Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

Masterstroke Interview with Jaideep Shergill, CEO of MSL Group India

jaideep shergill mslgroupThere is a decisive shift towards strong, insights-based integrated communications. Digital continues to be on fire, but the demand for services such as public affairs, crisis communications, content, brand-related research and corporate social responsibility is picking up significantly, says Jaideep Shergill, CEO of MSL Group India in an interview with, read on to know more on what’s shaping the communications business and what makes MSL India, a leading communications consultancy firm.  


With first quarter of 2014 coming to an end, how do you foresee the next 3 quarters?

The first quarter of 2014 was a significant improvement over the previous quarter. It must also be kept in perspective that the general elections were coming up and many corporations were waiting for the results before taking investment and communication decisions. Now that the elections are over, I foresee much more activity on the communications – and overall business – front.

What are the new trends/innovations shaping our industry?

The trends have indicated – for a while now – a decisive shift towards strong, insights-based integrated communications. Digital continues to be on fire, but the demand for services such as public affairs, crisis communications, content, brand-related research and corporate social responsibility is picking up significantly.

Enlighten us on few great changes that have been brought by the current parent company to India through your consultancy? How has the servicing change since the takeover?

This has happened on several fronts. As I indicated above, there is a strong strategic focus to accounts now and the old model is firmly behind us. The research and insights capability has been strengthened – which clients have been demanding – and it will continue to be an important focus area for us. Because of the strong emphasis on skills upgradation that MSLGROUP believes in, we are investing a significant percentage of our revenue in training and global learning movements. This, in turn, has led to higher-quality results for clients. Measurement has been a stumbling block for the industry, so we’ve introduced our Verite measurement system. This is a system focused on business outcomes rather than outputs. We have also introduced our proprietary insights platform, People’s Lab, and our digital aggregator, Storystream. Servicing has been revolutionised through the migration of global learnings and expertise as well as the migration of global clients whose expectations are altogether different from the ones we had handled before the takeover. This made us evolve accordingly.

What makes MSL India uniquely different from other agencies in India?

Our culture and values. We have an open, transparent and people-centric culture, which is reflected in the trust our people place in us. Our motto is ‘Together Works Better’; we have great collaboration across business units and locations. Apart from this, we lay great emphasis on learning and people development. We firmly believe that the company’s growth should reflect in the personal and professional growth of its employees.

What does MSL India do to keep their employees happy and motivated?

It’s important to keep them engaged. When they are, they don’t need an external push or enticement to drive them. We have a number of employee engagement initiatives, many driven by employees themselves. For example, through our M(Em)-POWER programme, employees undertake initiatives ranging from cross-learning and sharing to interest groups and idea-generation team huddles. Other initiatives include sports and corporate social responsibility initiatives.

How are you tackling the current issue of skilled talent?

The lines dividing public relations, marketing, advertising and social media are blurring; there is a greater demand for integrated solutions. As a result, we need to look for and groom talent accordingly. Obviously, such talent isn’t readily available. So, there is a greater need to invest in training the existing talent. In addition, they need greater exposure, including to markets outside of India. These are the opportunities we provide.

Do you have any minimum criteria of selecting a client? How do you go about securing business for MSL in India?

In fact, we have an institutionalized process that calculates whether we should pitch for a client. The process has weightages for various parameters, such as the relationship of the potential client with our network and the wider Publicis Groupe, the quality of the brief, whether we will have access to the top decision makers in their organisation, our expertise and experience in that sector, the resources required, etc. We secure business through the usual channels but apart from that our global relationships work for us. Many corporations that we work with in other countries find it a natural progression to work with us here. Also, as an integrated communications firm, we find that most of our clients turn to us as their needs expand. For instance, since we already understand the brand, the client would trust us with their design needs when the need arises. It’s the same for all our services, from public affairs to employee engagement to even experiential.

Any message for the industry?

It’s a message we have often repeated. It’s not enough for MSLGROUP to understand that the communications paradigm is changing. We can’t afford to stick to traditional PR; we must move fast to an integrated communications model. Talent sourcing and retention as well as measurement are make-or-break issues for the industry. We must arrive at a consensus on a model for the latter and do our best to invest in the former.


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Categorised in: Interviews, Public Relations, Vikypedia Exclusives

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Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed by me in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of my employer or the organizations I have been associated with. I believe in the principle of sharing information. Feel free to link to any of the posts in this blog.
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