GST – A new beginning for Indian economy

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India has taken a giant leap in economic reforms with the passage of goods and services tax (GST) legislation. This will create one of the world’s biggest single consolidated market, making movement of goods and services seamless and cheaper across the country that holds over 1.25 billion consumers.
 
The upper house of the Indian parliament unanimously voted to approve a constitutional amendment to enable the goods-and-services tax on Wednesday evening. Once fully implemented, the tax reform will a go long way toward fulfilling the government’s pledge of doing business easier in the world’s fastest growing economy. 
 
According to the finance minister, goods and services tax can boost economic growth by as much as 2 percent, and increase revenue generation for the government allowing more fund allocation for social welfare sector and building infrastructure.    
 
However, consumers may have to brace some short-term inflation post implementation of GST from April 1, 2017, — though much depends on the tax rate — higher it’s pegged, more are the chances of prices increasing. Countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand and others saw an increase in a one-time consumer inflation, which got normalised after a year.
 
The tax rate has not been finalised yet, however some of the top economic advisors to the government and the opposition, Congress party wants GST rate to be capped around 18 percent. The finance minister has said that the government will do everything to keep the tax rate on a lower side.     
 
Some of the revenue generating products for state governments such as alcohol, petroleum and real estate are expected to remain out of national sales tax ambit, while the GST council may also decide to tax certain luxury products like a high-end television sets higher than food staples.
 
GST would give a major boost to tax governance, as currently the system is plagued with a plethora of ad-hoc and discretionary taxes. This would make the tax system transparent and stable by ensuring ‘neutrality’ across businesses, products and services, a move which India Inc. and global investors would like to welcome. 
 
Companies operating in sectors such as automobile, fast moving consumer goods, media and entertainment, construction materials are expected to benefit from the implementation of goods and services tax, as currently the burden of paying taxes is on the higher side. However, companies working in electronics, telecom, airline sector and manufacturing aerated beverages and tobacco products are likely to witness higher burden of taxes. 

Brexit and India

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Brexit and India

A new dawn has broken, and scarcely a person in the UK – in favour of Leave or Remain – can believe it has happened. The UK has decided to leave the EU by 52% to 48%. Despite the verdict the country is split, virtually down the middle, and it’s not clear how that will play out in the weeks and months ahead.

The markets have reacted as expected: Sterling has fallen to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 and the FTSE opened down 5%. Banking stocks are seeing heavy losses in early trading in Europe. Credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded the UK to negative and Standard & Poor’s has said the UK is likely to lose its AAA rating, while German bund yields have fallen into negative territory as investors look for safe havens.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has also made a statement, saying that the Bank of England has contingency plans for the result and that there is £250 billion of extra funds available and they will be monitoring the markets ready to deal with short term volatility.

Before October the next Conservative leader who will automatically assume the role of Prime Minister will be selected. The new PM will negotiate the terms of exit from the EU that could take up to two years. Until then UK and the world will face plenty of political and economic uncertainty. The UK is now in uncharted waters.

The outcome of the referendum raises profound questions for the integrity of the UK itself, with Scotland and Northern Ireland both strongly backing Remain. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the EU vote “makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union” and there could be a fresh referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK.

Interestingly, there was a demographic divide in the way the country voted. Most young people voted to remain in the EU while people in 50s and above largely voted to exit. Economic uncertainty, rising immigration and total disgruntlement with the “loss” of decision-making powers to civil servants in Brussels, EU headquarters, has bothered many for years and it reached a tipping point in the run-up to the referendum.

The process of unravelling the UK from the EU will take years. In practice that means freedom of movement and labour and the ability to trade with the rest of the EU will not change for now. But this vote will send shockwaves across the other countries in the EU, particularly those, like France and Germany, facing elections in the coming year. A wave of underlying Eurosceptic sentiment could now be unleashed as the EU wrestles with its future.

Impact on India

As the third largest investor in UK with $2.75 billion, India is naturally concerned by the earthquake caused by the referendum result. The political upheaval will lead to a long period of uncertainty for Indian businesses in UK as London negotiates the terms of the exit.

Indian companies saw UK as “gateway” into the European Union and 800 companies employing over 100,000 people are present in the island nation.

Both opportunities and losses will come India’s way. While in the short term India might take a hit as analysts predict a drop in India’s growth rate due to Brexit, many like finance minister Arun Jaitley see “opportunities” in the long run.

Trade wise UK is only number 18 in terms of total trade in the last 15 years, number five as an export market accounting for only 3.4 percent of India’s exports, and not even in the top 10 as an import market.

The volatility in pound sterling will impact Indian businesses in that country. While cheaper pound may see Indian investments rise in the property market, travel from India to UK would become cheaper so would education expenses.

