'Brands increasingly self-aware of need for an authentic voice'

January 24 2022

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Beginning her career in Paris, refining her skills in New York, where she founded a hugely successful branding agency, Srimoyi Bhattacharya always wanted to move to India. On doing so in 2007 realised that the role of a publicist was still a nascent function and is today happy to note that brands "are increasingly self-aware of the importance of an authentic voice".


"Terms like body-positivity, inclusivity or sustainability may have become buzz words now, but conveying a brand value has become part and parcel of branding. It has become important to be in touch with the zeitgeist, to have a pulse of the market, of societal changes -- have an intuitive approach of white space backed by solid research, and you will have a future-proof vision," Bhattacharya, the founder of Peepul Consulting, who is now settled in a 110-year-old mansion in the picturesque Goa village of Olaulim, told IANS in an interview of her debut book "Pitch Perfect" (Penguin).


It's the natural transition for Bhattacharya, born and brought up in Paris who felt like she was "in the thick of an exciting start-up culture in Europe, with many US companies looking into penetrating a bustling European market", when she set out in the 1990s.


"During this first stage of my career, I learnt the ropes of PR in a highly professional and structured environment (which would help through less structured fields later), but my dream was always to work in fashion and lifestyle. Growing up in Paris, I was fortunate to go for a few fashion shows and do an internship at iconic Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto's press service which was an eye opening experience on the impact of PR on a business and a brand," she explained.


Paris was a "tough environment" to wade through and although she was determined, it took her a change of country, a wonderful position in a hospitality group in New York to finally make that conversion nearly a decade later. But deep down, she always wanted to work in India and she finally made her dream come true and more when she moved to the country.


"Once I moved to Mumbai sometime end 2007, I realised that the term 'PR' or the role of a publicist was still a nascent function, and not always quite understood by many, whether clients or just anyone around me. It seemed to me that the role was a simple means to get coverage, with very little understanding of the nuances it implied. Essentially, media and PR felt commoditized, despite the efforts of many peers building a promising and flourishing industry in our country," Bhattacharya said.


Through the years in India, she also started meeting many business families from jewellery to fashion, who run small businesses and who started seeing potential in giving a name to their firm, marketing a product in India.


"I saw this wave of a new profile of entrepreneurs who were essentially taking their family businesses, so far focused on export, and were flipping the business model to a home-grown brand strategy. Simultaneously, fashion glossies were all slowly entering the country and enhancing the definition of building a brand, an experience, an identity. I wanted to cater to both, and I thought one way to do so was to work far more closely with brands, as they would develop their product or their collections, to help shape the story before it would come as a brief," she said.


Thus, 'Pitch Perfect' rounds up her experiences on this journey, and serves as a playbook whether for a publicist, an entrepreneur or a legacy brand that aims to reinvent itself.


"Believe me, it's a very long time in one singular profession! I shifted from Paris to New York to Mumbai as it was a way to reinvent my work, my network while I was chasing a certain quality of life. The magic lies in how it has all tied up together, my earlier experience in New York and Paris is helping scale Indian brands going global, and vice versa," Bhattacharya elaborated.


Noting that we are all in stressful professions, she has always sought and negotiated for a work/life balance.


"As I would watch my colleagues work 'double shifts' and weekends, burn out is the biggest cause of turnover. And I came from Paris where a 35-hour working week was just beginning to be implemented, not always realistic but nevertheless a healthy goal. When the pandemic hit India, I just accelerated a wild dream we had, which was to move to Goa.


"All stars aligned now that work from home became acceptable, the hours became a bit more flexible -- you could be DM'ing (direct messaging) a journalist in London out of anywhere really. Our relevance comes from our mindset, not a location," Bhattacharya added.


What, then, is her mantra for success?


"Whether you are launching a lifestyle brand or a service, my key tip is to create a story that is 36-degrees in nature, so you can spin it from any angle necessary, It also needs to be rooted in a solid idea, and concept. The important thing to remember is that what works for sales might not work for the media, and vice versa. What matters is the optics of your label -- a bag that will be picked up by a fashion director will reflect a collection's aesthetic or a trend. While it may not be the bestseller commercially, it will showcase an operational aspect of the brand. That is why it's essential to be clear about who you are addressing and what they might find relevant and helpful," she writes in the book.


For instance, Manish Malhotra "transformed the perception of a bridal couture from the perspective of a stylist, making a look iconic and cinematic" Bhattacharya explained during the interview.


"I am thrilled to see that there is a new wave of brands that are confidently building global luxury names. The consumer today wants to know the story behind what they are wearing or how an elaborate dinner-set came to life. As storytelling becomes an important driver of value, it has become easier for brands to look beyond the confines of 'verticals' and geography and truly go global," she concluded.

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  • IANS