NURUL ISLAM LASKAR
In the beginning, I thought of making a list of the top ten Public Relations practitioners of Northeast India. But very soon I found the task of selecting the ten best very daunting, if not almost impossible. There were many who did marvellous pioneering job to promote PR in the region but are no more with us. Then there are many who are not PR practitioners as such and yet their contribution towards making people aware about the use and importance of PR is no less significant than that of the actual practitioners. Therefore, I decided to go for the outstanding ones among them and not necessarily the top ones, thus making my task a little easier than before. Furthermore, I also did away with the term “PR practitioners” and replaced it by “PR persons” so that I could include those persons who are not practitioners of PR as such but extending yeoman’s service to the cause of PR in the region.
Before I proceed further to tell you about this initiative, for the benefit of those who are not very familiar with the term “PR”, let me very briefly deal with what PR is and what it does for the people. PR is the planned and sustained process by which an individual or an organisation builds a positive image for oneself/itself because a positive image is very important to do good business and generate goodwill from the public.
When we talk about PR practitioners, what we have in mind are the people who are perhaps designated as PROs, corporate communication mangers, or hospitality managers as we see them in hotels or floor managers at public places. But even beyond them, there are people who are not PR practitioners as such but are either service providers or associates whose work strengthens the edifice of PR in a very significant measure. Besides this, there are teachers and mentors, although it is difficult to find so many of them, who are promoting PR as a subject of serious study and research, and helping students to find mentors and internships so that they can hone their skills in the field of PR.
PR had a late beginning in Northeast India and it is only in recent years that we see an upsurge in the number of PR departments and officers in the state governments, PSUs, hospitals, hotels, banks, telecom companies, and educational institutions operating from the region. Many of the PR departments in the Northeastern States unfortunately are minister-driven and don’t fulfil the objectives of PR in real terms. The state governments need to look into this and promote their PR directorates into people friendly departments rather than just minister-promoting and advertisement-doling outfits.
Here’s my take on the ten outstanding PR persons who are located in the region.
Born and brought up in Shillong, LR Sailo had worked and lived with Irish rebels in Northern Ireland at Derry and Belfast in early seventies. Appointed as District Information and Public Relations Officer in the Government of Mizoram in 1973, he served as Press Information Officer and Press Secretary to all the Chief Ministers of Mizoram till promotion to Director of Information and Public Relations in 1992. He had served during the most critical years of insurgency in Mizoram when violence was prevalent and the public were sandwiched between the Indian Army and the Mizo National Army (then outlawed). While in Government service, Sailo had attended Basic Course in Mass Communication in the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi in 1975. Honoured by Public Relations Council of India at Bangalore in 2009 by admitting him into the Hall of Fame, he was accredited with the ‘Fellow of the Brain Trust of ABCI’ by Association of Business Communicators of India at Bombay. He played a great role in the establishment of the Aizawl Centre of Indian Institute of Mass Communication in 2011 and remains associated with it till date.
Narendra Nath Taye served the Oil & Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) for several years and is credited to be the only PR official in the North East to rise to the rank of a General Manager while serving in the PR department of any PSU. He is a pioneer in the field of PR and there were not very many of them in the field when he was at his pinnacle in the eighties and nineties.
Trikalagya Rabha, presently serving as the Divisional Railway Manager of Nanded Division, South Central Railway, had served the Northeast Frontier Railway HQ as Chief Public Relations Officer during 2004-08. After having qualified for the Indian Railways Personnel Service through UPSC Civil Services examination in 1988, Rabha had acquired many degrees and diplomas in subsequent years, including Diploma in Business Strategies from INSEAD, Singapore; Diploma in Strategic Management & Planning from ICLIF, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Diploma in Basic Management from ISB, Hyderabad. His friendly approach and precision in accomplishing tasks took the PR of NF Railway to great heights during his tenure in the region.
Rabindra Nath Kalita
Rabindra Nath Kalita, popularly known as Robin Kalita, belongs to the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) and he had held a variety of senior positions in the railways. He was posted as Chief Public Relations Officer of NF Railway during 1988-95 during which period he revamped the PR organisation of NF Railway and brought the Railway to focus of rail users and general public helping thereby in projecting a bright image of the Railway as well as facilitating strengthening of its relationship with the civil & defence administrations, trade & industry, development agencies and the common man in general. In 2013 he had taken over as the Director, Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC) and looked after the PR of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL). What added to his own image as a successful PR person was his outstanding contribution to scouting movement and quizzing activities in Assam.
