By Priyanka Banerjee
After over 200 years of colonization, when the British had left India, the country’s GDP collapsed strikingly and the literacy level was at the nadir. Overall, socially, politically and economically, India was on the verge of destruction. Amidst such despair, pioneering corporations started philanthropical programs for people in need.
A country with a complex economy, diverse culture and notions, India approached public relations quite differently compared to western cultures. For the most well-known family-owned businesses, like Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), PR was more like a philanthropical effort. Tata significantly contributed to the social and economic development of many communities, helping build housing and hospitals, set up electricity, and provide access to clean water. The company continued its people-first policy, when it established its first public relations department, emphasizing employee communication.
During the independence movement, the Indian media had made noteworthy contributions to liberate the nation from British rule by generating patriotism and consciousness about all sorts of rights among the nationals. In the post-independence era, Indian broadcast and print media took significant steps to provide Indians with objective, reliable information, so that they wouldn’t come under any type of further exploitation as they did during the British period. Journalism was more like a mission than a profession in India and meant to serve the public.
India didn’t have an official public relations body until 11 years after the independence, when the Public Relations Society of India (PRISI) was established. The organization was meant to formally regulate the public relations profession for the first time in India. When the country started to witness globalization in the early 1990s, public relations recognized its right place for the first time. With foreign investment, a growing economy, and the emergence of multinational corporations, the value and public perception of brands suddenly started to matter. As a result, PR took a different shape altogether. During this time, global agencies, like Ogilvy & Mather, opened offices in India. Since then the PR industry in India began to observe a remarkable evolution. In the 2000s, the industry watched further growth when the New York-based Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest global public relations firms in the world, acquired the Indian public relation company Genesis, which was founded in the 90s. Gradually, the Indian PR industry is receiving more and more attention for creating innovative strategic communications, building significant brands, dealing with crisis and improving customer communication.