#StoriesbyTWW: Twain Communications

We’ve got a brand new edition of #StoriesbyTWW! With Stories, we wanted to put together a series that inspires our community by sharing stories of women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that have taken risks, challenges and unexplored paths to get to where they are today. Whether it’s someone just starting off their career or someone who’s looking to change paths, come back to work after a break, or simply learn, we wanted to share these stories to help our community get more perspective from people who’ve actually done it successfully.

In this edition, we’re featuring Gauri Nayar & Reyna Jagtiani, the managing partners & co-founders of Twain Communications, a full-service communications firm, offering 360-degree marketing, social media and PR solutions to clients in the luxury, hospitality and lifestyle industries in India. Their clients include the Olive Group of Restaurants, Le 15 Patisserie, Cream Centre, Nykaa and more! Here’s their story.

Tell us all about Twain Communications – how it all started, what you do and what your goal was getting into business together?

GN: Twain Communications really began in a serendipitous manner – it was one of those situations where we were in the right place at the right time, and things just clicked. We met years ago and instantaneously hit it off. I was working with the Oberoi Group at the time and Reyna was at Edelman. We stayed in touch, through us both leaving those respective positions, and starting to dabble in the freelance/consulting space for a while. At one point, we decided to work together on a particular freelance project and that experience was so positive that we began working together on projects more frequently. It was at a client meeting in 2012 where the client met us and asked for our business cards – we just knew then that it was time to get started and build our agency.

When we began Twain, our focus was very heavily on traditional PR and content creation, two areas where we both demonstrate great strengths. Over the years, however, we have quickly morphed into a 360-degree communications firm, as we realized that the face of PR is rapidly changing. Today, we offer traditional PR, content creation, brand building, graphic design, marketing, social media strategy, and much more, to enable clients to build a holistic and thoughtful communications strategy, at any stage of their business.

We began Twain through a mutual love for the communications space, and because we were confident that we would make good business partners. It’s so tough to find the right partner – it really is like looking for a spouse!

Being able to get that foundation in place allowed us to then begin focusing on what we wanted to do via Twain, for our clients.

How do you think brands have changed in the last decade in terms of being more receptive to PR and Comms? Why do you think brands need this service more than ever now?

Over the years, we have witnessed so many new brands crop up – it is truly incredible to see how many great ideas are developing in India. This means however that the market has never been more cluttered. Brands are now younger – and therefore savvier in many ways – they understand that they need to have a communications strategy in place in order to stand out.

Also, given the sharp rise of digital, brands realise that remaining relevant is extremely important at all times – today, the customer has multiple ways to either praise or chastise a brand in public forums. Brands, therefore, need to be at the very top of their game, which is why a strategic Communications plan plays such a crucial role in their growth and sometimes survival.

That said, there is always a flip side to every situation – a lot of brands don’t necessarily understand what PR and Communications really mean or entails – the line with sales is eternally blurry, which makes our jobs a bit more challenging as a result.

However, it’s a challenge that we embrace, as it keeps us relevant and on our toes at all times, ensuring that we think a few steps ahead, on creative ways on which to get our clients the best possible buzz and brand recall we can.

What does it take to build a career in PR in India today? What are the challenges of being in PR in India?

Having lived and worked in international markets as well, we would say that at the end of the day, the PR space is the same wherever you are around the world.

Clients will be as demanding, media will be as difficult to crack, and finding creative ways to secure coverage will – and should – always remain at the forefront of a PR pro’s job.

India is already all about connections and networks – this is never truer when it comes to the PR space. The value you bring to your clients is a lot of times directly in proportion to the networks you have, both with media and brands, and finding ways to leverage these connections successfully on behalf of your clients is what a lot of skilled PR professionals are able to do, seamlessly.

What would you tell those that are starting out in this space? How should they equip themselves – is education necessary or does work experience count? What is the starting point and how do they work their way up?

Neither of us had formal training in the PR space – our respective educational backgrounds are in the Arts – Literature, Psychology, Art History, and so on.

We don’t think it’s necessary to have formal training, but an open mind and a willingness to learn are musts.

A lot of people think that PR is a glamourous space – especially the kind of lifestyle PR we do at Twain, where we have the privilege of working with some of the best brands in hospitality, travel, wellness/fitness, F&B, and luxury industries.

What people starting out in PR should know is that there is a lot of grunt work, and a steep learning curve. They need to learn to be agile, flexible, open to long hours, and develop a thick skin. Clients can be very demanding, and competition is intense – it’s a challenging job, but when done right, the perks are also a lot of fun!

For those looking to start their own agency, it’s important to get a few factors straight before launching into it. First, you have to know if you prefer to fly solo, or would work better with a business partner. For us, we cannot imagine working without the other, and that’s what makes Twain successful. Next, determine the kind of PR you want to do. We knew that our interests – and therefore our strengths – lay in the lifestyle space. We relate most closely to the brands we represent – we dine at these restaurants, stay at these hotels, do these workouts, wear these brands, and so on.

Having an intrinsic understanding of the industry you’re a part of as a PR professional is a key to your success.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to leverage your networks – in the 7 years since we started Twain, we have been fortunate to have had most of our clients come to us through personal referrals, which then extended to professional referrals. People are more than willing to help if they trust you and the value you can bring to those who need it. Work hard to develop this reputation and it will always hold you in good stead.

We know that the two of you are also workwives in addition to being business partners. Tell us what your working relationship is like and how it extends to your personal equation.

What’s great about our working relationship (amongst many other things!) is that we are both very similar and very different. The similarities allow for us to be entirely aligned on the big things – like the vision for the company, our core values, the kinds of clients we want to work with, and how we see Twain growing. We are also very respectful of one another’s personal lives.

We both love a lot of the same things – reading, working out, travel and so on, and we ensure we give one another space to do this on a regular basis, picking up for the other, as needed.

We think that this respect for personal time ends up extending to the way in which we prioritize this for our team members as well – it’s just so important to strike that balance.

GN: Reyna is five years younger than me, so a lot of our relationship also becomes like a younger-older sister bond. We know intimate details about one another’s lives, interact with one another’s families, and always, always have each other’s backs. She is very supportive of my schedule as a working mother, something I will endlessly appreciate.

RJ: Our differences manifest in such a way, that we end up getting affected by very different things, work-wise. There is never usually a time when we are both stressed out by the same thing – our triggers are very different. This is great, because that means that at all times, one of us can remain level-headed, even if the other needs to let off steam. Also, we gravitate towards different things – Gauri looks more at the PR part of the business, and I take care of content and marketing. This allows us to have our space within the company to run things the way each of us wants, while still being entirely aligned with each client.

There can be days where you don’t see eye to eye on things, you don’t always agree on a project or a decision. What do you think is the most important thing to preserve and nurture a relationship with your work-wife to ensure overall harmony?

The most important thing, hands down, is to have a strong foundation of trust. Even if we disagree on certain things, we always know that at the end of the day, we are making decisions that will ultimately benefit the company and one another.

We value the teamwork that comes with a partnership like ours – the kind of perspective we are able to develop by seeing things from the other person’s point of view is truly helpful, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s a wrap! We are so grateful to Reyna & Gauri for taking the time to share their story and for pretty much giving us a masterclass in the way PR works in India! If you’d like to know more about Twain Communications, check them out on Instagram.