An Interview with Shikhar Dogra, Founder of Straight and Direct

At the age of 25 Shikhar Dogra is the Founder and Director of SD Public Relations. He started his PR firm in December 2009 to provide media strategies, employee relations, media relations, marketing initiatives and crisis management services to his prospective clients. In the last 6 months his brilliant vision and expertise in the PR industry has helped his firm to grow across offices in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. In a conversation with The Viewspaper, he shares some of his experiences with us.

TVP: Tell us a bit about Straight and Direct.

Shikhar: Solution oriented, we offer a wide range of services from Public Relations, and Celebrity Management to Marketing Consultancy. SD Event Management and Public Relations studies the intricacies of a brand, identifies the target audience, devises a concept, plans logistics and coordinates the technical aspects before actually executing the event. We provide an expansive range of public relations and event management services, and have the resources, strengths and specialist skills to meet the communication needs of any organization across India.

We at SD believe in leading our team to develop media strategies and outreach programs that maximize executive time and deliver the greatest impact on building our client’s reputation with the audiences that matter most to them.

TVP: How is it different from other PR agencies? What is your USP?

Shikhar: This is a question we face on a daily basis from our prospective clients. Yes we do give a clichéd response which is that we “focus on key messaging” however what works most for us is our costing model. Like most PR agencies we also work on either a project based or retainership based model and charge them according to executive time focused on the client. We however focus on providing the same (or more) deliverables at a lesser cost, this costing is done keeping in mind the industry rates. We believe the client should not pay more for less.

This industry is highly competitive and the sad part is that most PR companies go ahead and promise the world but do not deliver. The result is that PR agencies have developed a bad reputation in the market. We at SD are here to change it and CHANGE IT WE WILL.

: Where did this idea stem from? Any inspiration?

Shikhar:  I used to work in a PR Agency, I started my career of as an account executive. I soon realised that i had ideas that were quite well received by the clients but my bosses did not share the same point of view. Somewhere along the line I think they missed out on the key rule of client servicing which is that the client is always right! Working in one of the Largest PR firms in South East Asia was a great learning curve for me; I understood what it took to please a client however I wanted to be involved in making a change. I wasn’t interested in providing the client with media coverage just for the sake of it. I wanted to be associated in building an image (whether corporate or individual).

One day after a heated argument with my boss, I stepped out of the office to get myself a cup of coffee; I was chatting with a friend and told her as to how stupid I felt the seniors in my company are. She told me not to worry and that someday I shall be my own boss, I decided there and then that PR is my life and I shall bring about a change in the industry. If they (Senior Directors in the company I was working with) won’t let me, I’ll do it myself. I finished my cup of coffee and never went back in!

TVP: What’s the present status of things with Straight and Direct?

Shikhar: Presently SD is acquiring new clients almost on a daily basis, our focus primarily lies on the following verticals: IT and ITES,  Healthcare, Hospitality, Education, Real Estate, Celebrity management  and  Lifestyle, Art and Culture.

TVP: Did you face any difficulties starting up on your own? Did you not consider having cofounders?

Shikhar: Well the first difficulty i faced was getting my financial situation in order. When I walked out to start off on my own, my bank balance read Rs   69.40!!. Although my parents were supportive, they probably did not take me too seriously when I told them about SD, so I was pretty much on my own.

I started out by taking a small loan, however things picked up gradually and today we sit at a very comfortable financial position.

The  Second and perhaps the most difficult part of my business was to acquire clients, due to the bad reputation built by PR agencies in India(as I mentioned earlier), prospective clients seemed reluctant to take on an agency and that to a new one. They felt that they had been cheated before and did not wish to be involved in this racket again. It took a lot of convincing from my end to mitigate this factor.

TVP: What are your future plans?

Shikhar: We plan to expand our operations all across the country in all the major metros. By the end of November our Mumbai and Bangalore offices will be fully functional.

TVP: Any message to youth, especially to the young entrepreneurs of tomorrow?

Shikhar:  Gone are the days when you needed to have influential parents and family members to have your own business. Anyone with a good idea and a tremendous amount of self belief today can start up a business. All one needs is a lot of patience. Remember luck has nothing to do with success. It’s pure hardwork that will get you there.

Compiled by:

Surbhi Bhatia