The Need for Evolution in the PR Founder-Led Model: A Debate with Rishi Seth, Tarunjeet Rattan & Aman Dhall on the PRmoment India Podcast

The Ketchum Sampark layoffs have sparked a debate on whether India's founder-led  PR agency model needs to evolve. The Indian PR market is unusual, where the leading PR firm, Adfactors PR, is firmly founder-led and outpaces internationally owned PR firms in India by a wide margin.

While it's difficult to assess the exact number of independently owned PR firms, post Covid there has been a proliferation of founder-led (often just a one-member team) PR firms in India.

To discuss how these and other PR firms can evolve to grow and add value, how to support corporate communication professionals to become more influential in their jobs; PRmoment India's Paarul Chand speaks to Rishi Seth, former co-founder of Six Degrees PR, which was later acquired by Cohn & Wolfe and then further merged with BCW ( He has also recently invested in The PRactice), Tarunjeet Rattan, founder, Nucleus PR and PRPOI and Amand Dhall, founder - CommsCredible.

Listen in.

Summary 

Agency survival after founder exit

(0:03) Tarunjeet Rattan, Aman Dhall and Rishi Seth share insights on founder-led agencies' challenges. Panelists discuss the future of the PR industry's PR agency model and RFPs.

-Successful acquisitions require a clear succession plan and integrated leadership.

-Rishi discusses the challenges of acquisitions, founder departures, and integration.

Succession planning in PR firms, with a focus on the partner model. 

(7:13)Rishi and Aman discuss succession planning in the PR industry.

-Aman Dhall shares insights on PR firm succession planning, emphasising the importance of creating more owners in the company.

PR industry challenges, including talent shortages, cost increases, and the need for innovation to remain competitive.

(12:09) Tarunjeet Rattan discusses the importance of finding the right leader to replace founders in agency mergers and acquisitions.

Rishi Seth: Traditional media relations model under pressure due to industry changes. Focus on high-value, high-growth services like advocacy and consulting. The other piece is domain expertise.

Challenges faced by mid-sized PR firms in a rapidly changing industry. 

(17:17) Tarunjeet Rattan: Is there a way to flip the agency model itself, which has only the founder as a rainmaker?

Rishi Seth: Specialized firms will thrive, while mid-level ones face an identity crisis. Founders prioritize long-term growth over short-term profits, investing in the business despite challenges. Midsize firms face competition from smaller players and larger firms, needing to differentiate through talent, domain knowledge, and innovation. 

-Emphasizes the importance of differentiation in the market for PR firms.

PR agency ownership, communication with clients, and the importance of setting clear objectives. 

(23:56) Tarunjeet Rattan shares her experience working with large firms and creating a boutique agency to stand out in the industry. She also discusses a model used by an agency in Oregon, with long-term employee retention and partnership structure

Aman Dhall highlights the challenge of maintaining talent in the industry, with many leaving after 3-5 years due to a lack of growth opportunities.

Tarunjeet Rattan emphasizes the importance of ownership in founder-led firms, citing the success of rock stars who own their work and contribute to agency growth. 

Challenges in brand-agency relationships, the importance of trust and communication. 

(31:36) Aman DhallCommunication professionals need to do soul-searching to identify their brand objectives. Lack of clear objectives and resource allocation leads to mistrust and unhappiness in agency-client relationships.

Tarunjeet Rattan: The relationship between brands and agencies is complex and often contentious, with both sides having different perspectives and goals.

-The role of the communication department within an agency is crucial in helping brands understand the importance of reputation and how to build it.

-Rishi Seth believes empowering CCOs and comms teams is crucial for agencies to remain relevant and successful.

The future of PR agencies in India, with a focus on partnerships, specialization, and founder-led growth.

-(37:24) Rishi Seth emphasizes partnership and value addition, says procurement teams can sometimes pose challenges.

-Industry leaders must work with top CCOs to establish frameworks and standard practices.

-Founders are growth drivers for the industry, taking risks and innovating.

-Global firms are investing in Indian entrepreneurs, building trust and partnerships.

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