Omnicom Group’s Ketchum, a global marketing and corporate communications consultancy, has acquired a majority stake in Sampark PR, an Indian public relations agency, for an undisclosed amount. According to the deal, Sampark PR will operate as Ketchum Sampark in India and handle domestic clients, as well as Ketchum’s global network of clients from industry segments like automotive, finance, healthcare, technology and travel. Incidentally, Ketchum is a part of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services (DAS) division.

With this acquisition, Ketchum has strengthened its presence in the Asia-Pacific and is currently operating in countries like China, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.

Earlier, Ketchum had a merger with Pleon, a Europe-based public relations and communications consultancy, and formed Ketchum Pleon in Europe. Ketchum has also started a joint venture in the Middle East and North Africa called Ketchum Raad Middle East, and also joined hands with local market leader Prain in South Korea.

According to Jon Higgins, Ketchum’s senior partner and CEO of international operations, the company has worked closely with Sampark’s leadership team for some time now, and they are quite confident about them.

According to a recent study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM India), the Indian PR industry has witnessed 22-25 per cent growth in the last couple of years, and is growing at an annual rate of 32 per cent.

There had been deals of similar nature in the past. For instance, French multinational Publicis Groupe, an organisation specialising in advertising and communications, had acquired a majority stake in public relations firm 20:20 MEDIA in India. The group also acquired a majority stake in 2020Social, the social media consulting arm of 20:20 MEDIA, and in 2008, bought Google’s search engine marketing business in a global deal.

In other significant deals, media conglomerate Times Group picked up stake in Percept Ltd, an entertainment, media and communications firm, in a forward-integration move for the company. Also, Dentsu Inc., a Japanese advertising major, took over its India joint ventures Dentsu Communications Pvt Ltd, Dentsu Marcom Pvt Ltd and Dentsu Creative Impact Pvt Ltd by buying the 26 per cent stake held by partner Sandeep Goyal through an entity called Mogae Consultants Pvt Ltd.

However, according to an ASSOCHAM India study, such deals are not uncommon in the PR space. There are more than 100 agencies across the country – big ones with 10-15 branches like Perfect Relations, Genesis PR and Vaishnavi, medium-sized ones with 4-5 branches and smaller, city-specific PR firms, and many of these are either affiliated to or are Indian subsidiaries of global PR companies.

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