Reputation Today 100 Most Important Professionals: 2021 – The Leading 25

Reputation Today’s 100 Most Important Professionals list is now in its fourth year. The main objective of this list is to offer younger professionals a set of people whose professional journey can be an inspiration. It was first brought out in 2017 and was a ranked list. Then in 2019, we brought out the second edition in alphabetical order. Last year, in 2020, we ranked the Top 25 that included 27 professionals, two of who featured as a team. We listed the next 68 in alphabetical order and also featured five leaders who we believed were important in their own right for leading powerful online networks of communication professionals.

This year, as part of our list we have added three stalwarts who play mentoring roles in their organisations, in addition to the titles they hold.

We also have added two names in tribute. Both these professionals were towering in their own right. The late Naresh Kumar was part of the previous list. His passing away suddenly last month is a big blow to the PSU communication fraternity. The late Surekha Pillai was not part of the earlier lists. However, her death due to COVID, led to an unusual outpouring of sorrow that led to her trending on Twitter. She was one of the early adopters of Twitter and a prolific communicator. We have included both these names as this is the least we can do to two professionals who live on.

To view the complete list Reputation Today 100 Most Important Professionals – Class of 2021, CLICK HERE.

The effort that goes into working on this list is humongous as it involves three levels of research – Maintaining a database of a long list and constantly updating it; Polling over 500 professionals to get names that may have missed our radar; Conversations with several professionals over three months.

We are grateful to India Press Release for their support in presenting this list.

