Senjam Raj Sekhar | The Innovator 25 Asia-Pacific 2023

Senjam Raj Sekhar

Head of Global Communications
Mobile Premier League


The voice of the Global South and the nuances and unique character of 85% of the world's population that constitute it, have not been taken into account.”

Senjam Raj Sekhar’s work at India’s Mobile Premier League has helped to redefine that company’s operations and positioning, enabling the online gaming platform to navigate a series of issues — including a funding crunch and a potential government ban. In an unprecedented sweep of the South Asia SABRE Awards, MPL took the top two spots in the Best in Show Rankings, with second place going to its public affairs campaign to successfully combat illegal gaming platforms. MPL also won the Diamond SABRE for Company of the Year at both the South Asia and Asia-Pacific SABRE Awards. 

How do you define innovation?
I essentially define innovation as disruption. In the context of communications, innovation is very different from creativity, even though we tend to use both the terms interchangeably. A creative campaign is usually clever, funny or imaginative. On the other hand, innovation disrupts the norm. It introduces a new paradigm and inspires other organizations to follow suit. Thus product placement or cause marketing were innovations when they were first introduced.

In your opinion, which brands and/or agencies are most innovative in their approach to PR and marketing?
Tech startups are usually the best when it comes to innovating in PR and marketing. See how Apple and Salesforce in their early days were able to disrupt the existing market with their disruptive communications. Apple’s ‘1984’ superbowl ad aired only once but is now regarded as a watershed moment in marketing & comms. In 2000, Salesforce paid actors to carry ‘Anti software’ signs outside competitor events. That buzz ultimately created the one trillion dollar cloud industry. Take my company Mobile Premier League (MPL). We started in late 2018 and had to quickly establish ourselves in a field crowded with much older gaming companies. When Nike stepped down as the kit manufacturer of the Indian cricket team, we made the audacious move to become the kit maker of the team. A gaming company making kit is unheard of. Our ballsy move stamped the MPL brand in the hearts of a billion Indians. To top it, the jerseys became the best selling in Indian cricket history.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider to be innovative.
The 2015 Flipkart stories initiative stands out because of its intent, scope and disruption. When the world was experimenting with corporate blogs, our aim was to build a quality digital media platform. We put together a top notch team of editors, designers, writers and digital marketing folks. The team was told to hunt for stories that were authentic & of immense human interest. Many stories that first appeared on Flipkart Stories were reproduced by the media. Potentially negative news were first broken here and were later picked up by mainline media with all the required perspectives. At its peak, we had a million views a month. We even got invited for media fam tours! Many other companies later followed us in setting up similar digital media platforms. Some even honoured us by borrowing the moniker - ‘Stories’ for their brand story platform

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?
Nandan Nilekani. He first built Infosys into an IT powerhouse. More importantly, in his second innings, he gave birth to Aadhar, the world's largest identity system. Aadhar is singularly responsible for ensuring that hundreds of millions of poor Indian families get the benefit of welfare schemes, without any leakage.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Nothing works better than a good old time out

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Innovations in today’s world are more likely to be technology led. It is also important for the PR industry to deeply embrace technology and fully experiment with it. Who knows, maybe a new trend will emerge.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job?
In my current avatar, either a full time traveller or founder of a fitness startup.

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has provided inspiration over the past year?
The Asian Games at Hangzhou. Our Indian athletes have performed beyond our expectations.Many of them have gone from very humble backgrounds and the stories of their dedication and hard work have been truly inspirational.

How can the PR and communications industry harness innovation to make more progress on diversity, equity and inclusion?
DEI globally has been driven by the western notion and philosophy of what constitutes diversity, equity and inclusion. Global corporations have played the lead role with the HQ mandate implemented in toto by country subsidiaries. The voice of the Global South and the nuances and unique character of 85% of the world's population that constitute it, have not been taken into account. The biggest service that the PR and comms industry can do is to recognise that each of the countries have their unique requirements of DEI and act on it.