The age of one-person consultancies

The latest fad in the world of Public Relations is for a person with atleast ten years of experience to quit his or her corporate job or consultancy job and get into entrepreneur mode by starting a firm. While this is great for the individual I’m not sure it bodes well for a profession that is just about coming of age. I have received five messages on Whatsapp, LinkedIn and email in as many weeks about five different people starting out this summer.

While I definitely think there is a need for another half a dozen good PR firms as there is a dearth of those, I do not think the way forward is for individuals to just start creating firms overnight with 2-3 clients paying them a lakh each per month.

I wish these individuals come together and create a joint venture. I joked on Twitter the other day that at the going rate we would have 52 consultancies by the end of next August at the rate of one being launched every week.

Why is it not a good thing? Here are atleast seven reasons –

  1. Building a consultancy ground-up is 100 times harder than it was in 2007 and a thousand times harder than it was in 1997. In a simple phrase, it is back-breaking.
  2. Dog eat dog world. It indeed is and the undercutting will become even more rampant in order to excite the client who is all out to save an additional dollar.
  3. The depletion of talent is at a high. I get numerous calls annually asking for help on recruitment and the best solution I could come up with is to co-create a school to mould the right talent.
  4. Quality of work is a function of several factors. Creativity in larger teams is higher. Smaller outfits in India have never been known for outstanding work if we go by the awards metrics.
  5. Fragmentation in any profession is not a good thing. Especially, in a profession that is little over INR 1000 crore. Consolidation may happen but it may be too little, too late.
  6. The numerous small shops have not been innovative and path breaking to build a strong case for their existence. I have nothing against them but they have not inspired the need for more of them.
  7. Lastly, clients are confused which firm to invite for a proposal, which one to choose because they all seem similar beyond the surface.

I can list atleast seven reasons why they are good. But I will leave that for another day or for someone who just started out to respond to the points above through a perspective that is different. Until then, all I can say is best of luck to those who have been there and all the best to those who have just started!

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Founding Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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