[PR Channel] Being small is our strength: Vivek Sengupta

20 Jan,2012

By Johnson Napier

 

With a career spanning the domains of journalism, PR, public policy and advocacy there is very little that Vivek Sengupta, Founder & Chief Executive of Moving Finger Communications, hasn’t tackled in the field of communication. Though a small shop, Moving Finger has its hands full in offering mundane services to its clients apart from other specialised offerings that include messaging and media training workshops as well as modules in crisis preparedness and crisis communications. It also offers a cloud-based service for global PR and sometimes works with other PR agencies which do not have these offerings.

 

In conversation with MxM India, Mr Sengupta analyses the plight of the PR industry in India, how small agencies stack up to the larger forces and why regulation against lobbying isn’t a desirable option for the industry in India. Excerpts:

 

Q: How would you analyse Moving Finger as being a distinct communications agency in India?

We are a communications consulting firm that provides solutions in the realms of PR, public affairs, public policy and advocacy. We also offer standalone products like messaging and media training workshops as well as modules in crisis preparedness and crisis communications. We also offer a cloud-based service for global PR. In these areas, we sometimes work with other PR agencies which do not have these offerings.

 

We are small, and that is our strongest suit. For our size, we offer unmatched experience and expertise. It’s a lot like how independent bookstores hold their own in a market awash with large chain bookstores.

 

Q: As founder and head of Moving Finger, what were the initial challenges you faced in putting the firm together?

The challenges were the challenges of a start-up. They come with the turf and you take them in your stride.

 

Q: How would you differentiate between running a specialist agency of your own versus working for a large PR house in India?

Where I am concerned, in a large agency, running the business profitably and growing it were my primary concern. Servicing played second fiddle. Now, servicing is my primary concern. Running the business is secondary; though, in and of itself, it is of paramount importance.

 

Q: How would you analyze the performance of the PR and Communications industry in India? Has it recorded a commendable growth story in 2011?

In a challenging market scenario, the industry performed creditably. When the business environment is tight, CEOs and marketing heads watch spends very carefully. PR tends to do better than advertising because the spends are way smaller and, I dare say, you get bigger bang for the buck.

 

Q: How do you view the increasing entry of international PR firms in India?

This is not a very recent development. It has been happening for some time and had to happen. These firms have their own markets, we have our own. The pie is large enough for everybody.

 

Q: In a changing communications scenario, how has the journalist-PR nexus evolved over time?

I am not sure what connotation you attach to the word ‘nexus’. I hope it is positive! I think the journalist and the PR person have come to have a better understanding of each other’s role. The PR person understands that the journalist is looking for information, while the journalist understands that the PR person is looking to provide information. Both have the common objective of purveying information. When there is a match between the two needs, there is win-win – a consummation devoutly to be wished for.

 

Q: How do you see digital impacting the way a PR agency functions?

The goal of purveying information does not change. Digital is just another platform or means to that end.

 

Q: What are the immediate challenges facing PR agencies in India?

The single biggest challenge, which overshadows everything else and is already upon us, is the crisis of talent. You can get the business, but do you have good, competent people to service the business? However, this talent issue is something that many verticals grapple with. In the communications industry, the media itself is assailed by this challenge. Every editor whom I talk to laments the lack of talent.

 

Q: Why is the PR and communications industry devoid of a strong and agile regulator? How will the industry grow without proper policing mechanisms in place?

Why would our industry need a regulator? Who has asked for one? There has been some talk of “regulating” lobbying, as it has come to be understood in India (which is wider than the US or EU definition of engaging with law-makers). But, in my view, even that is not called for. We have before us the experience of the media with the Press Council of India. A watchdog for lobbying must surely not traverse the same path. It would be better to limit regulation to existing laws.

 

Do you think consolidation will be the order of the day soon?

Some amount of consolidation will happen and that will be perfectly in order.

 

Vivek Sengupta is Founder and Chief Executive of Moving Finger Communications. He has had a varied career in journalism, public relations, public policy and advocacy. He can be contacted at vivek.sengupta@movingfinger.in

 

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