Currently London is the banking capital and major banks are likely to move to the European continent. Many Indian companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange and have their European headquarters in UK. An exit from the single market might force Indian companies to set up new offices in the continent raising their overhead costs.

India’s IT Sector might take some hit with 17 per cent of total global exports of around $100 billion destined for the UK. Nasscom, in a statement though noted that Brexit would have a short-term impact and it sees more opportunities for IT companies in the coming years as UK renegotiates separate trade agreement with India.

Leaving the EU single market would lead to slowdown in movement of people from the continent to UK and that would create new opportunities for high skilled labour from countries like India.

Finally, loss of preferential access for UK goods into the EU would lead London to negotiate new trade agreements with individual countries like India and thereby, throw up new opportunities.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies strengthens senior leadership in India

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Hill+Knowlton Strategies strengthens senior leadership in India

Gurgaon, May 11, 2016 – Hill+Knowlton Strategies, a leading international communications consultancy, announced today the appointment of Michelle Pereira – Director Marketing Communication and Consumer Practice India & Managing Director, Mumbai office and Vidisha Chatterjee as General Manager – Client engagement and Operations.

“Michelle will establish the India marketing and communication practice and consolidate our clients and teams to build creative, integrated powerful campaigns. She has a well-established track record of winning and leading some of India’s most sought after client partnerships and her experience will be a significant asset to our business and growth strategy. Vidisha will b work closely with clients and teams to focus on creativity and operational excellence. I am delighted to welcome both leaders into the H+K family” said Radhika Shapoorjee, President-India & South Asia.

Michelle is an agency veteran with over 17 years of experience, she is a specialist in consumer and brand marketing. She has worked across sectors including Technology, Consumer and Marketing, Travel and Tourism, Hospitality, FMCG, Retail, Lifestyle and Auto. She has provided strategic communications counsel to senior clients, advice on media engagement strategies and responsible for the development and implementation of multiple campaigns. She has spearheaded issues management, developed key message and brand positioning, media policies and crisis preparedness for various clients.

Operating out of Gurgaon office, Vidisha Chatterjee has close to two decades of diverse experience in the Indian media industry, corporate communications and public relations industry. She has successfully handled large mandates and created strategic campaigns for clients across the telecom, technology, F&B, e-commerce and FMCG sector. She has also handled several high profile visits of world and industry leaders in India. In the past, she was the National Programming Director for a high profile English radio channel looking after their editorial content as well as provided creative marketing content solutions. She was also an integral part of the team that set up India’s top music channels.

About Hill+Knowlton Strategies

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Inc. is a leading international communications consultancy, providing services to local, multinational and global clients. The firm is headquartered in New York, with 86 offices in 48 countries as well as an extensive associate network. The agency is part of WPP, the world leader in communications services. For more information please visit www.hkstrategies.com

In India, Hill+Knowlton Strategies has more than 130 consultants and operations in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, plus local affiliations that reach more than 100 cities nationwide. The agency specializes in corporate communications, public affairs, marketing communications, crisis, finance, technology, media & entertainment, and digital communications. For more information please visit www.hkstrategies.in

For more information, contact:
Deepa Jayaraman, Chief Operating Officer India
Email: deepa.jayaraman@hkstrategies.com

Follow Hill+Knowlton Strategies India on:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HKStrategiesIndia/?fref=ts&ref=br_tf
Twitter: @HKStrategies_IN

Post Budget perspective 2016-17

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The Budget has been a Balancing act between the Politics and Economics of India 

The Politics of Budget

All government budgets, especially budgets in India, have two aspects: an economic one and a political one. The economic one is crafted by the finance minister while the political one caters to the prime minister’s and the ruling party’s immediate political needs. The Budget for 2016-17 presented by the finance minister Arun Jaitley, his government’s third, is no exception to this general rule.

Following the poor show of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance received in Bihar Assembly elections held last year, and the fact that a series of assembly elections are coming up in the next two years, this year’s Budget spotlight was on rural and farm sectors.

In order to remove the allegation of “suit-boot ki Sarkar” it is imperative that the prime minister projects a pro-poor image and this is what the Budget for 2016-17 seeks to do.

The prime minister was quick to hail it as a “pro-poor budget”. He now has a talking point and an opportunity to shed the pro-rich image his government had acquired after the government’s failed bid in 2015 to get the land acquisition bill passed.

