In a little over a decade, Avian Media has emerged as one of the top independent PR firms in India demonstrating double digit growth. Nitin Mantri, CEO and business partner at Avian, says Avian Media was first established by Nikhil Khanna, who then brought him in.
Mantri, who has played a pivotal role in Avian Media’s success, says, ”Nikhil was the one who brought me in. Without his support, it would not have been possible for us to grow Avian.”
What is in a name?
Avian Media’s first client prompted Nikhil Khanna to name the firm Avian Media, evocative of flight. 13 years on, that first client still remains with the firm.
Nitin Mantri attributes the firm’s success to having the right talent, while admitting that finding talent remains one of the biggest challenges for the PR business.
Says Mantri, “Talent is something we have nurtured. Take our early employees. Manash Neog today looks after our public policy arm, Chase India. Neha Mehrotra, handles our entire North operations. Sharmistha, looks after CSR and have been with us for a long time as has Palin heading digital and content marketing.”
Adds Mantri, “With 150 people it’s not exactly like a family, but there is something about our culture, a halo that binds us.”
Mantri also says that Avian believes in the philosophy of, “Clients are for life. We go the extra mile.” Narrating an incident that reflects this, he says that at one time a three member Avian team, including Mantri himself, drove in the dead of night from Dhanbad to Guridi, a Maoist infested area to handle a PR crisis for a client.
Team Avian Media. For Nitin it’s all about building strong people relationships
Driving through the night, followed by a police van and ambulance, Mantri says he did wonder at the risks they were taking going through the Naxalite badlands.
But, says Mantri, “We reach the next day and managed the crisis.”
PR agency is dead, long live the integrated consultancy
Commenting on the future shape of PR, Mantri declares that, “The traditional PR agency is dead. But as an industry we have done a good job of reinventing ourselves. Getting glocal, look at the recognition for work done by India based PR firms at Cannes this year.”
Mantri points to analytics and content, greater creativity as areas where PR has great potential. While adding that all channels are in play when you look at data driven, hyperlocal trends, Mantri specifically points to mobile based channels of content as a strong focus area for PR.
Clients need to reinvent themselves
Mantri also points to the role of clients in reinventing PR, sharing that, “It is easy to reinvent as an agency, clients have to reinvent themselves as well.”
While the industry has seen robust double digit growth rates of between 10 and 15% as per PRCAI reports, constancy fees for traditional PR have not risen. Mantri agrees that, “ Consulting fees are not going up for traditional PR, while that is not the case for integrated communications. This is where clients need to reinvent themselves about PR.”
Mantri adds that, “Clients should give us work for integrated PR, let us show what we can do.”
With the integrated communications model, the scope of competition has also increased. While Mantri does not believe that PR competes with marketing per se, Mantri says he was in a pitch recently which included an advertising firm and a digital firm as competition.
“But, when it comes to social media, we are very good at engagement," says Mantri. He also says that with PR adding capacities in tech and creatives a designed can look to PR for a job instead of just advertising.
Today, PR has services to offer marketing, corporate communications and public policy, says Mantri.
Nitin Mantri is the first Indian to be elected to the post of president at ICCO, a development he sees as testimony to the growing importance of the Asian PR business, including India, internationally.
Nitin Mantri with ICCO president Elise Mitchell and past ICCO president, Maxim Behar
Responding to a question on PR colleagues he admires, Mantri takes the opportunity to acknowledge colleagues and mentors in the PR business saying, " It's a tough question. Many are doing commendable work and have carved niches for themselves. However, personally, I feel Prema for having lead the way for institutionalising PR and Madan has given the industry bodies unstinting support. Archana has been a super boss. Value 360 is the one to watch out for while Amith has really helped us come together for learning and celebration of the industry. I have also had the privilege of working with people like Mike Copland (ex Brodeur/Ketchum) the gentleman of PR and building networks and Carmela Salisbury for her mentorship"
Dream clients, Netflix and travel
An avid traveller, a yoga and cycling enthusiast, Nitin de-stresses with Netflix and Hotstar flagging off ‘Designated Survivor', ‘Narcos’, ‘House of Cards’, ‘Modern Family’ as some of his favourites.
‘Suits', is also high on Mantri’s list for its’ humour and fun quotient.
Mantri three loves are cricket, chocolate and whisky. With Kings XI Punjab, Pernod Ricard as clients, Mantri signs off by saying he would love a chocolate brand as a client to complete the kitty!
Mantri is a travel buff