In Conversation with Vineet Handa

What role does fate or chance play in one’s life? How does it determine future events? Chance implies any random occurrence that touches us, but it’s a major player in one’s life. How you handle the darts that chance throws at you is, of course, a matter of choice. This is clearly visible in the professional career of Vineet Handa, Founder CEO, Kaizzen Communications, as he describes his entry into the PR world as – ‘PR by Chance”.

Vineet Handa, started his entrepreneurial journey as the founder of Kaizzen in the year 2008 – aiming to bring a new dimension to the realm of communications. Backed by a vast, multifaceted experience in the areas of financial services, lifestyle, retail, IT, healthcare, energy, trade, real estate, sustainable development and research, he tries to ignite the passion of continuous improvement in the Kaizzen team.

In 2009, his penchant for entrepreneurship struck once again, when he founded another successful company specialising in experiential marketing and events management – Craftsman Solutions Pvt Ltd. Then he embarked on yet another venture in 2017 – a young, emerging advertising firm called OFactor Communications. With the learnings from these three successful ventures, he took the lead in a study project with EY (A leading consulting firm) on Sports development and its impact on livelihood in North Eastern Indian states.

With a career spanning over 20 years in Public Relations, Brand Communication and Outreach, Vineet had started with a tenure at ABCL, way back in 1997. Before the formation of Kaizzen, he served a two-year term as Associate Director, TERI “The Energy and Resources Institute” Delhi, and held various senior positions at Genesis Burson Marsteller (now Genesis BCW) and CMCG.

Talking to Shree Lahiri, he reveals how his journey into PR started, how he donned the entrepreneurial robe, the secret to retaining talent, the evolving PR universe, some tips for youngsters and more….

RT: How did your journey in Public Relations begin?

“PR By Chance” this is how I describe my entry into the PR world. I was working in UAE with a publication house as sales and marketing. However, the Kargil War changed things dramatically. I couldn’t get my UAE visa renewed, and after spending a few months at home, I lost any hope of going back to Abu Dhabi, and started job hunting locally in Delhi. I met Mr Samir Kale through a reference and he became my first boss and guru in PR. The 15 minutes of discussion with him can be attributed as my ‘eureka’ moment. I started my PR career with Samir in July 2000 by joining CMCG, Delhi at a salary that was about 1/10th of what I used to earn in Abu Dhabi.

RT: What led you to starting off on your own and launching Kaizzen?

As I mentioned earlier, my hunt for work (after I returned from Abu Dhabi) led me to my first boss and PR guru, Mr Samir Kale. My only experience of handling media and PR was during a stint with ABCL as a trainee during the Miss World pageant in Bangalore. This is where I met my second guru and boss Mr Ashwani Singla, with whom I worked during my tenure at Genesis BM (now Genesis BCW). During the pre-event press conference at Chinnaswamy Stadium Bangalore, I was asked to manage the media registration desk and the press folders. I would thus say, that it is these people in my professional life, who led me to start on my own and launch Kaizzen. However, I must admit that never in my wildest dreams did I think that this experience of mine will come handy in launching the three business verticals that stand tall, today.

RT: How has the Public Relations business evolved in the last ten years?

There has been a two-pronged evolution of PR over the decade. The first one is the emergence of the digital medium. Traditional media now leverages digital platforms and the social media environment, to decide how news is broken to the public as well as consumed. There are quicker and shorter formats today, given that people do not read long news stories anymore. Similarly, newer platforms of news consumption are also growing well, particularly the video news segment. This implies that digital news consumption is now becoming more videocentric and the broadcast medium is losing sheen. Also, digital broadcast online is gaining popularity among younger audiences. Since PR is directly influenced by media trends, we are witnessing the same changes in this business too. I feel that irrespective of the spread of online media, the traditional print media that also has a digital footprint will not lose its relevance for at least another 10 to 15 years.

RT: What is your advice for budding entrepreneurs aspiring to launch a PR firm?

My advice for budding PR entrepreneurs is to focus on verticals where they feel confident of delivering quality services and sustain them. One should avoid trying to get into every possible avenue as they may fail to deliver. Instead of entering 20 possible verticals, I would suggest they focus on few, and deliver there. It is better to grow with businesses and make them your specialisation. I think that’s the best way to plan your business journey.

RT: What has been the greatest achievement of Kaizzen in the past decade?

Looking at Kaizzen’s journey over the last decade, there is not one but couple of major achievements that I am personally proud of. One is our clients. The average tenure of a client with us is about five years, which is quite a remarkable achievement. For instance, the first three clients that we had during the start of our journey, are still with us and it makes me feel extremely proud and satisfied. The second biggest achievement for Kaizzen is our people. The longevity of our people with us has been much higher, and this is one of the reasons why our clients stay longer with us.

RT: What are the various things you do to attract and retain talent?

When we talk about talent, I think it is the same concept that applies to clients. One happy client brings four new ones, and one happy employee helps us get four more. That’s our main strategy and we focus on keeping our teams happy and giving them the best work environment. As far as Kaizzen is concerned, we are one of the few consultancies in our category to have incorporated the best-in-class employee-friendly policies like insurance, health-insurance, provident fund, leaves, no fixed timings and work from home etc. Our office is one of the best in our segment and full of positive energy apart from recreational options, annual trips, and trainings etc. All these factors cohesively help us retain and attract talent and give us the distinction of being the best employer in the PR domain.

RT: You have also started Craftsman Solutions and OFactor. Can you throw some light on the objective behind this venture?

As an entrepreneur, I have seen a lot of opportunities come our way in the last decade. Craftsman and OFactor are great examples of backward and forward integration. Craftsman is purely an event management company. As a PR firm, we have been doing a lot of events for our clients. Craftsman helps us by taking the PR ideas and ensuring their on-ground execution. This capability has helped us and our clients since we are able to create a seamless experience for them. Further, it has also opened up new avenues for us courtesy of its own standalone clients and provides Kaizzen the opportunity to generate more business from them. Similarly, OFactor is a purely creative and advertising agency that gives us great strength in terms of creating video content or high-impact campaigns. It also helps us and our clients by expanding our bouquet of services.

RT: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my free time, my sole focus is my family. Whenever I am not working, I am with my family.

RT: What is the next phase of growth for your company?

So far, Kaizzen’s growth has been driven by traditional media. This might sound akin to sailing against the wind, but our consistent growth has been fuelled by clients who still place their trust in the traditional media, which has been our core competency. While keeping this intact, we are also expanding our digital footprint, and it will add to our service portfolio. Mumbai has steadily done very well for us and this year we are expecting good growth from Bangalore too. I consider these two to be very dynamic and fast-growing markets.

RT: What are some tips that you would offer to PR professionals joining the business?

PR is no different from any other career stream. There are no short-cuts and you must learn it by going through the grind. I believe your college education can provide you the foundation but one must get hands-on experience to gain the attributes necessary to become a successful PR person. You must master the traits of persuasion and patience. Also, a great PR person must be a great listener. Another important note for a budding PR professional is to read good and informative material and gain a good understanding and perspective of current affairs and developments.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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