You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

"Someone Just Has To Say You Can't Do It & My God, I Just Have To Do It" A college dropout, Prema Sagar never believed in doing the conventional.

By Aashika Jain

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Entrepreneur India

Sometimes you know you have to do what you have to do and I always did what I wanted to do says the fiery Prema Sagar, one of Asia's most influential public relations personalities.

Sagar launched a public relations company in India in 1992 at a time when none in the country knew about the industry and no one dared to enter this unexplored territory.

In those years money was never a priority, says Sagar who started Genesis out of a basement. "The economy had just opened up and I think we were at the right time and the right place."

Little did Sagar know what she started would only grow so big that a global PR firm as big as Burson-Marsteller would want to acquire it.

Genesis was acquired by Burson-Marsteller 13 years after it began.

Success did not come in easy

In service class families, it is never about not what you get, it is about what you do, says Sagar who started her career as a receptionist at a law firm.

"The more my dad said no to me, the more I did things."

A college dropout, Sagar never believed in doing the conventional. From a receptionist's job to starting a printing press and then a magazine called the City Guide, Sagar walked all walks of life with sheer guts and glory.

Born to a mother from Switzerland and Air marshal father from Pakistan Sind, Sagar's personal life was full of the unconventional too.

She ran away from home to marry a budding lawyer of the time from the firm where Sagar worked as a receptionist. Now known as one of the finest lawyers in India, Jyoti Sagar has till date been Prema Sagar's biggest support.

"My mother always said I was born that way. But she felt that I would do what I wanted to do even from the time I was born," says Sagar.

Prema Sagar is now the Vice Chair of Burson-Marsteller and the Founder of Genesis Burson-Marsteller.

She is also the founder-President of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), an organisation that encourages sharing of best practices in the industry along with being the founding member of the Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI), which was created to bring similar levels of collaboration and knowledge sharing in the public affairs realm.

If you are too scared to make a decision, you don't grow

"There were 5 newspapers, two magazines at the time I started. But this did not deter me to satiate my need for creativity," says Sagar.

Sagar feels she has been blessed with wonderful teammates who were young at the time of Genesis' growth and weren't scared to open bureaus and make decisions. "Today they are more like founders."

"First Delhi, then Bangalore, then Mumbai and then Kolkata, Genesis was all over India in no time! Those days, money came in and money went out. None of my teammates came to an interview and said how much money I will get. I hate the word money until today."

I just feel it's about work. If you do good work, you get the money says Sagar who has run a successful partnership with Burson-Marsteller since 2005.

Genesis Burson-Marsteller today has a live newsroom, a digital studio, public affairs, a Step Up for starters, outstanding speakers bureau while being are a part of the WPP Group without a dollar of investment from them.

Sagar is now doing something called skill grouping where she is training some really small teams of young people who are doing design, influencers, social and who don't want to be in typical media – print and broadcast. "I think that's the way forward."

Someone just has to say, Prema, you can't do this. And my goodness, I just have to do it!

Prema Sagar' courage and determination led her to start a Foundation dedicated to a son she lost 32 years that provides access to world-class medical care for abandoned and underprivileged children facing life-threatening ailments in the area of cancer, heart, thalassemia, organ failure and extreme deformities.

"I don't really think it; it's really from the heart."

The Foundation of which both Prema and her husband are trustees is backed by 12 people and is growing one child at a time. Most of the heart children get into surgery; they get fine and go back says Sagar.

Aashika Jain

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Associate Editor, Entrepreneur India

Journalist in the making since 2006! My fastest fingers have worked for India's business news channel CNBC-TV18, global news wire Thomson Reuters, the digital arm of India’s biggest newspaper The Economic Times and Entrepreneur India as the Digital Head. 
Growing a Business

5 Entrepreneurial Mindsets That Drive Success

Here are the mindsets shared by the most successful entrepreneurs.

News and Trends

Nikhil Kamath's WTFund Invites Applications from April 15 from Young Entrepreneurs

The new sector-agnostic fund will offer a package including a non-dilutive grant of INR 20 lakh and will enable founders to retain full equity in their ventures.

News and Trends

Aerospace Components Manufacturer JJG Aero Secures USD 12 Mn from CX Partners

The Bengaluru-based platform aims to utilise the raised funds mainly toward furthering vertical integration, boosting manufacturing capacity at the new location, and other business activities.


Solo Traveling Entrepreneurs Will Love These Translation Earbuds — $90 Through April 21

The Mymanu CLIK S Translation earbuds have been featured at CES multiple times and won the Red Dot award.

Side Hustle

This Flexible Side Hustle Is Helping Millions Earn Extra Cash — and Might Be 'More Attractive' Than an Office Job

Side hustles remain popular for additional income — and have many questioning the 9-5 model altogether.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.