Mr Jaitley thus proposed a need to transform India based on the following nine pillars:

  1. Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare: with a focus on doubling farmers’ income in five years;
  2. Rural Sector: with emphasis on rural employment and infrastructure;
  3. Social Sector including Healthcare: to cover all under welfare and health services;
  4. Education, Skills and Job Creation: to make India a knowledge based and productive society
  5. Infrastructure and Investment: to enhance efficiency and quality of life;
  6. Financial Sector Reforms: to bring transparency and stability;
  7. Governance and Ease of Doing Business: to enable the people to realise their full potential;
  8. Fiscal Discipline: prudent management of Government finances and delivery of benefits to the needy; and
  9. Tax Reforms: to reduce compliance burden with faith in the citizenry.

With distress in rural areas increasing, the Budget enhanced the outlays of nearly Rs 2.75 lakh crore for programmes in the social sector, farmer welfare and rural sector with emphasis laid on roads, medical services and a new welfare scheme for LPG provision to women from the households.

Farmers were given much more importance with Mr Jaitley referring to the farmers as ‘the backbone of the country’s food security’ and emphasized the need to think beyond ‘food security’ and give back to our farmers a sense of ‘income security’. The aim was thus to double the farmers’ income by 2022.

The Budget actually tilts against the corporate sector, the rich and the middle classes by removing some of their tax exemptions and even taxing them – as in the case of the new dividend tax that individuals who receive dividends in excess of Rs 10 lakh will have to pay. For the middle class, it proposes to tax 60 per cent of their retirement savings when they retire and receive their pensions and provident funds. It has also proposed that purchases above Rs 1 lakh will require a PAN card and that purchases above Rs 2 lakh will have tax deducted at source of 1 per cent. There was an increase in excise on services like jewelry and retail consumer products depicting the fall of increased taxes on the middle class and the consumer markets in the semi urban and urban areas.

Its economic objectives had been known for several months. These were to raise depressed aggregate demand in the economy while not disturbing the fiscal deficit targets; to increase the level of government investment in infrastructure; and lastly to rationalise the tax system by simplifying procedures and definitions. For example the implementation of Justice Easwar Committee recommendations by rationalising deductible expenditure on dividend earning instruments, the extending of the presumptive scheme for professionals and other taxpayers, the automatic stay of demand at first appellate level with 15 per cent part payment and enhanced interest for delayed refunds beyond 90 days all reinforce the Government’s commitment towards a simplified and less litigious tax regime.

The Economics of the Budget

Thus, leaving the political grandstanding aside for the moment, the Budget is rich in economic content. It provides a number of ways for small and medium businesses to access finance, grow and pay taxes in a stable fixed rate regime of 25 per cent. It has made a determined attempt to simply procedures.

It has stuck to the fiscal deficit target of 3.5 per cent which will come as a relief to the financial markets and force the RBI to reduce interest rates. However, since he has not provided for the impact of about one lakh fourteen thousand crore because of the pay commission’s recommendations and one-rank-one-pay, there may be some doubt on the target being met when the final accounts come in. After all, the net increase in revenue this year is only Rs 19,000 crore.

The massive increases in outlays for roads and railways will spur the demand for steel and cement and create employment in construction projects. It has made a strong attempt to recapitalise the banks. Some may argue that the amount provided for this, Rs 25,000 crore, is less than needed but nevertheless, it is a strong beginning.

The fact that there is no change in capital gains tax regime for listed stocks has made equity investors happy. The apprehension that such a tax would be introduced had made the stock market dip in the morning but it quickly recovered after the budget speech was over. However, the finance minister stuck to the time frame on General Anti-Avoidance Rules (GAAR) which will be implemented from April 1, 2017. This is likely to align Indian tax laws with legislation of BEPS action plans.

The Budget has made a strong attempt to get people who have not declared their incomes fully to make them do so by offering a one-time amnesty from prosecution provided they pay the 30 per cent rate and a penalty of 15 per cent.

For Corporate India, there’s not much in it. Budget proposed lowering corporate income tax rate for next financial year of relatively small enterprises with a turnover not exceeding Rs 5 crore in fiscal 2016 from 30 to 29 per cent plus surcharge and cess. New units incorporated on or after March 1, 2016 will be taxed at 25 per cent plus surcharge. Another important aspect of the Budget for the corporate was the need for ease of doing business for Indian investors and Indian businessmen as well as promoting institutional governance practices.

There are a few negative features as well, such as the decision to impose the service tax on spectrum fees which will increase the cost of telecom services, and will adversely affect telecom companies. The proposal to introduce a sunset clause for SEZ tax holiday could impact the IT sector.  But since this will become applicable only from 2020 there is enough time for firms to adjust.

The new transfer pricing documentation norms, which will include country-by-country reporting for multinationals with world incomes exceeding euros 750 million, is new and while it will bring in transparency, it will result in initial challenges for the tax payers.

The provision for what amounts to a tax holiday for start-ups will help them. The assurance that there will be no retrospective taxation and that the interest and penalty on litigants will be waived if they withdraw their appeals against the tax ruling is major step. The proposal to permit public sector units to sell their assets like land instead of equity divestment is a good one because it will boost government revenues.