  1. Rohit Bansal, Group Head of Communications, Reliance Industries Limited
    — Because he has been group head of corporate communications at India’s most valuable company by market cap for over seven years
    — Because he has helmed print and TV platforms, read history at St. Stephen’s, earned a Harvard AMP and currently pursuing  the senior management programme at IIM-A
    — Because his social stream on six platforms shows childlike engagement with India’s wilderness and the courtesy of returning (almost) every single message
  2. Madan Bahal, Co-founder & Managing Director, Adfactors PR
    — Because he has built a company that equals the size of the next two competitors
    — Because he has ensured that he can handle multiple clients from the same sector without any of them feeling there is a conflict of interest
    — Because he is the trusted advisor to 4 out of the 6 top conglomerates including Tata, Godrej, Aditya Birla and Mahindra
  3. Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations
    — Because he is the go-to person for all things crisis across the board
    — Because he has managed to be at the helm despite selling to Dentsu a few years ago
    — Because he is the most followed PR CEO on Twitter in the world
  4. Minari Shah, Director – Public Relations, Amazon India
    — Because she runs communications at the most prominent MNC in India
    — Because she has attracted dozens of young leaders to join her team
    — Because she has the rare distinction of straddling the world of technology, banking, automobile, journalism and PR consulting
  5. Deepshikha Dharmaraj, CEO, BCW India Group & Genesis BCW
    — Because she is the longest serving employee in Indian PR consulting
    — Because she was the chosen successor to the PR behemoth that WPP is building in India
    — Because she is the only PR CEO who has headed marketing, talent, growth before being anointed the first among equals
  6. Amit Misra, CEO, MSL South Asia
    — Because he is the most successful CEO in the Publicis Groupe’s scheme of things in India
    — Because his mandate includes geographies beyond India
    — Because he has run a tight ship building a formidable team with some pioneering employee engagement initiatives
  7. Sujit Patil, VP & Head of Brand & Communications, Godrej Industries & Associated Companies
    — Because he is the go-to person for all things communications in the Godrej world and he has ensured that over two stints
    — Because his team is the most awarded in-house communications team
    — Because he is an organised go-getter who makes sure he leaves no stone unturned to support any PR event across the country
  8. Nitin Mantri, Group CEO, Avian WE & President, ICCO
    — Because he has offered his leadership beyond the firm by helming PRCAI for several years
    — Because he was the first person of Indian origin to be elected President of ICCO
    — Because his commitment to be present at any public relations event anywhere in the country is awe-inspiring
  9. Chhavi Leekha, Director – Corporate Communications & Brand Reputation, IndiGo
    — Because she has navigated all kinds of crises at the leading airline with ease
    — Because she has ensured that IndiGo’s reputation has remained intact throughout the pandemic
    — Because she is highly trusted by the promoters and the management at IndiGo
  10. Valerie Pinto, CEO, Weber Shandwick India
    — Because she is one of the youngest CEOs of a Top 10 PR firm
    — Because she has managed to carefully nurture three brands under her watch over the past half a decade
    — Because she is one of the most sought after jury members for awards across the continent and beyond
  11. Rakesh Thukral, Managing Director, Edelman India
    — Because he is currently the second longest serving chief executives of a global firm in India
    — Because despite being understated and keeping a low profile he has interest in social causes ranging from mental health, climate, water, clean air, urban development and eldercare
    — Because he is Richard Edelman’s go-to man for all things South Asia
  12. Rajneesh Kumar, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Flipkart Group
    — Because he is Walmart’s man in India for all things public affairs and communications
    — Because he is one of the few former IIS officers who navigates the world of corporate communications
    — Because he is a torchbearer for e-commerce with the powers that be
  13. Rachana Panda, Country Group Head – Communications, PA & Sustainability, Bayer (South Asia)
    — Because she is one of the most sought after business leaders for mentorship, jury work, advice and to speak at events
    — Because she is one of the few communication leaders with an AMP from Harvard
    — Because she is country head of communications at a chemical major with interests ranging from pharma and agriculture
  14. Sandeep Gurumurthi, Head – Corporate Communication & Brand, Aditya Birla Group
    — Because he was handpicked by Kumar Mangalam Birla to run communications at the conglomerate
    — Because as a replacement for his predecessor he has done a fairly commendable job at the group in the last two years
    — Because he oversees diverse sectors ranging from textiles to telecom to cement to finance and chemicals
  15. Seema Ahuja, Global Head of Communications & Corporate Brand, Biocon Group & Biocon Biologics
    — Because she manages communications at a company run by arguably the most powerful woman in business
    — Because she has completed 10 years at the group – a rare feat for women in corporate communications
    — Because she has spent an uninterrupted 25 years in healthcare communications
  16. Anuj Dayal, Executive Director – Corporate Communications, DMRC
    — Because he runs communications for India’s largest metro rail network
    — Because he is the longest serving corporate communications leader having spent over two decades in the organisation
    — Because he has been with the Indian Railways for 34 years – a rare feat for someone in communications at a PSU
  17. Nazeeb Arif, Executive Vice President, ITC Group
    — Because he is the most powerful voice for corporate communications based in Kolkata
    — Because he has spent 15 years each in two jobs
    — Because under his charge numerous communication initiatives have taken off in the past decade at ITC
  18. Atul Ahluwalia, Founding Partner, First Partners
    — Because he is one of the senior most co-founders of a PR start-up
    — Because his firm has won more awards in the last five years than all other firms put together
    — Because he picks and chooses the clients he wants to work on, based on the potential they offer to do meaningful work
  19. Ophira Bhatia, Director, Corporate & Government Affairs (CGA), India; Lead, CGA, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Mondelez International
    — Because she has spent 25 years across two organisations of which a decade at Mondelez
    — Because her role encompasses Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa
    — Because she has been instrumental in transforming the perception of the organisation from a chocolate company to a snacking powerhouse
  20. Rakhee Lalvani, Vice President – Public Relations & Corporate Communications, IHCL
    — Because she has been at the Taj Hotels for nearly 30 years working with multiple CEOs
    — Because she oversees hotel launches and crisis communications across 100 properties in 10 countries
    — Because she is the longest serving communications professional at a Tata company
  21. Atul Sharma, Managing Director, Ruder Finn India
    — Because he managed to garner support from rival firms to get elected as PRCAI president
    — Because he has taken Ruder Finn India to new levels in less than three years
    — Because he is considered a tech PR whiz by many a business leaders at technology brands
  22. Kunal Sinha, Founder Director, Value 360 Communications; Co-Founder & COO
    — Because he jointly leads what is the second largest Indian PR firm
    — Because he has built an expertise in helping start-ups handle communications as they grow into being unicorns
    — Because he is building a technology led PR firm by adding subsidiaries including Clan Connect
  23. Varsha Chainani, Senior VP –  Group Communications, Mahindra Group
    — Because she leads all things communications at a global mobility conglomerate
    — Because she has transcended sectors as diverse as healthcare, technology and auto
    — Because she transitioned from being a member of the airline cabin crew to corporate communications with aplomb
  24. Sunayna Malik, Managing Director – India & SVP – APAC, Archetype
    — Because she is the longest serving chief executive at a global firm in India
    — Because she is one of the few who moved from client-side to the consultancy world and succeeded
    — Because she has managed to navigate a name change and retain clients and talent though stellar work
  25. Nandita Lakshmanan, Founder & Chairperson, The PRactice
    — Because she is a voice of reason
    — Because she has built The PRactice for the second time against all odds in the last three years
    — Because she is the biggest proponent of PR for PR, south of the Vindhyas

For any comments or queries around the list, please email us at team at reputationtoday dot in

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Reputation Today is India’s only print magazine for Public Relations and Corporate Communications professionals. It is the official magazine of PRAXIS - India’s largest offsite summit for Public Relations and Corporate Communications.

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