Shreya Karia on her passionate experience as a PR consultant

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BY VICTOR ADAR

The word going round is that female-run businesses are few. Sectors that should attract more ladies than men, like public relations, seem to appeal more to men.

Looking at the faces behind big (industry) boys like Trascend Media run by Mike Njeru, Scangroup (Bharat Thakrar), and Lens Media (Ahmed Mohamed), we still have a long way to go. Actually, it has been tough for women to get commercial advantage when it comes to building business empires. There are exceptions however.

Shreya Karia is one creative who believes that if strategy and craftsmanship were the canvas to an exceptional painting, marketing and communication would be the art curator setting the scene. Ms Karia knows too well the critical differences in designing premium brand experiences.

With an extensive background in public relations, marketing and brand strategy within the luxury segment globally (having worked across three continents: Australia, Europe and closer to home in Africa), things are clicking for her. She says that the main inspiration behind starting up SHK Consulting in 2012 was the need to drive the “Africa Rising” movement.

Since then her consultancy firm has been at the forefront of curating top campaigns both locally and regionally for brands such as Forbes Africa, Rémy Martin, Fairmont, Hotels, Knight Frank, Nyama Mama, Hendrick’s, Gin and Glenfiddich just to name a few.

Having graduated top of her class with a Master’s in Entrepreneurial Management from the European Business School and holding an Executive Degree in Strategic Branding from London Business School, Shreya is all of beauty and brains. In addition, she attained a Bachelor of Commerce in International Business & Management from UNSW, Sydney, powerful qualifications that most of her peers just dream about.

Her passion lies in exploring the wonderful world of brands as a writer. She is also a self-confessed boxing addict and fitness enthusiast. Hoping to one day be able to compete in an amateur boxing match. But amidst the powerful CV, challenges abound.

“Anytime you attempt to bring a concept that challenges the status quo into the market there will always be uphill battles not least that of being an underdog in a highly controlled and competitive industry,” she points out, adding that being female, at some point has been a disadvantage.

Many times she has walked into meetings with people either disappointed that she is female or that there is no senior male driving the company. Her achievements are coming out at a time when focus is mainly on innovative ways to advance gender equality while celebrating women who are making an impact. Her story is spot on – International Women’s day is celebrated on 8th of March every year.

Among the issues she brings out include lack of innovation and skills gap within the talent pool. To her, creating an internal culture that drives commitment to client first verses self promotion and being relevant can really go along way. These are tough things to deal with, but how is she managing? What does the future hold?

Possibilities, she says, are endless in today’s world so long as you are committed to breaking your own glass ceiling. Asking the “what can you do better next”, and the “how can you be different by your own standards”, the smart entrepreneur is increasingly working with a lot more Kenyan homegrown brands including Nyama Mama and Sirimon Cheese.

“We are working on a project in Kisumu to help a local Kenyan hotel brand focus on it’s positioning, our goal is to make them a benchmark for hospitality in other parts of the region… Our footprint now extends to projects in East Africa and the Middle East. In fact we frequently get asked to take on projects across the continent,” she says.

Experts say that although there’s no specific amount of capital that one requires to start a public relations firm, big agencies can turn in profits to the tune of Sh100 million a year. The capital base can even hit over Sh400 million as it largely depends on what’s coming in, which is generally how much guys are paying. Business is good, so it seems, but are the benefits tickling down to young Kenyan graduates?

“There simply aren’t enough jobs out there to suit the driven and motivated Kenyan youth. I also feel that the curriculum doesn’t, in most cases, match the skill set for a modern day brand context. And if I can pass on my skills to even one person they can pay it back and then cycle can grow,” she says.

Some of her milestones and accomplishments include the Remy Martin One Life Live Them campaign that put the first Kenyan to a global campaign. This saw King Kaka, whose real name is Kennedy Ombima, become the face of the Remy Martin One Life Live Them 2018 campaign. “It was a brilliant boost and endorsement of Kenyan artistry,” she says. “Through the level of execution of the campaign, we set a benchmark as best practice for the brand globally. As a result King Kaka will go on to represent the brand and the country at the Cannes International Film Festival in May 2019.”

An impressive portfolio

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Launching Mango Fashion Brand into Kenya – Launch campaign, brand strategy for the global fashion brand into the East African market in October 2018.

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Superbrands Tribute Awards 2016 and 2018 – Awarding and recognizing the leading brands in the region for their innovation and commitment to excellence. This includes the Beyond Zero initiative driven by H.E the First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta.

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Hendrick’s World Cucumber Day 2018 – It was a campaign where patrons could exchange a cucumber for a Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic around the city. A unique campaign designed to engage and delight consumers in a market that is focused only on advertising instead of surprising the Kenyan audience.

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Four Points by Sheraton, Nairobi Airport – it involved brand development, dining concepts and media campaigns. The hotel was awarded Best Airport Hotel in Africa for 2018-2019 as a result.

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Forbes Africa Person of the Year Awards 2014 – Behind the campaign that saw leading African entrepreneur Aliko Dangote win the big award.

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Sankara Nairobi Hotel – Spearheading the brand development, marketing and communication strategies at prelaunch and launch phase of Sankara Nairobi hotel. The brand development work earned the group an accolade at the World Luxury Awards 2012.