Overall, in the backdrop of the prevailing depressed global economic scenario and the challenges the economy is facing, the Budget is a pragmatic balancing act combined with good economics and politics.

Best regards
Radhika Shapoorjee

A Pre budget perspective for 2016-17

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The budget 2016-17 has to solve the problem of depressed aggregate demand at a time of poor income growth of both individuals and firms and steadily falling exports.

The context:

On February 29, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present his third budget. The first one, in July 2014, disappointed those who had been expecting big reforms; the second in February 2015, was also more of the same, except for the announcement that the corporate would be reduced to 25 per cent from 30 per cent over five years.

Since then there has been a huge deterioration in both the domestic and the global economy. Proof of the slowdown in the Indian economy comes from the shortfall in railway freight targets and in the huge surplus of electricity now available.

The major economies of the world are also slowing down. The US, Europe and China have gone into a damage control mode, but to little avail. So world demand in 2016 is going to be depressed.

This has softened commodity prices, which is good news for India as it now has greater room for manoeuvre, especially because inflation is low, the current account deficit is the lowest in a decade at around 1 per cent. However, the reverse side is that India’s exports realisations have been going down for over a year and show no signs of reviving.

Our forex reserves are comfortable at over $350 billion but over 80 per cent are due to short term inflows which could go out very quickly if the FIIs start pulling out. At the same time rural demand has weakened massively because of two successive droughts and low commodity prices. Overall, these two factors have contributed to very depressed demand.

At the same time, stalled projects, especially in the private sector, are still high leading to poor demand for steel and cement. Non-oil and non-gold imports are also weak because of the industrial slowdown.

For taxpayers in India the budget expectation in 2016 is two-fold with a need to focus on growth as well as removal of barriers in case of tax litigation procedures.

The Goods and Services Tax roll out plan is the most important announcement India is expecting during the Budget session thus affecting the fiscal climate of the nation and Indian economy’s investment and expenditure climate. The challenge for the Finance Minister in this budget session would thus to be incorporate the stakeholders’ need keeping in mind the current investment climate of the economy. The integration of better institutional financial policy is another critical decision to be made in this year’s budget that encompasses the need of the declining manufacturing sector in India.

Even though there has been a global economic slowdown , India has been able to leverage its position financially and manage to develop into one of the fastest growing economies. Domestically India has been facing challenges from infrastructural funding of stalled projects and non performing assets in the banking industry. India, as an economy in the global system is to be able to keep up its position as an attractive investment destination will strongly to need to create a stable, predictable policy environment with single clearance windows for FDIs to flow in and retain business.

In short, the Budget for 2016-17 has to solve the problem of depressed aggregate demand at a time of poor income growth in India of both individuals and firms and falling exports.

The investment challenge:

For the finance minister, challenges are many. Amid weak private investments he has to find resources for higher public investment with a focus on roads, urban development and bank recapitalization. He has to boost growth sentiments, and win the confidence of foreign investors, while satisfying populist demands for more welfare spending.

He is also required to perform a well-nigh impossible task: of keeping the fiscal deficit down and increasing the rate of investment while maintaining inflation at its current low levels. Only a huge slice of luck can help him achieving these conflicting objectives. He has therefore talked about a ‘pause’ in fiscal consolidation which is so necessary to reassure foreign investors that all is well.

Last year the minister had promised that the fiscal deficit of 3.9 per cent in 2015-16 would be reduced to 3.5 per cent in the coming financial year.

Can he now increase this? By how much? To 3.7 per cent or 3.8 per cent? What will be the impact on inflation and foreign confidence?

Such a ‘pause’ may give the government around Rs 40,000 crore for investing in infrastructure which would then spur the demand for steel and cement. But since this extra would have to come of fresh government borrowing, two problems come up: would the new debt incurred for investment not make the fragile balance unsustainable and what is the guarantee that it will spur industrial demand?

Also, there are other claimants for funds like the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana, designed to improve the financial health of the power utilities. That also requires massive borrowing. Can the market absorb both?

If raising resources is one side of the fiscal problem, controlling expenditure is the other. The costs of the Seventh Pay Commission and One Rank One Pension pay-outs is going to take its toll.

One way out would be to rely on non-tax revenue via disinvestment but the valuations are low and it may not make commercial sense to sell equity in the public sector firms now without charges of corruption.

The government also promises to overhaul the tax regime. Budget has to tackle the bold pledges into action while stimulating consumption at the same time.

