As Girish Balachandran starts a new chapter at Avian Media as managing partner, PRmoment India caught up with him to get his thoughts on continuing to build Avian Media, on the talent shortage in the PR business and what ails the PR business in India. He has over 16 years of experience across UK, Europe, the Middle East and India and has moved from hospitality to PR, which makes cooking up a quick meal during late evening pitch rehearsals a breeze!
PRmoment India: You are taking an incubating approach to the CSR and digital businesses? How does this approach differ from your experience at other PR firms and how are you approaching incubation?
Girish Balachandran: By incubating, we mean investing ahead of the business with specialist talent and resources that will build long-term differentiation in capability and expertise to help clients compete more effectively. Both Nitin and Nikhil have always stayed ahead of the curve by identifying areas where clients are looking for counsel, and, identifying people who can build solutions around these needs. They executed this strategy effectively with our public affairs business, which now operates as a standalone brand, Chase India, offering public policy and advocacy services. Similarly, I’m responsible for our CSR, Advocacy, Development Sector and Digital and Content marketing teams to shape an offer that solves business problems. In my experience with other global networks, the pressure for margins often distracts from the bigger purpose of creating something that has value. At Avian, our independence allows us to focus on our craft and how we can lead our clients into a brave new future with differentiated expertise.
PRmoment India: How will you address the urgent talent problem facing the entire industry?
Girish Balachandran: I didn’t start in PR. I’m in this business because I’ve had great mentors and role models who have inspired me to think of a career where I can do what I’m good at and have fun. Solving the industry’s talent problem starts with us believing in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s about believing in the power of communications to make the world a better place to live, work and play. I come to work every day, thankful for the experience I’ve had of working with an amazing set of colleagues and thinking of how I can help each member of the team realize an ambition, feel confident of challenging clients and go home feeling they’re constantly learning. If I could give to them, even half of what I’ve received through my career, I’ll sleep better.
PRmoment India: Given your stints internationally, what is your assessment of what Indian PR businesses are good at and what could we learn from international practice?
Girish Balachandran : My first culture shock when I joined Avian Media, after 12 years of working abroad, was the scope and scale of our remit with global brands. In comparison to our peers internationally, we’re operating at a much larger scale and the briefs we’re addressing for clients are more issue-based, given the complicated nature of our social fabric. Indian PR businesses benefit from direct access to the C-suite – our counsel is valued by business heads and in-house corporate communicators. In India, communication efforts have to be informed by business priorities and government is too important a stakeholder to not be part of the communications effort. The way in which we consume content and are influenced is changing rapidly and our ability to reach and influence audience groups needs to be much more multi-channel. What we need to improve is our ability to use data and analytics in designing campaigns that can be micro-targeted, using technology platforms to create multi-dimensional experiences for consumers and measurement frameworks to align outcomes with business priorities.
PRmoment India: You have had an interesting career graph from the hospitality business to PR. One thing you have learned from being in the kitchen that has helped in the PR business?
Girish Balachandran: I can cook a good meal for the team when we’re in pitch rehearsals late in the evening. But then, there’s Zomato!