I came in face-to face contact with this man in his 20s when we first met in Chandigarh in April 2016 though we were in touch through phone prior to that. I was in transit from Kasauli to Delhi where I had taken my dad on a quick weekend getaway. We had couple of hours before our Shatabdi train would leave for Delhi. So, I decided to catch up with Mukesh Kharbanda for a few minutes at the lobby of a hotel in his home-town Chandigarh. And he narrated to me his remarkable story of the foray he made into the world of Public Relations.
The story goes back in time by a decade. While he was interning with Genesis in Delhi almost a decade ago, after his post-graduation, he observed a gap in the deployment of strategic PR services beyond metros and also realised that there was an unorganised communication consulting service in regional India. This was in 2009. That was the time when brands had also started realising the importance of regional India or what we sometimes refer to as Middle India.
It is during his internship that the idea struck him set up a PR firm, focused on regional India. That is when the inception of this idea of having a PR firm focused on regional communication came into being and ‘Fuzion Public Relations’ was formed. While Fuzion Communications which focused on market analysis & research was set up in 2005, it was transformed into a PR firm on 1st July 2009. The founder was barely 22 then. The firm began with an administration and finance professional who also continues to be part of the enterprise, ten years later. Today the company employs 75 professionals. Their first client which is North India’s premier cosmetic surgery hospital continues to be their client even today, a decade later. And today is going strong with close to 30 retainer clients and several other project-based clients.
He credits a lot of what he has built today to his education. A post-graduation in Mass Communication and Public Relations from Punjab University and a post graduate programme in Entrepreneurship from IIM Kashipur. He claims both these institutes have added so much to what kind of an entrepreneur he wanted to be. More than the strategies, it was the experiences he gathered and the people (fellow students and teachers) he interacted with during both these programmes that made all the difference. That is also my personal take on a post-graduation programme. It is during this time we make those significant connections for life. Academics apart, the connections we make here remain for life.
The firm is a leader in its own right with a dominant share of brand outreach in the Tier 2 cities. The next goal is to explore Tier 3 cities. Fuzion is present in all the tier 2 cities in India, having its own offices in most major state capitals. So, what is it that drives this young entrepreneur? His answer in short is a Happy Team and Happy Clients.
As he says, when you care for your team it leads to a happy work-place and that is all that matters. A few numbers going astray in the topline or bottom-line would not help sustain growth in the long run, if there is an unhappy team. The happy work environment where people feel valued and respected while working would help achieve targets in the long term.
There comes a time when we start taking our established clients for granted and that is where things go wrong. At Fuzion, they believe in growing with their clients. At least, 50% of the retainer clients they have today been with them for five years. Some started really small and eventually had trust to hire Fuzion.
Mukesh believes that regional is not even 20% of what the national communication business is, even today. There are opportunities that are blocked by a certain turnover limit. It’s hard to achieve an INR 50 crore turnover while operating in Regional India, which restrains one from even competing in that league for certain scenarios. Talent is another challenge, but the firm has overcome that with its Happy Talent mantra.
The firm claims to be operating in the upwards of $2,000,000 / Two million (INR 14 crore) in revenue and aspires to double up in the next three years to move from mid-size to large. Time will tell how this firm run by a 31-year old evolves. It was the fusion of ambitious ideas and opportunities that existed in regional India in 2009 that led to the name. We will know in the years to come how well they ensure the fusion of great talent and good clients takes them to the next level.
This is the third in a four-part series on Indian PR firms.