The banks problem:

The government owned banks are in dire straits. They need to be recapitalised as many of them have, over the last eight years, eaten away their capital. They need around one or 1.5 lakh crore over the next three years and only the government can provide this money because private savers unlikely to invest in them as long as they have huge band loans and are owned by the government.

Finding the money for this is another very important priority for this year’s Budget because otherwise the banks cannot start lending when economic activity begins to revive. But there is no obvious source from where the money can be taken. A certain amount of fiscal jugglery therefore seems certain, especially since the government also has to make a show of raising outlays for alleviating rural distress.

Then there are the bad loans, euphemistically, called non-performing assets. These are probably in excess of Rs 7 lakh crore and perhaps even more. This is the elephant in the room. The ideal solution would be for them to sell their bad loans to an asset reconstruction company but without a formal order in writing from the government, it is unlikely that bank chairmen will adopt this route for fear of attracting charges of corruption.

This means the loans may have to written off and that is further bad news for the banks. Their share prices could fall even further.

To sum up:

The Budget of 2016-2017 is critical for not only for India but for the global economic stakeholders. Domestically the resource and monetary allocation of the budget affects the three most critical sectors of Indian Economy i.e Infrastructure, Manufacturing and Banking making the decisions and budget allocation significant for global investment into India as well as domestic distribution of monetary resources, defining the industry sentiment.

Radhika Shapoorjee
President – India & South Asia

New leadership structure at Hill+Knowlton Strategies emphasises ‘One India’ solutions for Clients

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logoNew Delhi, November 20, 2015 – Hill+Knowlton Strategies, one of the world’s leading public affairs and public relations firms, today announced a new leadership structure in India that eliminates regional divisions, and gives clients a high-powered ‘One India’ solution.

Radhika Shapoorjee, President South Asia will now be supported by Deepa Jayaraman as Chief Operating Officer; Carolina Bajaj as Chief Strategy Officer; and Sunil Raman as Managing Director, Public Affairs. All of the above bring unique individual skills that add up to give clients strategic thinking and execution capabilities unmatched in the industry.

“The communications industry in India is experiencing many of the fundamental changes that we are seeing globally, and Hill+Knowlton Strategies is well prepared for the changes that are happening in India,” said Radhika Shapoorjee, President, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, South Asia. “Clients want integrated solutions that are channel agnostic and focused on creativity, content and that deliver business impact. By moving away from the industry norm of geographically-limited responsibilities, we will optimise our resources and provide clients with the best solutions and people, irrespective of where they are located in the country.”

Deepa Jayaraman has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer. She will now be responsible for the day-to-day management of client business across all Hill+Knowlton offices in India. She will focus to drive best practices in client servicing, help teams innovate to provide value for clients and will strive to create an organization that’s constantly learning, with a culture of high performance, and a deep commitment to quality. Deepa will be based in Bengaluru.

As Chief Strategy Officer, Carolina Bajaj will be primarily responsible for leading the strategic change in the firm’s approach towards client servicing initiatives and new services as well as integration with practices. Carolina will be based in Mumbai.

Sunil Raman will lead public policy. He is a highly experienced political journalist who has worked with BBC World Service and The Economic Times, and closely tracked and interpreted Indian Politics for 24 years. Today, more than ever clients are seeking counsel on the changing legislative process and policy making which impact their organisations. Sunil will be based in Gurgaon.

Vinod Moorthy has moved on from Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

About Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Inc. is a leading international communications consultancy, providing services to local, multinational and global clients. The firm is headquartered in New York, with 87 offices in 51 countries as well as an extensive associate network. The agency is part of WPP, the world leader in communications services. For more information please visit www.hkstrategies.com In India, Hill+Knowlton Strategies has more than 130 consultants and operations in Delhi, Mumbai,
Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, plus local affiliations that reach more than 100 cities nationwide. The agency specializes in corporate communications, public affairs, marketing communications, crisis, finance, technology, media and entertainment, and digital communications. For more information please visit www.hkstrategies.in

For more information, contact:
Deepa Jayaraman
Hill + Knowlton Strategies | deepa.jayaraman@hkstrategies.com | +91 9008778681

IPAN H+K Strategies Shines at Sabre Awards South Asia 2014

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IPAN Hill + Knowlton StrategiesIPAN H+K Strategies Shines at Sabre Awards South Asia 2014

Wins one Diamond, one Gold and two Certificates of Excellence

July 29, 2014, Gurgaon – IPAN Hill+ Knowlton Strategies, a leading global communications consultancy bagged a prestigious Diamond for its End of Support Campaign for Microsoft XP in Reputation Management in the C-Suite category & added a Gold for the launch of the GVK Mumbai International Airport Terminal T2 in the Travel & Tourism Category, at the South Asia SABRE Awards. The IPAN H+K team also won two Certificates of Excellence for the Old Spice – Smell Mantastic campaign for Procter & Gamble India in the Fashion and Beauty category & another for Microsoft XP in the Technology category.

