Virtual Events: Powering up Small Businesses in 2021

Have something to say? The best way to do that these days is by holding a virtual event. 2020’s stay-at-home and social distancing protocols have led to large-scale reinventions in how we communicate, network and socialise, especially for small businesses and startups.

Why virtual events? Easy to organise, cost-effective and simpler in logistics, these digital events break barriers and unite the world. Literally! Individuals and organisations can live-stream multiple sessions and host webinars with guests – beyond the barriers of location, distances and time zones. You can collaborate with founders across the spectrum, rope in angel investors and hold digital product launches at a fraction of the costs involved. At the same time, everyone remains safe from close contact in these viral times.

2020: A year for virtual events

Need more evidence for all things virtual? Consider how Mahindra & Mahindra launched their Thar SUV on YouTube, alongside new additions from Volkswagen, AUDI and Nissan. Closer to the ground, EV startup Atumobile Pvt Ltd, which launched their first EV bike, Atum 1.0 are also leveraging their product through reviews from biking YouTubers.

Virtual events are the new democratic platform, offering an equal pedestal to big brands and new businesses. In India, virtual events also powered launches for Canon India’s cameras, a fragrance range from designer Masaba Gupta and Nykaa and even a startup virtual event platform, Hublio.

Such virtual events across 2020 have meant big business for event organisers and the larger event management industry. Event organiser Eventbrite has reported a 1,100% increase in business and professional online events in April 2020, versus 2019. Most of which has come from the ambit of small businesses.

The Benefits of Virtual Events

According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), global economic losses for 2020 accrue to between $5.8 trillion and $8.8 trillion this year. Small businesses have been hit the hardest and are now trying their best to overcome the situation.

Virtual events can provide the much-needed boost here. Why? They’re budget-friendly, reach a global audience, can be managed easily and provide quick, real-time feedback through online surveys and questionnaires. They can also mean serious money for startups – virtual events like the Biotech Showcase 2021, Echelon Asia Summit 2021 allow startups and small businesses opportunities to make their elevator pitches and capture funding from investors.

Virtual Events and Small Businesses

As I’ve mentioned earlier, virtual events tend to be a great equaliser among businesses, especially startups. Here are some ways in which they’ve successfully used virtual events recently:

  • Webinars

Like their on-ground counterparts, webinars engage discussion, brainstorming and idea generation like no other virtual event. While the pandemic severely restricted movement, these web-based exchanges occur at all levels – from schools and educational institutions, research groups, organisations and industry group., for instance, leveraged the startup community for a brainstorming webinar this year.

  • Virtual summits

While webinars generally serve a singular topic of discussion, summits are a whole new ballgame. SOW from Home, an October 2020 virtual summit aimed at growth for startups, was one such high-note event.

2021 will see a continued interest in virtual summits – from established brands like Tedx to relatively smaller businesses.

  • Virtual Product Launch

Apple did it first, with consistent product launches streamed online, alongside an on-ground event. The pandemic, in turn, forced multiple companies to think on these lines too. Mahindra to AUDI, VR launches for sports shoes to virtual fragrance pop-ups, a product launch online is all about creativity and effective use of available technology. As we wait for widespread vaccination, we can only expect to see more such virtual product launches.

Currently, businesses can host these on GoToWebinar, Teams, OnlineEvent, Brella, Dreamcast, Webex and 6Connex, vFairs, Socio, Inxpo and Workcast. Depending on their needs, businesses can opt for custom solutions from these providers as well.

The road ahead for virtual events is exciting indeed. Though they won’t entirely replace on-ground company events, I believe the future is open for hybrid events, which would synergise the best from both forms of corporate events. I, for one, can hardly wait for the year ahead!

About Author: Sadiya Khan specializes in Public Relations and digital marketing communications with more than 13 years of experience. Currently, she is the founder of Akund Communications.


COVID-19 Brings New Dawn To Digital Marketing

Shut behind doors, connected via devices – that’s the best way we can describe our lives for more than three months. We’re living the new ‘normal’ as we connect via social media and maintain physical distancing. The current COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of digital readiness for seamless business and personal lives.

From an industry perspective, this realisation has also fuelled spends and growth for digital marketing businesses. According to an industry report by Dentsu Aegis Network, digital marketing in India would be worth Rs. 17,000 crore by the end of 2020. The massive expansion in digital viewership over the lockdown period has also led to high hopes from this sector.

In this blog, I underline how every business can ride this wave of digital marketing and reach new heights.

1. Obvious digital gains:

The most obvious business opportunities for digital marketing are those with a direct online presence and retail connect. These include online education, telehealth, FMCG and digital payments. It’s no wonder then that edutech brands like BYJUS and Vedantu, as well as payment platforms like GPay, Amazon Pay, PayTM and Airtel Money, have increased their ad spends right now. 

2. Grow to digital heights:

The most significant learning, I believe, for any business post-COVID-19 is to build and maintain the necessary infrastructure to have a digital footprint. When news apps see a 41% increase in time spend and consumption (BARC India’s findings), only print operations and non-digital companies are struggling to breathe.

To survive, these brands need to establish a digital presence right now, for which they’re connecting with other platforms. Treat this as a wakeup call and immediately invest in the necessary infrastructure – talent, data facilities, online marketplaces and online revenue models, or you may face the threat of a shutdown.

