At the age of 28 Jim left the sunny climes of Manchester, UK, for Singapore to start his first business, EASTWEST Public Relations. That began a lifelong journey of learning how to be a better entrepreneur, build a more profitable and sustainable business, and achieve a healthy worklife balance. His journey later brought him to India as well and his agency aims at connecting East with the West.
Jim James, Founder and CEO of EASTWEST PR recently visited India. Lovejeet Alexander had a tete-e-tete with him discussing various topics including the global PR trends, perception towards India, talent crunch, etc. Here are the excerpts from the interview:
Q. From Singapore to Beijing and now Bangalore. What brings EastWest PR to India? How do you see the scenario here in India and what’s the perception that International business community carries about India?
A. What we’ve observed is that India is a great nation and is working its way up. Still there is a long way to go. The perception and the fact about India is that the process of establishing business here in India still involves a complicated process. There are several layers of laws and licenses to be obtained. China has eased a few things and there’s a lot to learn for both the countries from Singapore.
Q. How do you see India and evolution of Public Relations in this country?
A. Opportunities in India are immense. Alongside, it’s a complicated market. China has reached a comfortable stage of development. India still has a long way to go. They use huge number of tabs, smart phones, etc. Hence the mobile digital PR plays a strong factor in China market. That’s not the story here in India as yet. Here we still see a large amount of print media consumption. So the clients prefer traditional media exposure over digital PR. Paradigm shift has been experienced in the European countries and the USA, in terms of PR strategies. With the advent of 4G speed and increasing number of smart phone users here in India, the trend is bound to reach India sometime soon.
Q. What’s the difference between India and rest of the world as far as drawing a PR plan is concerned?
A. All markets are different and require specific and exclusive strategies. What works for one may or may not work for other. Hence the plans are to be drawn keeping local specifics in mind. Three things that I’d suggest a planner to keep in mind before getting on to the drawing board for India are:
- Be sensitive to the regional nature of India. India is not just one nation. It’s a cluster of many different regions that all require different content, different strategies and plans. Just one plane plan wouldn’t work for the whole nation. So many different dialects, languages, traditions, cultures, etc. are to be considered.
- Be ready to adopt. India a dynamic market. Requirements keep changing and variations depend upon the nature of the product, brand, etc. There’s a wide range of tools of traditional to digital PR that can be employed and may have to be shuffled in due course.
- Be patient. In view of the scale and complexity of Indian market the results may be slow to show. It may take time and consistent efforts before reaching the mark.
Q. What’s the state of talent supply for the PR industry in India? How do you cope with that?
A. Fortunately, India has a large pool of bright, tech savvy, smart young men. It’s not like several other third world countries that face crunch of young, educated and tech savvy workforce.
Organized PR industry in India is relatively young hence the workforce may not be that expert in communications. They need to be further trained in the trade. 15 years ago the situation was exactly the same in Singapore. Young bright professionals with no knowledge of work were in abundance. We trained them to be professional communicators. We are adopting similar strategy here in India. We are training them in-house. Training them online. And sending them overseas for exposure and experience of at least two weeks.
A. I would call it a work done with ‘selfish’ motives. When I blog or do tutorials about any topic of PR, it helps crystallize my approach towards the subject. I get to introspect the issue and sort my learning gained with a 20 year long experience in the industry. I do the tutorials intentionally so as to start a conversation. The insights are like seeds to grow. If it helps some one in any corner of the world to grow and makes them start moving around the value curve, my job is done. If I can add some value to anyone’s PR career by way of my blogs and tutorials I am a satisfied man.
Q. EastWest PR has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. You’ve spread from Singapore to Beijing to Bangalore. What’s the way forward now?
A. The 20 year long journey has been great so far. We’ve learnt a lot about Asia and stand strong in East now. India expansion plans are on the roll. Within next six months we’ll be opening offices in New Delhi and Mumbai. Our strength is ever increasing and we believe in organic growth.
As far as our connect with the West is concerned, we are in talks with a few investors who are expected to sign a strategic partnership deal with EasWest PR pretty soon.
Q. EastWest PR since its inception, in last 20 years, has changed its logo 5-6 times by now. What is it with you and the ever changing logos of your company?
A. As you know, our stronghold is Asia. And Asia as a market has matured a lot in last 20 years. From a completely non-digitized arena to so rapidly digitized and ever increasing data consumption. We’ve witnessed a lot. In my opinion, the logo of a company is like its DNA. It has to represent the core real strength of the company. Our changing logos represent our journey, our adaptability, our thirst to stay relevant. If we don’t mature and walk with the trends, the market, how would we be able to convince our clients.
We are an image management company and by way of changing our logos we in a way try to take care of our own image. The journey of our logos show that we are continuously and constantly getting mature, growing, transforming and adapting to the changing world.