The perfect imagemaker

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The perfect imagemaker
Wednesday July 2 2008 08:42 IST Asha Prakash EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE

He is the one who coined the term ‘Image Management’. This image guru of India, economist, journalist and founder of the country’s only children’s newspaper, is the man behind the success of many a political party and politician. Founder of ‘Perfect Relations,’ he’s always in the news for his lobbying.’ And there’s more to Dilip Cherian. Describing all his achievements in a single breath would be impossible.

A Malayali by birth, Cherian was on one of his rare visits to Kerala the other day when we caught up with him. “I would prefer to call myself an entrepreneur more than anything else,” he says. “I even started a restaurant once, it was the first stand alone multi-cuisine restaurant in Delhi. But once I feel a venture is in a stage to be handed over to someone, I do it.”

Cherian, who began his career as an economist, felt that being an economist was like being the conductor of a bus. “You have no real control over it,” he says. He thus decided to switch to journalism as he felt that the industry offered space for his own views.

At that point, in the early 80s, business journalism was virtually nonexistent, says Cherian, with all market reports being done by foreign companies. But they could rarely get the correct perspective of Indian markets, he says. “You need to understand the Indian ethos and the Indian pyschology to write informed reports.” Cherian was thus part of the team which created Business India, the first business newspaper of India.

So why the switch to image management? “More than creating something new, I think it was more of a response to the great changes that were happening in the market.” In order to survive, Indian companies were desperately in need of professional and result-oriented image building. Always a step ahead of the others, Cherian founded ‘Perfect Solutions,’ an image management company in 1992.

The clients of ‘Perfect Solutions’ belong to a wide spectrum of industries from corporates to prominent political parties and bigwigs to Bollywood personalities.

Political parties are increasingly opting for professionals to do their PR and literature. “Before long the majority of voters will comprise the MTV generation. Traditional methods like long speeches will no longer win their support. So we apply the basic rules of PR here too – study the audience and give them what they want.”

Bollywood is also a field where survival depends on good image making, he says. “We try to find out what is different or unique about the brand or venture and focus on that.” For example, when a movie is about to be launched, Cherian’s team studies the scenario and the right time for the launch.

“Today, one third of the success of a movie depends on the music,” he says. “By the time a movie is launched, its music should have already created an identity.”

The future of image making lies in providing specialised services, according to Cherian. “Today clients need people who know their industry inside out, not someone who has to study it from scratch.”

So what according to him is the secret to success in the field? “The ability to communicate well, a thorough knowledge of the Indian market, environment and psychology.” But having coming so far, the image guru has no plans to rest on his laurels.

“Our next venture is to start an exclusive training centre for image management, which will match global standards,” he says. Well, one more to add to his list of first’s.