Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

“We are not order takers...”

Published in Nov-Dec 2022

Rabia Shoaib Ahmad, Director and COO, Nutshell Group, speaks to Zeenat Chaudhary about the Nutshell Group’s evolution.

ZEENAT CHAUDHARY: When was Nutshell Group set up?
RABIA SHOAIB AHMAD: We began operations about 20 years ago with Nutshell Conferences, which has to date conducted hundreds of business summits, dialogues and conversations between the corporate sector, governments and other institutions. Importantly, Nutshell Conferences is still our base; it is where we draw our strength and from where we acquired clients, for Nutshell Communications and Nutshell Solutions – both of which were set up in March 2021. Nutshell Communications is a 360-degree communications firm, offering all the components of traditional PR (media management, crisis management and media training) along with content creation and digital marketing. Nutshell Solutions provides services such as talent hunting, HR consulting and organisational development.

ZC: So the clients are the same for all three entities?
RSA: Yes. The entities lend strength to each other and offer holistic solutions to our clients. Instead of drawing lines between the companies, we focus on how we can utilise their capabilities for the same client. For instance, tapping into Nutshell Conferences to open a dialogue for a Nutshell Communications project/client or vice versa.

ZC: What accounts for Nutshell Group’s swift growth in such a short period?
RSA: The innovative work we have executed and the scale at which we do it. Platforms like the Business Summit and Future Summit, under Nutshell Conferences, have given us national credibility. Every top CEO in Pakistan is connected with us – that is the scale of our projects. Our global board of advisors (consisting of business leaders, innovators, tech gurus, economists and academicians) has helped us tap into global markets. In numbers, Nutshell Conferences has hosted more than 45 countries and 33,000+ delegates so far.

ZC: What is Nutshell Group’s differentiating factor?
RSA: We consider ourselves a through and through national company. The existence of Nutshell is nationalistic – we do things for Pakistan. We carry out dialogues on topics such as the economy, the Single National Curriculum, the Afghanistan issue, Covid-19, the way forward for Pakistan and women’s empowerment. Moreover, regardless of who is in power, we seat every political party at our table; we have had parties that are at loggerheads with each other but who work on a common platform on the economy with us. Our partners know we will work with ethics and integrity. We do not enter grey areas; we will never be part of anything detrimental to Pakistan’s social values or economy, but always be a part of anything that positively projects Pakistan. Our clients work on the same principles. We tend to challenge them and tell them if a strategy will be negative for them or the country… we are not order takers. This is another reason why we have built credibility.

ZC: How is Nutshell Communications different from other PR agencies?
RSA: What is called lobbying in the rest of the world, we call strategic engagements. We have a division within Nutshell Communications catering solely to this purpose – which no other organisation in Pakistan offers. Through this division, we connect our partners with our networks. We open doors for them, help them connect with the right players, such as business chambers or global companies, or tap into the right investment opportunities. Moreover, the strategic engagements department is not only limited to introducing clients to the right people, it ensures the complete integration of conferences and communications, content development, narrative building, positioning a client’s leadership in the media and placing them on certain platforms for thought leadership. In the last 18 months, we have had many clients that approach us for this division alone. I will also add that we are expensive to work with as we offer premium services. However, our retention rate is almost 100% because the value clients get by partnering with Nutshell is not what any PR or advertising agency can provide.

ZC: What did Nutshell Communications strive for internally when setting up?
RSA: Our focus is human resources and we take pride in their quality. We are a team of 45 people and it is just the beginning. Yes, it is a challenge to find the right talent, and, I say this with great unhappiness, that unfortunately although PR/ communications is such a large industry, you do not find doers there. Instead, you find people who will do what the client says with little innovation. We want to nurture the future leaders of Pakistan. We have the talent but it needs time and effort to be honed. Right now it is a vicious cycle where agencies work at low costs and are not able to pay their employees, let alone train them. We want Pakistan’s PR industry to realise its potential. The pie is big enough for everyone to take a slice of.

ZC: What is the solution?
RSA: The problem is that Pakistan’s corporate industries have not connected themselves with academia. Only when there is a pull from the industries, can we work on academia – the industries need to drive what courses an institution should teach. Nutshell Communications will soon be embarking on a one-year Management Trainee programme, whereby we will induct fresh graduates and train them to become communications professionals.

ZC: Does Nutshell Group plan to create other entities?
RSA: We are aiming to develop a digital agency as well as a creative agency, both of which will have their own business centres, revenue units and clients. We are also looking to grow, as a group, in the Middle East and Central Asia.