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Commenting on the win, Radhika Shapoorjee, President- South Asia, IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies said, “With attention spans becoming shorter and the democratization of news, creativity is taking centre stage. One needs to tell a compelling story that engages, that tugs at emotions, or else it gets lost in the milieu. For Microsoft, the XP End of Support ran a huge risk of loss of reputation. However, we flipped it on its head and converted it into a big opportunity, enabling us to convert millions of potentially lost clients into stakeholders who bought back into Microsoft technology. The Diamond SABRE stands testimony to how we, as a company, are evolving with the times and still telling compelling stories and creating great 360 degree campaigns.”

The Diamond SABRE award winning Windows XP End of Support campaign was an awareness campaign that sought to help businesses, especially in the highly vulnerable banking sector, upgrade from Windows XP to newer Windows 7/8. The campaign has generated more than 1250 mentions & also reaped resounding success reaching over 7.1 million PC users.

IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ work on the launch of the GVK Mumbai International Airport Terminal 2 brought home the Gold SABRE award. Reaching over 5 million people, IPAN Hill+Knowlton was able to convey the “untold story of GVK” by positioning Terminal 2 as the best in its class airport terminal globally. It became a blueprint for a ‘New India’, and above all projected GVK as an emerging infrastructure major focused on Public Private Partnership (PPP) airports globally.

Diamond-SABRE-award_3

IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies was also recognized with a Certificate of Excellence for developing a 360 degree PR and social media campaign for P&G’s Old Spice Mantastic campaign across Indian metros. The campaign showcased the evolving Indian man by generating conversations centered on the theme of the ‘Mantastic Man’ vs the ‘Metrosexual Man’, thus succeeding in changing and influencing the target consumers and laying the base for the launch of the new range of Old Spice deodorants.

Diamond-SABRE-award_1The SABRE awards are bestowed annually and are presented for Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation. Presented by The Holmes Group, the SABRE Awards is in its tenth year and is the world’s largest Public Relations awards competition, covering North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific.

IPAN Hill + Knowlton Strategies

IPAN Hill + Knowlton Strategies (www.hkstrategies.in) is the leader in both public relations and public affairs in India. The company is one of the leading and most respected public affairs and public relations firm in the country. It specializes in corporate communications, public affairs, marketing communications, crisis, finance, technology, media & entertainment, and digital communications. IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies have a network of offices in five major cities staffed by 150 skilled Public Relations practitioners. It has offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata and local affiliations that reach over 100 cities across India.

IPAN merged with Hill+Knowlton Strategies in 2009. Its parent company, Hill+Knowlton Strategies Inc., has 90 offices in 52 countries as well as an extensive associate network and is a member of WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY) (www.wpp.com), one of the world’s largest communications services groups.

For more information, please contact:
Sayan Banerjee | +91 9717085553 | sayan.banerjee@hkstrategies.com

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Inside the PR Lions jury

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banner-creativity

With temperatures hovering around 30 degrees centigrade and no serious infrastructure for air-conditioning here, my pre-planned Cannes wardrobe remains packed in my bags, while my credit card is taking a walk down the boulevard for clothes that are lighter, airier!

Similarly, over 1700 entries already rated by us in pre-arrival sessions, remained on the table, as our discussions stargazed on some basic yet deep questions: What exactly qualifies as a PR campaign? Does short-term success qualify as well as long-term impact? Does social impact rank higher than commercial success? How do we really appreciate local cultural context, and then compare it with universally relatable emotions?

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Jury duty is inspiring. Cannes is invigorating. If only the temperatures were lower, inside the jury room, as well as outside.

At the end of two days, we had some of these questions answered (or at least discussed, sans conclusions), and the shortlisting process suddenly fell into place. As they say, if you spend more time on the problem, the solution will fall into place quickly!

Anyway, here are my first, and probably lasting impressions and considerations for the PR Lions:

At the heart of every great campaign there is creativity, which has direct impact on business outcomes or stated objectives. But if the impact isn’t clearly articulated for us, it’s a no show. If you can’t communicate clearly with the captive audience of a Jury, we’re not sure how you did out there!

The we’re all seeing in the PR Lions entries isn’t creativity – it’s super-creativity! There is some really mindboggling thinking on display, and dazzling execution shared with us.

A lot of the work is inspiring, to think this is the work of ‘our industry’. A lot of the work is humbling, even for us veterans and leaders of the industry – for it is gutsy yet so disarming; out of the box yet steeped in real insights; creative yet so relatable; and unforeseen yet totally satisfying in terms of results!

I dare say, this is scary even, because it exposes a lot of our daily work as average, and sets the bar even higher for us.

