Genesis B-M: Step ahead @ 20

08 Nov,2012


By Ananya Saha


Genesis Burson-Marsteller started operations  in 1992. Led by Prema Sagar, the PR agency is a member of WPP global network. As it completes two decades, we speak to Ms Sagar, Principal and Founder, Genesis Burson-Marsteller, about the past and the future. And of course the present.


How has the journey been for Genesis B-M in the past 20 years? Please share the milestones that defined this journey.

The journey of Genesis B-M has even surprised me! It started in a basement with no vision, mission or strategy! It began with a passion, challenge and an opportunity to create something new and different. It started out with one employee, one office boy and one client. Today, we have grown to over 270 employees in six markets across India. Our journey as a firm mirrored the growth of public relations inIndia- growing year after year, working with global clients and expanding our service lines to meet the evolving needs of our clients. There have been many milestones reflecting this growth, including the opening of new offices, and launching new business lines like Public Affairs and Corporate Responsibility. The digital era we are now living in has also changed the way we communicate, both with our clients as well as the media, and will certainly impact our journey in the years ahead.


Which account wins have been the turning points for the agency?

All of our client wins are important and celebrated. Our very first client, Park Hotels, set Genesis PR in motion. We are very proud of the fact that Park is still our client after 20 years and we value this relationship tremendously even though there are many larger clients in the roster. Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotel gave me the first break and I was paid while I learnt the ropes! She is a great professional and I admire her courage in more ways than one. We are proud of a number of clients with whom we have long term relationships, some we have served for over ten years.


A call one day from Tarun Das, Director General, CII asked if we would be interested to manage the public relations for the Indo-British Partnership Initiative (IBPI) where the two governments, their ministers and corporate CEOs were to meet on the Royal Yacht to sign partnerships and joint ventures – a great boost to the economy. The event was a great success, our entire team of 5 people including me were in Mumbai to execute this great event. As a result of this, Genesis got to be known! I always felt that I should have paid Priya Paul and Tarun Das for our early learnings – but we needed the money desperately so I never mentioned it.


The turning point of our journey was when we reached 30 retainer clients such as Indian Aluminum Company (INDAL), Ranbaxy, DCM Ltd, SRF, Eicher, India Habitat Centre (IHC), Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Lakme Fashion Week and so many others in its early years as a result of a great team that delivered outstanding campaigns year on year. I look at the long list of organisations with whom we have worked since 1992 and it is such a diverse mix of industries and services. The nature of the work has been equally diverse – crisis preparedness, thought leadership, product launches, advocacy and much more. We are proud of our roster of clients and we believe that our clients are our endorsements.


Experiences such as launching the first luxury car in India, the first international liqour company, managing a hostile bid, fire at a manufacturing unit on New Year’s eve, petrol/diesel issue, pesticide issue, environmental issues and many others that taught us a great deal.


Genesis B-M today has the domain expertise and services that go beyond just public relations – public affairs, advocacy, corporate responsibility, digital and content creation. Each of these developments was a turning point for us and has helped us become leaders in the industry. We work at keeping a fresh perspective, always asking ourselves new questions. How can we build further capabilities? How can we improve based on what we are doing today and what will it bring us in the years ahead? Always thirsty to Change the Game…and you will see more of that in the coming year!


If you were to re-live the past 20 years, would there be anything that you would like to change/alter in the agency?

Looking back, there are a number of things that served as learning experiences. Learning is constant and comes from good decisions as well as bad ones.


Have the challenges that PR industry faces today, changed from what it were 20 years ago?

Our challenges have evolved with the growth of the industry. More clients today understand the value of strategic communications and public relations in general, than was the case 20 years ago. Certainly there is more competition now than there was then. A competitive environment only improves the quality of work and therefore the bar on the level of quality raises the standard of the industry.


We are fortunate to have and continue to attract great talent. The quality and experience of the leadership at Genesis B-M is recognised not only by our international colleagues but also our competitors. As a result of this the company has had steady growth. The programmes at the GBM Learning Centre, established almost 12 years ago, has built capabilities and is a big differentiator. Having said that, the branding of a GBMer for the rest of the industry to attract them is our challenge!


Finding great talent is the biggest challenge facing all service sectors across the globe. How we invest in it – is the solution. We are proud to see many of our talented alumni in top jobs in Asia Pacific and now going West-wards. We can look at the glass as half empty or half full. We look at it as an opportunity to provide the foundation of a strong industry in India.


The biggest challenge we face are recognition of suitable fees for quality work and experienced communicators who are advisers to the CEO rather than being a function. While it is evolving now it needs to move upwards sooner rather than later in a challenging environment. CEOs today need to invest in Thought Leadership that brings together the elements of social development, policy environment for the larger good of all while building a business.


After the B-M partnership, how has the agency grown/changed?

The B-M partnership has delivered great opportunities, not only for client development but also as for talent development. The exposure to global opportunities brings about a whole new world of learning for team members at all levels. We have run successful projects for international clients in recent years, which has opened new doors of opportunity for us. As for our talent, being part of such a respected and successful global network gives them a chance to work with our offices around the world, providing great exposure to best practices and new ideas.


What will be the next target for Genesis B-M?

I am proud of the fact that we have always been a step ahead of what the market demands. Our ability to service clients with fully integrated programmes that work across practices and geographies has set us apart from our competitors in the industry. The continued development of practice specialties will always remain a focus for Genesis B-M, today and in the years to come.


Five years down the line, how do you see the agency growing?

I think it’s important that our growth continues to reflect the changing needs and growing demands of the industry. For example, we are seeing a shift in target markets, with client’s focusing not only on the key metros likeDelhi, Mumbai andBangalore; but also Tier II and Tier III markets as well, including the rural areas. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge for us. Communicating across India’s diverse landscape poses numerous challenges, but is increasingly essential to any successful communications plan. Having the reach to these outside markets will contribute significantly to our ability to service more clients, and in turn, contribute to our continued growth as well.


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One response to “Genesis B-M: Step ahead @ 20”

  1. ajay says:

    awesome article