After Tata Group did not extend the PR mandate to Edelman India via Rediffusion, furious rumours have been doing the rounds as to who will bag the prestigious mandate.
Tata Group has more than a dozen famous firms and brands under it, including Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Power, Indian Hotels and TCS. The mandate has been estimated by news publications such as The Economic Times at Rs. 60 crore annually. PR industry observers say that out of this 35 to 40 crore is likely to have gone to Edelman India and the rest to Rediffusion, partly as a coordination fee. Observers point out that by cutting out Rediffusion from the equation, Tata Sons could save a large chunk of the PR budget.
The question is whether Tata Sons would award the entire business to one PR firm or split the business up across more than one PR firm. Market watchers say the Tata Group is unlikely to award the entire business to one PR firm, it is more likely to be split up into more than one PR firm.
Current and concluded Tata PR mandates
Vistara is already handled by Avian Media and Starbucks, a Tata venture, by GolinOpinion of the MullenLowe Lintas group. Last month, the Tata AIA mandate went to Ruder Finn India. During the height of the Ratan Tata-Cyrus Mistry spat, several PR firms handled individual assignment for both sides.
Dilip Cherian, co-founder, Perfect Relations worked to advice former Tata chairman, Cyrus Mistry. Adfactors PR, meanwhile handled investor relations for Tata Group ahead of a round of crucial board meeting to oust Mistry from the boards of various Tata Group firms. Avian Media had at that time handled work for Tata Trusts. The Trusts own two-third of the stock holding of Tata Sons, the apex company of the Tata group of companies. The assignments for Adfactors PR and Avian Media have at the moment come to an end.
PR firms that may be in the fray
Meanwhile, several names are being mentioned as front runners for the Tata Sons mandate, including a leading Indian PR firm and a firm that was one of the first to be acquired by an international communications group.
The Tata Motors account is rumoured to have gone to an international PR firm that had till recently handled a Japanese auto maker for India. Market observers said this may be one of the first accounts to be decided as the Auto Expo 2018 is slated to begin in February 2018. A PR agency will certainly be needed for Tata Motor’s showing at India’s top auto show.
However, Edelman is not being ruled out from the fray just yet.
But, both off and on the record, PR firm executives are tightlipped not wanting to get ahead of themselves for the most important PR mandate in India impacting hundreds of jobs. Notoriously conservative, the Tata Group is not likely to take kindly to ‘strategic leaks’.
As of now, there is no industry news of mass hiring or mass firing that may indicate which way the Tata amount is going.
The Tata Sons group communications officer, Pradipta Bagchi, who reports to N. Chandrasekaran, executive chairman of Tata Sons, will have a pivotal role to play in the process. Well regarded, Bagchi, a former journalist, earned his spurs working directly under the current Tata Sons chairman at TCS, when the latter was the CEO at TCS.
Come the New Year, the question on all PR lips will be - who will get the Tata business?