Date(s) - 14/12/2004
Over 60 people attended the morning session, with almost equal representation from PR Consultancies and corporates.
The morning session started with a presentation by Prema Sagar, President PRCAI. She presented the achievements of the Association over the past year and the plans for the near future. Among the achievements she listed the drive for enlarging the membership base, the successful implementation of the Preferral programme, the training programmes that PRCAI are currently implementing and the completion of the CMS certification by two member consultancies. Among the future plans was the implementation of the PRSAT, which will be applicable to all PR practitioners at all levels, to standardize skills and institute benchmarks in the human resources area for the industry.
The Consultancy Management Standards Award was given away by Mr. Narayana Murthy. The first two consultancies who have cleared the audit are Text 100 and Genesis PR.
The keynote address was delivered by Mr. Narayana Murthy, Chief Mentor, Infosys, the largest software company in India, and also one of the most respected worldwide. Mr. Murthy shared his experiences while taking Infosys to the global market and the role of communications in meeting those challenges.He spoke about the increasing integration of economies, the intense competition this invokes, the choices that are available to customers, or vendor partners and the need to be nimble, smart and hardworking.
In business success will only come if Indian companies are able to create global brands. And the PRCAI would have a special role to play in this effort, mainly by opening channels of communication with major stakeholders. Globalization offers more opportunities in larger markets, but products and services become commoditized and margins tumble. Only a great brand equity can make a differentiation. Indian businesses have to communicate their core values to international audiences and at the same time, build those values internally.Talent today has many international choices and it is important to communicate the core values internally as well. Samsung, for example, faced exactly this problem, and addressed the negatives through strong employee communications to establish its image as a company one should be proud to work for.
In Infosys, there is a Brand Equity Council whose job is to measure where the brand is currently and showcase the achievements of the company. This is an ongoing process.
Corporations must follow the highest degree of good governance, which will reflect in brand building. In turn, this attracts international investors. Involvement of top management is an imperative.
Infosys has initiated some steps to keep the brand alive and vibrant –
Recruit the best talent, empower them, build a culture of excellence, respect and dignity for every individualBe sensitive to local cultures, the differences between the ‘high context’ Asian cultures and the ‘low context’ Western onesGlobal Academic Interface – Visits to 300 top US universities every year and communicate the Infosys value system, strengths, future plans, internship programmes,Interaction with governments and their agencies – need to be heard and known, bring in moderation in government thinking where required, add value to government decisions and policies, and demonstrate that Indian companies are second to none in their commitment to the societyTransparent vendor partner programme – total commitment to each other in terms of quality, cost, payments and communications
Mr. Murthy ended the address with advice to all corporates to communicate with all stakeholders. He warned that companies need to walk the talk and stakeholder respect will only come from what the companies actually practice. Perception will change only when reality changes. Communication can make small differences in perception but cannot alter reality. The iflex case
This was presented by Mr. Peter Yorke, Country Manager, iflex. Globalization was thrust upon iflex, as most of their products were exported. When iflex decided on an IPO, there was a sudden need to communicate across countries.The issue was that India was not known for good product quality, better known as good service providers. Iflex decided to position itself as a specialist in the financial domain, with excellent products and services.
There were a number of cultural challenges – like media briefings over mobile phones while on the move in the USA, the more ceremonious briefing over lunch or tea in Japan, not sending heavy PDF files in Kenya, and a different approach in Nigeria.
The PR exercise focused on building strong key messages, which were to be disseminated by all country heads simultaneously, placement of product stories, prioritizing markets and hosting road shows. The problems iflex faced were -• Churn within the PR agencies
• Little attempt to capture, document and manage knowledge Mr. Yorke ended with a story –
“A PR guy went to heaven. There was a long queue. But St. Peter left his place and came personally to conduct the gentleman to the top of the line. The man was surprised and asked why the special treatment. St. Peter replied that we have added up all the hours you have billed to your clients and find that you must be at least 195 years old!” Mr. Ashwani Singla made a presentation.
The CEO Panel
The topic for discussion was the communications challenges of business in the context of globalization.The participants were Mr. Ravi Uppal, ABB, Mr. Kanwaljeet Singh, Cargill Seeds, Mr. Samual Selvakumar, Hutch and Mr. Dharen Chaddha, Momentum Consulting. The session was moderated by Nandita Lakshmanan.
The first point discussed was India’s role – is India being recognized as a protagonist or is it merely in the sidelines.
The world is a huge marketplace, it is also a digital market, sourcing goods from across continents. This marketplace is today open to us.It is important to first analyse what Brand India means. Is there anything called Brand India? Do we need a brand?
The first globalizers are beginning to find out that the country’s brand rubs off on the company’s. Many countries were hostile towards Indian brands.
Brand India is seen today as low cost process innovation. Indian products are seen as cheap but not the best.
Things however have started changing. Our best ambassadors are the middle class Indian engineers who have moved westwards and taken their Indian values with them.
India has leapfrogged into the technology age, and now needs t change the perception that it is a provider of cheap labour. This is the route Japan followed in the 40s and 50s and Japanese brands are among the best in the world today.
India is still a very small player in the world market, with only a handful of companies who have established themselves abroad. The media however, hypes up these achievements till we all start believing that India has a strong presence abroad. We need to guard ourselves against this complacent attitude. We need to upgrade our infrastructure to global standards first.
All the panelists agreed that globalization has brought many benefits –
Exposure and the building of a cosmopolitan population which is comfortable anywhere in the world
Benchmarks against global brands. Many companies are removing the “made in…” tag – the standards are uniform no matter where manufactured Interaction of Indian companies and MNCs, both important in a borderless world
There was unanimous agreement that communications in general and public relations in particular has a critical role to play in the globalization process.