Mumbai-based Adfactors PR is leading the race to win the Tata group’s public relations account after its contract with PR firm Edelman expires at the end of this month, industry sources told Fortune India on Thursday.
The details are still not known but an announcement is expected soon. The Adfactors spokesperson did not respond to a request for confirmation and a Tata spokesperson declined to comment on market speculation.
The Tata group account is a coveted one not just because of its size but also its ability to shape industry dynamics. When Ratan Tata gave the mandate to Niira Radia 15 years ago, her firm, Vaishnavi Communications, became one of the top few players in the industry but then faded away when the deal was scrapped. Likewise, Edelman became the biggest international agency in the country, thanks largely to the Tata account.
Adfactors is one of India's biggest public relations firm, but has largely been a domestic firm with little international presence and hardly any expertise in policy advocacy matters. The Tata mandate is likely to give it heft to expand into these areas. The agency is already said to be eyeing international acquisitions.
Over half a dozen companies, including Text 100 and Avian Media, have pitched for the Rs 50-crore-a-year PR account of India's biggest conglomerate. “The entire process, which started three months ago, has been hush-hush with a select few companies being called to pitch for the account and an announcement of the winning agency was expected to be made in the first week of January,” said a source.
It is still not clear if the digital mandate has gone to another agency because Adfactors does not have a significant presence in digital communications.
Adfactors is already working on the Infosys account, and the Tata win will bring TCS, India's largest software company, into its fold. Likewise, Adfactors has had the Mahindra & Mahindra account for several years; now, it will have the Tata Motors account as well.
These overlaps, especially of the biggest companies in the Tata group, make for conflict of interest. It will be interesting to see if Adfactors will give up a few marquee clients to be able to work on the Tata account.
“If the Tata group can force companies to work on its accounts exclusively, Adfactors is perhaps the only agency with clout to work around that today,” says an industry expert.
On its part, Adfactors seems to have carefully laid the foundations to win the Tata account over the last 18 months. The founders of the agency, Madan Bahal and Rajesh Chaturvedi, roped in former Edelmen hand Roger Darashah, who had worked on the Tata account, as chief operating officer last year.