Anoop Khanna himself may not be a PR practitioner but he has been a PR service provider to several corporates and MNCs operating in the North East over the years. When the first international flight took off for Bangkok from Guwahati airport in Apr 2002, it was Anoop Khanna’s Priya Communication that organised a roadshow for Air India that took Guwahati by storm. He conceptualised the biggest quiz event of the region “Brain Jam” that brought immense publicity and PR mileage to many business houses and industries that associated with the event. Brain Jam remains a hot favourite with quiz enthusiasts till this date.
Urmila Baruah who did her graduation in Economics followed by an MBA, has worked in different capacities in HR, Marketing and Corporate Communications in the public sector. One of her most successful tenures was as the PRO of Indian Oil, Assam Oil Division, Digboi. Today, she is a popular resource person for capability building programmes at corporate, school and institutional levels. Besides, she is a visiting faculty at the Department of Business Administration, Gauhati University. She was the recipient of a British Chevening scholarship in the year 2005.
Anjuli Chittaranjan is a communications professional with an accumulated work experience of over 24 years – 2 years in the field of academics and 22 years in the corporate world in India and 8 months as Assam Head – CII with Confederation of Indian Industries. Currently she is working as Communications Head of the North-Eastern Region, with Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. It would however be worthwhile to mention that she had in the past received the ‘Outstanding Employee’ award in Vinay Cements Ltd; ‘Top Performers Award’ in Airtel where she was the Manager Corporate Communication; and acted as the ‘Ambassador of the Year’ for Bharti Foundation, New Delhi.
Jayanta Kumar Sarma
Jayanta Kumar Sarma is undoubtedly one of the most qualified PR practitioners of the North East. A graduate of Ramjas College, Delhi University, he obtained his Masters in Communications & Journalism from Gauhati University, PG Diploma in PR from RP College of Management, Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, two short term qualifications from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication New Delhi, and now pursuing PhD in Gauhati University. He started as a teacher of Public Relations in South Delhi Poly-Tech in 1992, joined The Sentinel in 1994, joined Northeast Frontier Railway in 1997 in Public Relations, promoted as Public Relations Officer in 2001, working in the same position since then handling media relations, media planning and advertising. Jayanta built the social media platform for NF Railway and continues to look after it. He has formidable skills in media relations, public relations writing, social media campaign, graphic designing, web designing, and PR campaigns.
Saurabh Pant is the Director (Sales & Marketing) at Radisson Blu Hotel Guwahati and looks after the PR and image building activities of the Hotel. He got his degree in Hotel Management (2000-2003) from PUSA Guwahati. He has vast experience, having worked as a Sales Executive for City Park Hotel (2004-06), Sales Coordinator for the Grand New Delhi Hotel (2006-07), Senior Executive Sales for Travel Guru (2007-08), Sales Manager for the Palms Town and Country Club (2008), Deputy Manager Administration for HCL (2009-10), and lastly Associate Director Sales & Marketing for Radisson Blu Hotel Indore (2010-15). He has introduced many new measures to bring Radisson closer to its stakeholders and publics.
A seasoned marketing and PR professional, Sandipan Nair, believes in the Power of Brands. Sandipan, currently posted as the Deputy General Manager (Sales & Marketing), Dalmia Cements Ltd, has experienced the magic spell which brands have in the minds of the consumer. Sandipan often reasons with whys and hows of brand communication and its effect on the belief of the average Indian consumer. Sandipan has had the privilege of working with strong Brands like Castrol bp, ICI DULUX and ICI Duco, Dalmia Cement and often ponders on the subject of “The real essence of a brand.” In this context Sandipan realises the power of PR – which has a positive rub off on the imagery of a brand. That brings him to the potential question of how to engage in positive PR. Sandipan has to his credit building the essence of a brand by doing positive PR having created properties like “shudhu ekti matro boi”- a campaign on sharing one solitary book to the underprivileged in the quest of knowledge, “Udyaman Bhraymaman”- a campaign on the rural mobile theaters of Assam, “Young Achievers Award, YAA” a platform to recognise the young performers and achievers etc. But his quest for applying positive PR, spread over two decades of his being in the profession, in exploring the real essence of a brand continues.