The success stories shared drive home the reality that the days of campaigns based on press conferences and press releases (which we in India still love) are dead and buried!

‘Public Relations’ is about strategic engagement and higher purpose. Success in PR comes from conviction in your cause, and bravery in communication.

Insights have to be at the core of everything we do. Weak insights dull campaigns, but sharp insights give you the edge, clearly.

Ideas are relatively easy to come up with. But it is the craft, the finesse the maturity, and depth of execution that makes campaigns stand out, and be successful.

Campaigns that have an emotional story well told simply stand out.

In my opinion, the sustainability of an idea or campaign across time and space (at least in an socio or economic era) is a good way to gauge how much to invest in it, and expect out of it.

Radhika-Shapoorjee-150x150In summary, as I tweeted the other day – Creativity, Insights, Emotion, Storytelling, Flawless Execution, Impact, Higher Purpose, Sustainability. That’s (what) all it takes. To win. At CannesLions. And in our markets.

Radhika Shapoorjee is South Asia president at H+K Strategies.

IPAN Hill & Knowlton is now IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies

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IPAN Hill + Knowlton Strategies
In line with the global transition of our name from Hill & Knowlton, to H+K Strategies, it gives us great pleasure to announce that IPAN Hill & Knowlton will now be known as IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

 

So what does this name change really mean for us, and the industry?

With the diversity and democratization of publishing today, the public has access to information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — and we and our clients increasingly acknowledge, that as businesses, it is imperative we continually interact with our publics.

But interaction without a deep understanding of our audiences and without a clear communication strategy, is of no use. Which is why, it is our global mandate, as specialists in this area, to provide this wisdom and understanding to our clients, and in turn help publics understand our clients better.

As our Global Chairman and CEO Jack Martin says, “we have to put ‘the public’ back into public relations, in new and engaging ways like never before”.

Our new identity of IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies helps define who we are, and will be a constant reminder of our mandate!

This move also adds to our reputation of offering cutting-edge thinking, and best possible service to our clients – something which has been a tradition for us, at IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies, even in our previous avatar!

Cannes Lions 2014: Ideas with heart, soul and higher purpose, create conversations that connect

By Radhika Shapoorjee on Jul 23, 2014

RadhikaOver 140 hours of jury duty that gave me a lifetime of learning; Around 1,700 PR campaign evaluations that gave me countless insights and some answers to the central question – so what is ‘creativity’? What is the role and texture of storytelling and conversations in the creativity that surrounds us? And what makes ‘creativity’ relevant and powerful, both as a noun and an adjective – in our lives and times today?

Creativity is about collaboration

My first epiphany at Cannes (and I had many) is that creativity breeds when there is a mindset to collaborate with your people, partners, and the public at large – and nurture an exciting environment and ecosystem where creativity in our work, becomes a way of life.

While our own people and partners are relatively easier to collaborate with, the challenge always lies in connecting with people at large. But fortunately for us, today, we have ‘Information Technology’ that put the power in the hands of publics across the world and results in “user generated content” to the tune of a 100s of hours of content being uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like, every second, connecting over 4.7 billion people across the world.

The big opportunity for us, is harnessing the creative power of the public in real time.

The question is: how we do this in a world where governments, brands, and companies are losing control over their own positioning; and where peoples’ opinions are what drive messaging, and build the image and reputation of leaders, products and companies. Where there is a growing trust deficit with the public towards these very big institutions

Let us start, by caring!

It is imperative for companies to understand, not only what their own people and their own partners want and care about, but also what the public wants and cares about – not just in the context of your brand or product category. We need to understand what triggers conversations between our audiences, evaluate how brands can be part of it in a manner that has meaning and value to their lives.

What’s your story?

At the heart of creativity, is the ability to spot, tell, or share, a good engaging story. Right from childhood, we are fed and brought up on stories – both imagined, and real – which capture and showcase the various universal emotions of life. We are inspired by some, and are frightened by others. We’d like to replicate some in our own lives, and we wouldn’t wish others on our worst enemies. But most importantly, we learn from all of them.

In essence, we are the storytellers of the current, imagineers of the future, biographers of our products, brands and companies we have a stake in.

It is up to us to conceptualise and communicate stories that touch peoples’ hearts; stories that are emotional and shareable; stories that serve a higher purpose.

Purpose, builds Character

We know that companies and brands need to stand for something, and that we need to be accountable for more than the money we earn. We have to start looking at the larger role we play in society, and the impact we have on our world today. This is what builds real character and real reputation for a sustainable future.

