Why Indian PR talent is going international
Last week Viraj Chouhan was elevated to the role of VP, global market communications. at PepsiCo. The company stated that Chouhan would be the focal point for all global market communications teams outside the US, covering both internal and external communications.
In November 2021, Aniisu Verghese moved from Bengaluru to take over as director of communications at tech travel firm Sabre, Poland. Sabre is headquartered in Texas, US.
Recently, manufacturing services firm Zetwork advertised for a PR manager to handle PR for India and US -the person would be based in India though.
Trend or just outlier examples?
These are just some recent examples of Indian PR professionals taking on global roles in corporate communications roles.
Amit Gupta, the founder, of The Reppro, believes what started off with Global IT majors has now transcended to other sectors and functions.
He explains why, "I’d attribute this to three primary factors – recognition of India’s prowess in business leadership, growing strategic significance of the sub-continent and Asian markets for global corporations and the recent focus on having an inclusive and diverse boardroom.
Moushumi Dutt, senior communications consultant for Fireside Ventures agrees that "The pace of hiring global comms leaders from India has gone up for sure when compared to the last 5 years. And yes, one could say that due to a uniform WFH for all, there was a better and much closer view of who brings what to the table, teams across countries have worked way closer than before, that perhaps made it easier for global HQ teams to zoom into talent sitting in a Mumbai or Delhi to take on roles in London or Amsterdam. Location suddenly seemed to have very little relevance but the role and the person mattered."
Shruthi Bopaiah, global head of marketing, communication & culture at an investor tech firm, Bridgeweave, says one big reason for hiring Indian PR professionals globally is that organizations are looking at markets that are important from a business standpoint and then bringing the relevant leader in from that country.
Bopaiah however elaborates, "India happens to play a significant role and expansion of talent too is usually in an Indian market, so organizations keep a mix of senior roles across key markets. I also say this as we are now launching a Crypto product in the US and that's going to be out market we want to lead with so we are already looking for PR expertise in that market to be based there locally.
Priyanka Wadhwa, who recently took over as head of strategy, growth and employee welfare at CommsCredible, and will also look after the PR firm's international expansion says, "Public relations specialists have witnessed a steep rise in the last two decades. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics USA, a 7% employment growth is expected by 2029, with an estimated 19,700 new job opportunities in the sector. The need for organisations to maintain their public image will continue to drive employment growth."
Payment: India or global rates?
One big question is at what rates would PR professionals handling global roles be paid.
Melissa Arulappan, a corporate communications professional, shares her concern saying, "While it is heartening to see a growing demand for global PR roles from India, I believe we need to be mindful of a few things when evaluating such roles – that this is not a cost arbitrage decision, that talent in India will be justly and duly rewarded and compensated for taking on a global role, and that the role does not come at the cost of a professional’s health and wellbeing (read unjustified work hours) in an industry that is already known for being one of the most stressful to work in."
Arulappan cautions, "PR is a value-laden, consultancy role that requires an understanding of local markets and nuances and so much more. We as a community need to ensure that we do not dilute and demean its value to one that is purely transactional and relegated to dealing with a PR agency, distributing a press release and so on."
Emma Duke owner, of the UK-based Emma Duke PR points out that, Recruiting talent across the globe increases reach, and diversity ensures the PR team is available across time zones."
Commenting on the race to get top talent Duke says, "Another big impact in the UK has been Brexit – there is now a fierce battle for talent in the UK PR industry. I’m watching the UK-India FTA discussions closely, as visas and freedom of movement will be a critical part of the negotiations, in the hope of increasing trade and enhancing the ‘living bridge’ between the two nations."
Sharing her view on how to pay talent based in India but handling a global role Duke opines," Roles that are based out of the UK (even if the employee is based somewhere else geographically), should be based on UK pay scales. That said, I expect that some employers will see the potential to save the budget by paying people local rates. But in the current market, where the search for talent is paramount, this provides an important opportunity for non-UK-based talent to make the case for being paid on the UK payscale."