Yes, that’s how I would define my 16 years at Adfactors PR. I joined the firm after being pursued for over four months. I had, in fact, initially decided to decline the offer but later changed my mind. Thank God, I did that! I must also thank Kishore, my former colleague from Ogilvy, for putting to rest my indecisiveness by saying, “Adfactors PR is the only place for you and your happiness.”
During my early days, I didn’t have much work and I would often go and pick the brains of both the founders, Madan (Bahal) and Rajesh (Chaturvedi). During one such tête-à-tête, Madan asked me to prepare a business plan with a vision that was so beyond my imagination that I went back to understand if I had heard him right. His exact words to me were: “Fly high, we have nothing to lose!” At that moment, I knew that Adfactors PR would create ripples in the market.
In 2006, we were not more than 70 people with a revenue of less than Rs 40 crore. Back then, we were largely a financial communications firm that also serviced large corporates such as Mahindra and L&T.
That I started from scratch did not bother me. I had the freedom to build the business in any which way I wanted. The freedom that I experienced at Adfactors PR was liberating. Looking back, I would identify this one factor as the single biggest contributor to the firm’s success. All of us had and continue to have the freedom to use whatever brush strokes to paint anything that we want. This is clearly an USP of Adfactors PR.
Even today, I remember my first client win. It was ASK Capital, an institutional brokerage firm that ran a Portfolio Management Scheme. After that win, we rapidly added many new BFSI clients. We had a good run till 2008. That’s the year Lehman Brothers collapsed, and overnight, our billing dropped.
I still remember the Black Friday event when markets crashed and companies started laying off employees across the board. The following Monday, the mood at office was sombre. Madan and Rajesh called for a meeting and announced, “No one will lose their job at Adfactors PR. We will rebuild, we will diversify, and anyone who can help in client acquisitions is welcome to participate.”
That year, we decentralised new business acquisition and many of us brought in new businesses. Most importantly, we diversified into sectors beyond BFSI. As a result, after initially losing some revenue, we grew 10% by the year-end.
During 2008-2010, we diversified and added several other verticals and sectors such as IT and Telecom, Healthcare and Automobile. In 2010-11, Adfactors PR consolidated its position to become India’s largest PR consultancy. Our years of consistent hard work had put us ahead. Our resilience, commitment and sheer will were the principal factors that contributed to this success.
But we aren’t the kind to bask in that glory as we knew that we were living in a VUCA world and hence, we had to constantly evolve. That’s why we rechristened our Annual General Meeting to Annual Change Meeting – where the only constant was Change. Over the years, we have been defining the changes that we need to bring in ourselves to remain relevant to the society and our craft.
The last decade has been full of opportunities and challenges, and one of the most satisfying years was FY15 when we reached the Rs 100 crore revenue milestone. From then on, we have kept the momentum going, and that includes even the dark period of Covid-19.
The reason for our continued and without break growth is our practice to reimagine & reinvent ourselves. We lay great emphasis on setting new benchmarks in earned communication, reputation management, digital-first thinking & upskilling through various L&D activities.
Today, Adfactors PR is a very different organisation from what it used to be. Now, we counsel across multiple sectors, we have a large digital practice and a strong talent pool. But the two things that haven’t changed are that we deeply care for our people and serve our clients with the same passion that we have been doing over the last 25 years.
As for me, Adfactors PR is not a workplace but a place of worship. Not only do I find the institution to be spiritual and immersive, but it also provides all of us and our families with security.
As Adfactors PR turns 25 on September 5th, 2022, I know that we are not looking back. Instead, we are all looking forward to what we will be doing for the next 25 years and beyond. So, I would say, watch the space!
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher. This article is part of a SILVER JUBILEE series by Adfactors PR commemorating their 25th year in the business of Public Relations.