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Cohn & Wolfe Chief on why Six Degrees is important in its Asia growth plans

WPP’s Cohn & Wolfe recently agreed to acquire a majority stake in India based full-service public relations agency Six Degrees PR and its content and integrated marketing subsidiary Alphabet Consulting, with offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. In an exclusive conversation with Digital Market Asia, Donna Imperato, Chief Executive Officer, Cohn & Wolfe explains the rationale behind the expansion and acquisition.

The acquisition is part of the agency’s aggressive growth plan in Asia Pacific and builds on its own offerings in Mumbai and Delhi which opened in 2012. “India is a critically important market for us. We opened organically a few years ago, but we really needed a stronger presence, and also a presence in Bangalore. More of our global clients were asking us about our India capabilities. Although we opened organically, we had a really small offering here so we really could not support some of our larger clients. We have been looking for an acquisition for a couple of years now in fact,” Ms Imperato divulged.

Cohn & Wolfe represents clients across a range of industries and is known for its travel and tourism practice. The agency’s India office doubled revenues in 2014 with key clients including Austrian Airlines, Cleartrip, Lufthansa Passenger Airlines, RCI, Ruckus Wireless, Swiss International Air Lines and Wyndham Hotel Group. “India’s economy is growing rapidly and it is very important for our overall growth as well. I think any global company has to have a good offering in India in order to grow and support their clients,” Ms Imperato added.

Six Degrees represents clients across multiple sectors, including technology, travel, infrastructure, manufacturing, finance, aviation, hospitality and entertainment. Current clients include regional and multinational companies such as Amadeus, Cushman & Wakefield, Dalmia Bharat Group, Hughes, Ingersoll Rand and Nokia. Cohn & Wolfe’s existing business will become part of Cohn & Wolfe Six Degrees.

Speaking on what made Cohn & Wolfe narrow down its search to Six Degrees PR, Ms Imperato says, “The first thing important to us is the culture of an organisation. Cohn & Wolfe is very large but we are also very entrepreneurial. We are a very collegiate and friendly organisation. I have managed to maintain this culture even through growing year after year. That was the first aspect in this decision as well. Six Degrees’ culture fits with our line of thinking.”

Rishi Seth and Zacharia James, Co-Founders of Six Degrees PR will become Group CEOs, leading the Cohn & Wolfe Six Degrees team and report to Ms Imperato. Six Degrees CEO Karan Punia becomes CEO of the new company, reporting to Mr Seth and Mr James.

“Above all the agencies that I have met with, Six Degrees for me has the best culture in terms of its entrepreneurial spirit – it has a family-like culture here, which I think Cohn & Wolfe has as well. They have a very smart and talented senior leadership team here. I am very impressed with them and I have been talking to them for quite some time now. I am so happy to have Zach and Rishi on the team. They are going to really help us help our global clients and build India,” she added.

Focus on integrated communications
PR has evolved into a more digital and integrated approach globally and the market in India is also evolving. Ms Imperato explains, “It is interesting – I feel like in the last couple of years it has evolved so much more than many years before that. It is becoming more digital and integrated. This was also something that attracted me to Six Degrees because they understand that and they are doing more digital and integrated marketing with Alphabet Consulting. Cohn & Wolfe over the years has evolved into an integrated marketing communications agency.”

“I think Six Degrees has a great start here. Cohn & Wolfe has global people in charge of digital innovation and digital marketing and we have a lot of resources and a lot of training programmes that we are going to bring into the Six Degrees team,” she added.

Going forward, the agency will focus on building its expertise in all the practice areas. “The beauty of this partnership is that Cohn & Wolfe offers a lot in India in consumer and healthcare and that is complementary to the corporate consumer and technology practices that we have at the Six Degrees enterprise. Together, we now offer all the practices expertise that the client needs and we can expand in to different client areas,” Ms Imperato concluded.

Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.