“It has been a profitable experiment. It was not clients we chased or the money. It was purely the vision of unravelling the full potential of public relations to clients and to take it to the board room. Everything else followed — success and money,” says Nandita Lakshmanan.
She is the founder and CEO of a public relations firm specializing in technology, healthcare and consumer domains. What makes me and my firm young today is that sense of purpose, of not looking at what we do as an opportunistic money making machine but as a business that has helped companies introduce new concepts, new projects, new behaviour and be part of India’s transformation story, outlines Nandita.
It has been a long journey for her, learning the nuances of a very competitive field at very close quarters. But she wanted to do something on her own and decided to start from scratch by setting up her own public relations firm which has grown today to a profitable 100-strong company.
The practice, under Nandita’s leadership, has won several international awards including the APAC PR Week “New Consultancy of the Year” award.
She led the firm’s commendable win of India’s leading software major, Infosys Technologies in December 2000, and has since then rigorously entrenched the philosophy of growth through retention within the firm.
Under her leadership, the company entered into a global partnership with a leading PR firm, Porter Novelli. She recently launched The Practice Seed, an initiative focused on providing PR services to start-ups. Nandita also conducts media training workshops and loves to interact with budding media professionals.
“Ethics and integrity should not govern just every profession but every individual. I am not taking the high moral ground. This is about raising the bar of consciousness and introspecting. Today, we are living in an era of deficits — trust, governance, infrastructure and what not. In such an environment, integrity becomes the key. And, it starts with me,” she says confidently.
Detailing her experiences and the privilege of working with some of the best corporate leaders and some of the brightest talents, Nandita says, “A clear conscience is the softest pillow which I have learnt from Infosys founder N R Narayanamurthy. Everyday, a new lesson is learnt from the enthusiasm of a colleague, from the chidings of a client and from the loss of business or an employee. It is important to take time out to think about the lessons learnt in the course of the day, week, month or the years gone by.”
Nandita is an active member of Public Relations Consultants Association of India and has completed a two-year-term as the organization’s President in 2008. She currently heads the Knowledge Forum for them. She is also a member of the Board at Dream a Dream, a NGO focussed on imparting life skills to children from vulnerable backgrounds.
Sharing her experience of working with the media, Nandita says that she has learnt to appreciate their challenges and recognise their motives. However, she emphasises that public relations is more about facts and not a whitewash of facts and this has helped her a great deal.
However, it is important for us not to be carried away by the wave of cynicism and she says, “Is it really necessary for media to be prophets of doom? For every negative story that is brought about, followed with fervor, gorging thousands of column or several hours of airtime, there are enough and more stories of courage of positive changes. When caught up with an agenda, we tend to forget all else and narrow our views to the tunnel vision.”
An alumnus of the Fortune/ US State Department Global Mentorship Program, Nandita has also served as a juror at the prestigious Cannes Advertising Festival of 2010, in the Public Relations category. Enjoying her life and chosen career to the hilt, she not only devotes quality time to her son but has also found time to learn Indian classical music.
“My family has been very supportive but I am equally conscious of my duties as I am responsible for the livelihood of so many. In the last 12 years as my company grew, I too have grown as an individual,” Nandita reminiscences. A great believer in embracing one’s idealism, she signs off by saying, “Keep that fire stoked and fed. Never let it diminish to embers or worse, ashes. Fan the flames and rise up to become a great and enduring professional.”