I’m just back from my first trip to India since 1998 and wow what a change. I used to be a regular visitor and India is one of those places that make such a powerful impression that even though I knew things had moved on, past associations were so strong and vivid that I suppose I expected to return to the land of Ambassador cars and crumbling buildings. Actually Ambassador cars (the Indian brand based on the 1950’s Morris Oxford) and crumbling buildings are still there but so are brand new airports, six lane highways, metro rail systems and plush skyscrapers.

So is huge poverty of course, but the evidence of the spread of wealth through the middle class is everywhere. President Obama said recently that India was no longer emerging but had emerged – and whilst I’m not sure that’s true quite yet, I can see what he means.

It is an absolutely brilliant PR market too and not just because of the usual mind boggling population numbers and economic growth stats, impressive though they are. The media pulsates with energy. The circulations of the top dailies are vast:

1. Dainik Jagran 15.95 million
2. Dainik Bhaskar 13.49 million
3. Hindustan 10.84 million
4. Malayala Manorama 9.93 million
5. Amar Ujala 8.6 million
6. Lokmat 7.81 million
7. The Times of India 7.25 million
8. Daily Thanthi 7.24 million
9. Rajasthan Patrika 7.22 million
10. Mathrabhumi 6.68million

Not many years ago there was one state owned broadcaster, now there are 500 channels of which 125 are news and entertainment. And media is hugely powerful and aggressive in its coverage of issues holding politicians and business to account. That said, it has not been without its own challenges either and ‘Radia-gate‘ recently blew a big credibility hole in media trust and that of India’s biggest lobbyist Niira Radia (we will have numbers on media trust in India and 19 other markets when we launch the the Edelman Trust Barometer next week by the way).

All this in the world’s most populous democracy and a culture that redefines ‘complex’ and ‘varied’. Talent has never been a problem for India and that was evident to me in three offices we have there and so I wonder when we will see Indian CEOs of global PR firms in the same way we have see Indian CEOs of financial services or technology firms. Americans and Brits still dominate for the usual good and bad reasons, but India has the scale, the sophistication and the crucially mastery of the English language to breed very able competitors.

Below: An EXTREMELY British commercial for the original Morris Oxford, forerunner of the Ambassador.

Below: A more modern Indian approach to a more current model.