WE Communications acquires majority stake in Avian Media, Chase

According to the deal agreement, WE Communications's Indian arm will merge with Avian Media and will be rebranded as Avian WE

Saumya Tewari
Updated29 Mar 2018
(From left to right) Nikhil Khanna, executive chairman, Avian WE, Melissa Waggener Zorkin, chief executive, WE Communications and Nitin Mantri, group CEO, Avian WE.
(From left to right) Nikhil Khanna, executive chairman, Avian WE, Melissa Waggener Zorkin, chief executive, WE Communications and Nitin Mantri, group CEO, Avian WE.

New Delhi: US-based public relations firm WE Communications (WE) on Tuesday announced a strategic investment in Indian PR firm Avian Media, and its sister consultancy Chase.

WE has acquired a majority stake in Avian. The international firm did not reveal the deal size, but PR industry executives estimate it at around Rs100-150 crore.

As per the agreement, WE’s Indian arm will merge with Avian Media and will be rebranded Avian WE. Meanwhile, Chase will continue to operate as an independent consultancy retaining its name.

“We chose Avian because of its people, leadership and the work they do. Their collaborative and spirited culture is similar to ours. Avian will continue to operate as independently as before while focusing on health, technology and consumer sectors, along with their existing businesses,” said Melissa Waggener Zorkin, chief executive, WE Communications.

The new entity (Avian WE) will be headed by Avian Media’s founder and executive chairman Nikhil Khanna, along with co-managing partner and group CEO Nitin Mantri. Other key leadership people in Avian WE include Manash Neog, who will lead the public affairs subsidiary, Chase, and Neha Mehrotra, who will run Avian WE public relations practice nationally. Carolyn Camoens will continue as WE’s senior vice-president of South-East Asia based in Mumbai. The combined agency will have over 160 employees. “Both entities share a common entrepreneurial culture and a philosophy of working in partnership with our clients to build long-term relationships, and a culture that places great emphasis on our people. I am very excited about what we can achieve together,” said Khanna.

Founded in 2004 by Khanna, Avian Media offers communications services such as public relations, digital and content, corporate social responsibility and advocacy, crisis management and public affairs.

Its clients include home rental firm Airbnb, Airbus, Bloomberg, Dell Computers, MasterCard, telecommunications company Qualcomm, Sony and travel website TripAdvisor.

WE Communications India has a small India team with clients such as Japanese car maker Toyota’s luxury car division Lexus, risk consulting firm Kroll Inc., the International Copper Association of India (ICAI) and Chinese mobile internet company Cheetah Mobile. The merged entity will have a far greater presence in the Indian market.

“With the increased scale of the combined business, we can deepen our specialist capabilities, particularly in the areas of power, technology, health and consumers, and provide our team with greater development opportunities,” Mantri said.

“Acquisition is always good for growth because it is an immense opportunity to work with big global clients and business can come from anywhere. More importantly, such deals help people in the company to grow,” said Prema Sagar, founder of PR firm Genesis, which was sold to US-based Burson-Marsteller in 2005-06.

Amit Misra, chief executive officer at PR firm MSLGROUP India, said that a global giant like WE acquiring an Indian firm is testimony to how well the PR industry is doing. “WE Communications had a very marginal presence in India and acquisition is the way they want to build their presence in the country. We wish them all the best,” he said.

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