30-07-2016, 11:41 AM
The Roots of Sustainability Practices with Sudeep Bhalla
The Brand Communication and Public Relations Conclave at SIMC welcomed many notable and renowned industry experts to the Lavale campus. Among the distinguished guests was Mr. Sudeep Bhalla, Vice President, Corporate Communication & Corporate Responsibility at Vodafone India Ltd, who addressed students and faculty on Crisis Management.
On speaking more closely with Mr. Bhalla, he explained how the ‘agency of the future’ has to focus more on content, credibility, and relationships, especially from a public relations perspective. “I think those three key things, despite all the changes that happen in tech, in the way we communicate, or the way we exchange information; the core of the proposition still remains about clear, concise and precise information being exchanged and the core message delivery. Any agency that is able to demonstrate that consistent delivery will be successful.”
Similarly he addressed the shifts in PR trends, mainly the future need for reputation management. He elaborated by describing reputation management as the largest possible umbrella under which every small piece resides whether it is social media, media relations, marketing, brand communication. Ultimately it is reputation which encompasses the bigger picture. Reputation is what people perceive you to be. People expect you to behave in a certain manner basis their perceptions, for a brand or organisation it’s their actual behaviour of what it does on ground and the communication that it puts across all forums, is what creates this perception. To change that takes a lot of initiative, to maintain that it takes a lot of drive, to enhance that is what the target of organisation and brand is. “I think reputation is going to be key as we move ahead in time.”
It’s one thing to be successful in just one industry, but that’s an ordinary feat for Mr. Bhalla who has succeed in two major industries - the banking and financial services industry, and the telecom industry, as he has worked for DBS Bank, Citigroup, and Yes Bank. He doesn't consider himself to be a banker or telecom specialist but rather a student of communications and with every industry change he tries to apply the same principles he has learnt and gain insights with new experiences to try and adapt them. “When it comes to banking and telecom, there are some commonalities. Both of them are regulated industries both of them are core industries, without which the growth of the country cannot happen. So in that way I'm in a happy space where I've had the opportunity to work in key industries.”
Most of us are familiar with the term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’, but how well do we know it on a practical level? Mr. Bhalla sheds light on the differences between a corporate implementing CSR activities versus penetrating the sustainability space. To him CSR is, especially as per the definition that the Indian companies law has made now, something which is mandatory and obligatory, whereas the sustainability space is something which aligns business to do what it’s best at for larger community good, and if a business can do that in a meaningful manner, where it’s taking care of the people as well as making profits out of it, then it becomes an automatic way in which it will continue to do it forever because there’s a win win on both sides. “CSR at this point of time, is still evolving. People are still understanding the rationale and spirit behind the regulation and immediate focus is on maintaining the letter of the law, I think we’re still some time away in maintaining the spirit of the law.”
To participate in sustainable activities it’s not necessary to be part of an organisation or corporation to make a difference. Mr. Bhalla explained how social responsibility can be executed in different ways, where you don't necessarily have to create a project for larger community good, if you can encourage yourself and your own community around you, your neighbourhood, your friends, colleges to follow something that is good for the society. Every individual can make a contribution.
During the Public Relations Conclave, Mr. Bhalla enriched the audience with his expertise on Crisis Management. According to him, a crisis is always an opportunity. Similarly, the best crisis from a communication point of view is the one that does not get highlighted in the public, which is also the best kind of crisis management. “When a crisis hits, the only course to take up is that make sure you have a backup plan in store so that they know how to navigate and propel their business when turbulence hits. That can be done by going back to the basics, looking at your charts, what are your best and worst case scenarios.”
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