely unproductive,” adds Nath. “Each company is special and its managers are special. So their communication needs will also be special. You won’t find PR methods in a book, box or a pre-packaged five-point plan – you’re unique, your business in unique, your people are unique and so are the products and/or services you sell. Hence, your PR agency has to be someone who understands both your products and services, and media. We bring this unique combo to the table.”

Climbing Up the Ladder of Success

Nath says that the reason Change Agents PR hasn’t lost a client till date is because the team’s technology media background, the individual attention it gives to each of its clients, and very strong networking skills. “Also, we call our clients ‘clients,’ and not ‘accounts’. That makes a lot of difference in our working mentality,” says Nath. “Change Agents PR’s revenues have grown by more than 1200 percent in last two years. But that is hardly important because in the initial years most of the well-managed businesses tend to show great percentage growth. It is the third to fifth year growth phase that will test us.”

According to Nath, he has ambitious targets and he is confident that he and his team will achieve them. Among his future plans, Nath wants to have fully operational bureaus in cities such as Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad during the third to fifth year time frame. “We also plan to build specialisation and offer services in other sectors such as Bio-Technology, Renewable Energy, and so on. As for Change Agents PR breaking-even, we broke even in the twelfth month. We market our services primarily by initiating one on one contact with the target customer. The larger brand building is done by use of social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. But finally we know nothing works better than a happy customer,” claims Nath. “We currently offer a wide range of services and solutions such as branding and messaging, media relation, press releases, proactive pitching, press tours, analyst relations, new media / blogs, blogger relations, awards programs, by-lined articles, rapid response, media database, editorial calendars and press kit programs.”

Nath plans to start offering Social Media Marketing services in the JAS (July-August-September) 2010 quarter. In fact, says Nath, Change Agents PR has already sounded out to its existing clientele about the same and it has received a very encouraging response from them. “Change Agents PR will see addition of allied and supportive activities, so that we are able to provide clients a 360 degree marketing services experience,” explains Nath. “As an entrepreneur I want to build a culture of entrepreneurship in the organizations I help create. We need to unlock the entrepreneurial talent that is dormant in this country. I also have a personal plan of starting a tea bar, my eternal fascination.”

According to Nath, aspiring entrepreneurs in the process of setting up shop in India should keep a six-point checklist in mind. “The first point you need to be aware of is to be ready and willing to do everything. Next is to remember that luck favors the prepared and so prepare you need to be prepared for luck. Another thing you need to know is not to try to be everything to everyone – always stay focused. Fourth point is that India is a great market to be in, very dynamic, very young, very tech friendly – so grab the opportunity. Also, you need to be good at paperwork. If you are not, hire someone good. The final point to be aware of is don't be afraid to fail. India can test you and the key to being an entrepreneur is taking that idea and really forcing it and taking risks,” concludes Nath.

 

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 30 June 2010 14:58 )  

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