At Cannes, I was inspired by the story Mark Pritchard, global brand building officer at P&G told us: the story of P&G brands, and how they connected with women with their “Thank you Mom” campaign. The deep human insights gathered and used in this campaign saluted women in a very personal manner – engaging and recognising individuals who aren’t just ‘prime decision makers in a product category’ but are the centre of most homes and societies, almost everywhere in the world. Thanking a Mom, to me, is a higher purpose than most in our lives today, goes a long way in making the world a better place for all of us.

In the hard-nosed, fast-paced world we live in, it is ideas and ideals such as this – with heart, soul, and higher purpose – that create conversations that connect with people.

Purpose and the pride of the Lions!

Simply put, ‘good’ triumphed over everything else, at the 2014 Cannes Lions. They were campaigns that had a larger purpose and wanted to make a difference to the world.

Chipotle Mexicon Grill, a fast casual dining chain in the US which propagates better food for a better planet – devoured the PR Lions Grand Prix. This was aptly done, by a scarecrow telling the horror story of processed food and its impact on people’s health!

Among the rest, the other two stories that grabbed my attention the most, and enthralled their audiences by making them happy and hopeful are:
Honey Maid – “This is wholesome – this campaign is about how Honey Maid a breakfast cereal created a conversation around #wholesome by telling an emotional and insightful story around new age parenting and LOVE. They effectively used a crisis to engage with the public and changed behavior.

Autocomplete truth –a powerful campaign by UN women that kick- started a conversation on gender equality across the world and eventually influenced policy decisions around it.

In the end, I hope the examples I shared, help spark creativity in your work; I hope my thoughts add value to your life; and I hope I you found some answers to the question “why should anyone care about your brand, and why should your company matter to the public at large?”
I hope they did. After all, that was my purpose here.

(Radhika Shapoorjee is President of Hill+Knowlton Strategies, South Asia, and was Jury Member at the 2014 Cannes International Festival of Creativity.)

IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Microsoft win Gold at SABRE Awards India for Technology Campaign

The carefully curated developer and consumer focused apps campaign for Microsoft India was also a finalist for the Platinum SABRE Award

IPAN H+K Strategies team with the SABRE Award for Microsoft India

July 29, 2013, Gurgaon – IPAN Hill+ Knowlton Strategies, a leading global communications consultancy was awarded the Gold SABRE award for excellence in Public Relations with a technology campaign for its ‘Microsoft Windows Apps Momentum’ campaign.

Microsoft Apps Momentum aimed at creating a mindshare for Windows apps among consumers and developers.  The campaign successfully emphasized the unique experience delivered by Windows apps, and attracted 150,000 developers through various Windows Appfests across the country.  Utilizing deep understanding of the sector, and insights into the developer community, IPAN H+K Strategies created a consistent and cohesive campaign combining social and print media editorial campaigns.  The campaign was designed to establish Microsoft as the preferred platform for developers and consumers.

“The SABRE awards recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the communications industry globally, with a focus on creativity, integrity and impact.  These are the very attributes we strive to achieve with every one of our clients.  Microsoft is doing some really exciting work in India, and the team at IPAN H+K Strategies has thoroughly enjoyed devising the campaigns,” said Radhika Shapoorjee, President – South Asia, IPAN Hill+ Knowlton Strategies.

IPAN H+K Strategies also received two Certificates of Excellence for its work for Power2SME, recognizing the role it played in helping the SME Buyers Club grow from 5,000 to 12,000 SME members in less than a year.  The Power2SME campaign was commended in both the Business-to-Business Marketing  and the Industrial/Manufacturing categories.

Commenting on the Power2SME accolades, Shapoorjee said, “What adds sweetness to the victory are the two Certificates of Excellence for one of our SME clients, Power2SME. Both, Microsoft and Power2SME are companies we are proud to be associated with.”

The SABRE awards are bestowed annually and are presented for Superior Achievement in Branding and Reputation. Presented by The Holmes Group, the SABRE Awards is in its ninth year and is the world’s largest Public Relations awards competition, covering North America, EMEA and Asia Pacific.

IPAN Hill + Knowlton Strategies
IPAN Hill + Knowlton Strategies (www.hkstrategies.in) is the leader in both public relations and public affairs in India. The company is one of the leading and most respected public affairs and public relations firm in the country. It specializes in corporate communications, public affairs, marketing communications, crisis, finance, technology, media & entertainment, and digital communications. IPAN Hill+Knowlton Strategies have a network of offices in five major cities staffed by 150 skilled Public Relations practitioners. It has offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata and local affiliations that reach over 100 cities across India.

IPAN merged with Hill+Knowlton Strategies in 2009. Its parent company, Hill+Knowlton Strategies Inc., has 90 offices in 52 countries as well as an extensive associate network and is a member of WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY) (www.wpp.com), one of the world’s largest communications services groups.


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