Vishnu Makhijani | 17 Jan, 2022
Beginning her career in Paris, refining
her skills in New York, where she founded a hugely successful branding agency,
Srimoyi Bhattacharya always wanted to move to India. On doing so in 2007
realised that the role of a publicist was still a nascent function and is today
happy to note that brands "are increasingly self-aware of the importance
of an authentic voice".
"Terms like body-positivity, inclusivity or sustainability may have become
buzz words now, but conveying a brand value has become part and parcel of
branding. It has become important to be in touch with the zeitgeist, to have a
pulse of the market, of societal changes -- have an intuitive approach of white
space backed by solid research, and you will have a future-proof vision,"
Bhattacharya, the founder of Peepul Consulting, who is now settled in a
110-year-old mansion in the picturesque Goa village of Olaulim, told IANS in an
interview of her debut book "Pitch Perfect" (Penguin).
It's the natural transition for Bhattacharya, born and brought up in Paris who
felt like she was "in the thick of an exciting start-up culture in Europe,
with many US companies looking into penetrating a bustling European
market", when she set out in the 1990s.
"During this first stage of my career, I learnt the ropes of PR in a
highly professional and structured environment (which would help through less
structured fields later), but my dream was always to work in fashion and
lifestyle. Growing up in Paris, I was fortunate to go for a few fashion shows
and do an internship at iconic Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto's press service
which was an eye opening experience on the impact of PR on a business and a
brand," she explained.
Paris was a "tough environment" to wade through and although she was
determined, it took her a change of country, a wonderful position in a
hospitality group in New York to finally make that conversion nearly a decade
later. But deep down, she always wanted to work in India and she finally made
her dream come true and more when she moved to the country.
"Once I moved to Mumbai sometime end 2007, I realised that the term 'PR'
or the role of a publicist was still a nascent function, and not always quite
understood by many, whether clients or just anyone around me. It seemed to me
that the role was a simple means to get coverage, with very little
understanding of the nuances it implied. Essentially, media and PR felt
commoditized, despite the efforts of many peers building a promising and
flourishing industry in our country," Bhattacharya said.
Through the years in India, she also started meeting many business families
from jewellery to fashion, who run small businesses and who started seeing
potential in giving a name to their firm, marketing a product in India.
"I saw this wave of a new profile of entrepreneurs who were essentially
taking their family businesses, so far focused on export, and were flipping the
business model to a home-grown brand strategy. Simultaneously, fashion glossies
were all slowly entering the country and enhancing the definition of building a
brand, an experience, an identity. I wanted to cater to both, and I thought one
way to do so was to work far more closely with brands, as they would develop
their product or their collections, to help shape the story before it would
come as a brief," she said.
Thus, 'Pitch Perfect' rounds up her experiences on this journey, and serves as
a playbook whether for a publicist, an entrepreneur or a legacy brand that aims
to reinvent itself.
"Believe me, it's a very long time in one singular profession! I shifted
from Paris to New York to Mumbai as it was a way to reinvent my work, my
network while I was chasing a certain quality of life. The magic lies in how it
has all tied up together, my earlier experience in New York and Paris is
helping scale Indian brands going global, and vice versa," Bhattacharya
Noting that we are all in stressful professions, she has always sought and
negotiated for a work/life balance.
"As I would watch my colleagues work 'double shifts' and weekends, burn
out is the biggest cause of turnover. And I came from Paris where a 35-hour
working week was just beginning to be implemented, not always realistic but
nevertheless a healthy goal. When the pandemic hit India, I just accelerated a
wild dream we had, which was to move to Goa.
"All stars aligned now that work from home became acceptable, the hours
became a bit more flexible -- you could be DM'ing (direct messaging) a
journalist in London out of anywhere really. Our relevance comes from our
mindset, not a location," Bhattacharya added.
What, then, is her mantra for success?
"Whether you are launching a lifestyle brand or a service, my key tip is
to create a story that is 36-degrees in nature, so you can spin it from any
angle necessary, It also needs to be rooted in a solid idea, and concept. The
important thing to remember is that what works for sales might not work for the
media, and vice versa. What matters is the optics of your label -- a bag that
will be picked up by a fashion director will reflect a collection's aesthetic
or a trend. While it may not be the bestseller commercially, it will showcase an
operational aspect of the brand. That is why it's essential to be clear about
who you are addressing and what they might find relevant and helpful," she
writes in the book.
For instance, Manish Malhotra "transformed the perception of a bridal
couture from the perspective of a stylist, making a look iconic and
cinematic" Bhattacharya explained during the interview.
"I am thrilled to see that there is a new wave of brands that are
confidently building global luxury names. The consumer today wants to know the
story behind what they are wearing or how an elaborate dinner-set came to life.
As storytelling becomes an important driver of value, it has become easier for
brands to look beyond the confines of 'verticals' and geography and truly go
global," she concluded.
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at email@example.com)