Prema Sagar needs no introduction. An entrepreneur. An ideas person. A pioneer. A passionately creative person. And is often referred to as the 'doyen of Indian PR'. Sagar has led Genesis BCW since she founded it 30 years ago. In the three decades of operation, the agnecy, under her stable leadership, has pushed boundaries and moved people using curiosity, vision, drive and integrity, to invent new and integrated communications products and services to meet evolving client needs.
The team of e4m PR & Corp Comm reached out to her as she celebrated the agency's pearl anniversary with her BCW family and she graciously agreed to a candid conversation.
Excerpts from the interview:
Congratulations on completing 30 years. Tell us about the journey.
When I look back, I can’t believe that it’s been 30 years already. I was running my printing press with my brother and we had THE Park Hotels as one of our clients. A meeting with Priya Paul on increasing the visibility of the hotel led to a unique series of events called ‘Going Public at THE Park’. I didn’t realise then that what we did was called public relations. Another chance encounter led to me decide to go to London to study at the Frank Jefkins Institute of Public Relations. When I came back, I decided to start Genesis PR. We were three people and we had three clients. Little by little, we grew, expanding to the West and the South, getting more people and clients. As the industry landscape evolved, so did our offerings. We added public affairs, content, digital, analytics and more.
Today, we are one of the leading public relations and integrated communication firms in India and are spread across practices and business divisions, with clients and teams across a range of industries.
From the beginning, we saw our role not just as a company but as evangelists for the industry. This was manifested in two ways — nurturing talent and developing avenues for the industry to collaborate. For the former, we built the School of Learning and a supportive value-based culture. The result is that today we don’t just have leaders within the organisation but industry stalwarts who took their first steps in the industry with us. It’s gratifying to see Genesis alumni in high positions in India and across the world.
In terms of collaboration, we helped found Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI) as well as Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI) and both are doing a great service in bringing visibility as well as respect for the industry. I am especially proud of how they brought the industry together during the pandemic.
Ultimately, the 30 years journey isn’t mine alone. It is a collective journey of all those who have been associated with us in any big or small way.
Can you recall some of the most memorable campaigns that have created a considerable impact?
It’s tough to single out campaigns from a 30 years’ body of work but the Indo-British Partnership launch, which happened with the royal ship docking at Mumbai, the interesting launch of the show ‘Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin’, the cola pesticide crisis, the mid-level sedan segment launch of Daewoo’s Cielo — these are just some examples that come to mind.
What, in your opinion, are the global PR practices that you would like to see implemented in India?
As a leading public relations and integrated communications firm and as part of a large global network, we offer our clients a cross-section of services and solutions, some that are unique to our market and others that are adapted from global practices. Having said that, there are two areas where I feel we should do more.
I see a lot of conversation happening in the area of measurement. I do think we need to share some of the learnings from global developments on measurement with our clients so that there is an overall better understanding of the value of our work.
The second area where the global teams are doing more is technology. I would love to see more and more technology-driven solutions being created and used in India, whether it is the use of emerging technologies like AI/AR/VR and the Metaverse or in the way that we use data and analytics.
In the last three decades, Genesis has had a number of 'firsts' to its name, including the first to develop proprietary tools for reputation management, the first to create and put into practice service quality measurement and, more recently, the first to develop the one-of-its-kind Live! Newsroom. What next is in the pipeline?
We have always tried to anticipate the evolving needs of our clients. In all the examples you shared here, that is what we have been doing and that is what we are continuing to do even now. In the last few years, for instance, we were hearing our clients talk about purpose. They were seeing their stakeholders respond better to companies that were true to their purpose. Seeing that need, we partnered with White Kettle Consulting, a leading CSR consulting firm, to develop a unique offering called CSP+ (Corporate Social Purpose). CSP+ helps companies align their purpose with their strategy to create long-term values and profitability through engagement with all stakeholders (employees, customers, communities, government and civil society). I can quite confidently say that the comprehensive framework we have developed for this is unparalleled and is another first.
Another area that has become quite critical is employee communications and advocacy. The pandemic really hit home the need for focussing on this. In October, BCW launched a study called Expectations at Work, which highlights some of the key concerns employees have.
Where do you see India's PR industry in the next five years?
I see it as evolving even more, both in terms of its width of services as well as the depth of counsel. The world of communications is a dynamic one and there are rapid changes happening every week and every month, so five years is a long time. But I do see developments in digital technology and the policy environment being at the forefront of these changes. What I am confident in is the growing maturity of our industry in being able to not just adapt to the changes but also be ahead of them and give clients the strategic advice they need.
The article was first published in the Exchange4media