TCS' Bagchi has high expectations for Indian PR

Pradipta Bagchi knows the depths of jet lag. He once got on a plane in India to travel to the US for a business conference held by Rupert Murdoch; 18 hours later, he was back in the air going home.

Pradipta Bagchi knows the depths of jet lag. He once got on a plane in India to travel to the US for a business conference held by Rupert Murdoch; 18 hours later, he was back in the air going home.

Shaking his head ruefully, he mutters, "No way around it."

Such trips come with the territory for the GM of corporate communications for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the massive consulting arm of the even more massive Tata Group, India's most famous conglomerate. TCS' offerings include consulting, IT services, and technological and engineering infrastructure development across six continents - and Bagchi runs all of its communications work. He is a busy man.

Bagchi, who talked with PRWeek at the ICCO Global Summit in New Delhi earlier this month, is used to being busy - just not in the PR world. Not long ago, he was the business editor for The Times of India, the nation's largest English-language paper. In January 2005, he took the job at TCS, having tired of the journalism world.

"I was bored with journalism," he explains. "I'd been doing it for 13 years. And in India, unfortunately, the more senior you become, the more of a manager they make you, rather than a journalist."

When Bagchi took his current post, TCS had just gone public after a long history as a privately held company. For a multibillion-dollar firm, TCS has handed Bagchi a full plate: He is in charge of all external relations, including media relations, IR, speechwriting, and corporate and branding campaigns in India. He also supervises the work of two separate PR agencies: one for work inside India and the other for international work.

Having held high-profile roles on both sides of the fence, Bagchi has seen enough to know that the dynamic between reporters and corporations in India is still evolving.

"The Indian media market, and the entire PR and communications industry, are very nascent," he says. "They have a long way to go to reach the level of maturity that the whole communications game has reached in the West."

Part of Bagchi's mandate (and a personal desire) is to help ensure that TCS' corporate communications rise to a level equal to that of any large global company. His years in journalism not only equip him with the knowledge of exactly how the press prefers to deal with companies, but they also allow him to cultivate relationships that are critical to success in the far-flung and diverse Indian market.

"Relationships in India are very important, just because the market is so spread out," he says. His old paper, for example, has a strong presence in the North and West parts of the country, but is dwarfed by rivals elsewhere. Further, English-language media are only one small segment of the media market - papers in regional languages boast circulation figures 10 times larger than even the largest English papers, he says.

And because the strength of the Tata Group brand is greatest within India, media relations in the home country takes on a much higher level of intensity. TCS receives a great deal of international press because of its scope (90% of its revenues come from outside India), but building and maintaining credibility at home is still a primary task.

Bagchi says that he hopes to help the entire Indian PR industry assume a greater role in the country's corporate playing field. "A lot of Indian companies have only [recently] woken up to the fact that they need a structured communications program over the last three to five years," he says. "Before that, communications programs were fairly ad hoc... if you had a flamboyant CEO who was good with the sound bites and pithy comments, companies tended to get more press."

From his office in a Mumbai skyscraper, to business meetings around the country, to global conferences, Bagchi doesn't stay in one place for long. But wherever he goes, he carries the weight of his employer's brand on his shoulders.

"You have to be able to live up to your promises," he says. "People expect Tata to do that."

Pradipta Bagchi

Senior GM, head of communications, TCS

Deputy resident editor, The Times of India

Business editor, The Times of India

Business writer, Web site editor, markets editor, Business Standard

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