3. Serve for digital gains:

The large number of businesses who are still not online have created an immense opportunity for both local, national and international companies with tech know-how, AI and server abilities to serve this need.

Microsoft has reported a 775% increase in demand for cloud computing services, while better connectivity is fuelling the millions who’re now working from home. VPN networks, AI solutions, chatbots and online marketplaces are here and so are branding solutions that will continue to enable them.

4. Finding a ‘healthy’ brand line:

The locked-in period saw a lot of change in people’s shopping patterns, as they resumed cooking at home, stocking FMCG essentials and making health-conscious choices. That, from a digital marketing perspective, means the need to shift every brand’s position to a ‘health’ centred message.

Whether it is five-star hotels packing cook-in-a-box meals, clothing brands selling cloth masks, consumer appliance brands pushing air quality products or businesses advertising how they are working on environmentally conscious or labour-friendly lines, the idea is to find a space and consolidate it with the values of the times. And there’s no cost-effective and large-scale way to do this than going digital!

5. Vocal support for local

The Aatmanirbhar call was not a standalone statement by PM Narendra Modi. The pause on international trade and regional connectivity has forced many businesses to think local for raw materials, operational needs, marketing, supply chain and retail solutions. This means that nascent startups in digital marketing also have a fighting chance in supporting the newly emerging, local economy.

Proudly promoting yourself as local or Indian is a vital branding message and one that most brands can capitalise on. You can see this with newly emerging brands and Indian-lines in FMCG, health and wellness as well as apparel.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the digital bandwagon right now and capitalise on the gains from these turbulent times. Your move now can mean life or death for your brand, especially as we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.

Looking Ahead: A roundup on the Public Relations and Digital Marketing Industry in India 2018 and #FutureTrends2019

2018 has brought a major shift in the way the Public Relations and Digital Marketing Industry function in India said Sadiya Khan, Founder of Akund Public Relations.

Public Relations is now considered as an essential element for every organization to reach out to the target audience through various communication platforms in the highly competitive industry. To establish credibility in the market and position the brand, PR is looked upon as the keystone for companies, individuals and start-ups. The objective is to put forward a positive image or a perception about an organization, a brand, a product or an individual by using the most effective mediums of communication and media, be it print, electronic or social media.

We all have been using or I can say overusing traditional PR tools like Press Releases, Interviews, Press Statements, etc which now seems to be a little obsolete for Urban India. Public Relations Industry is evolving each day and every now and then there comes a time when we have to forget the traditional PR techniques and figure out innovative ways to communicate our message to the target audience.

The major reason for the ever-evolving PR techniques is that the preferences of the audiences are changing every day.

With the advent of digital media and social media communications, the PR industry has witnessed swift growth over the past few years, it feels like a shape-shifting beast – rapidly moving, a little intimidating too and huge.

Digital and Social Media Marketing in 2018 has been a complete game changer for Public Relations professionals and marketers. The role of Public Relations Agencies has become more vital than ever. A single wrong activity on social media can undo years of efforts taken for building a positive image. The need of the hour for PR agencies is to not only do away with the press invites and releases about the subject matter but also strategize to strengthen the brand image with the help of digital and social media.

The PR industry is dynamic and continuously evolving, it’s no longer all about running events, press releases and brand management. With a good PR strategy, one also need a great digital & social media marketing strategy. 

2018 Highlights

2018 has been all about online content, visual storytelling, influencers, blogging, podcasts, hash tagging, engaging videos, online campaigns, and other digital and electronic content to reach the maximum target audience. Compelling content is being produced which is welcomed with open arms by the audiences. So one thing’s for sure, creative content marketing is here to stay.

We saw digital marketing tools redefining marketing, more and more brands are toying with it to change the way they market their brands and with that, we also experienced talent crunch in the digital and social marketing industry as most professionals are trained for marketing traditionally and not digitally. 


  • As the industry is evolving, it has become more and more complicated and difficult to deal with the talent crunch.
  • Traditional ways of conducting public relations now are the least effective. It’s time to integrate ourselves and organizations with different communication platforms and technologies.
  • Quick responses are needed to the challenges we face. The cultural shift in the PR industry will affect us hugely. To win this battle we need highly creative people and media planners.

Trends 2019

  • The traditional media is still growing, though at a low rate but it is. In the rural India regional media is thriving, but in urban India, like I said the ways of communication have changed immensely.
  • In 2019, we will see more of integrated work with visuals and multimedia.
  • Simple and standard formats of issuing Press Releases will be redefined to make it visually appealing and prominent in the public eye.
  • Becoming ‘Jack of all trades’ is the key to evolve with the dynamic PR industry. Content creation, reputation management, corporate communication, and crises management will need creative skills and focus. Creative designers and planner will enter the circuit.
  • Influencer will be in the limelight. Collaboration with influencers works very well for marketing and reaching out to the target audiences. To target the relevant niche audience, teaming up with the influencer will be the key.
  • Qualitative content will be the king. Captivating content will be created to hook the target audience and communicate to as many people as possible.
  • PR agencies will play a vital role in creating a positive brand image. Long gone are the days when PR use to be a press release machine, which means the more creative one is, the more are the chances to survive the competition.
  • Storytelling, relationship building, social networking and being tech savvy will shape the future of PR Agencies.
  • Artificial Intelligence powered CatBots are here to stay. Personalized communication with the customers to engage them, altogether changes the experience of connecting with them.

The only thing that’s constant is the evolving the Public Relations and Digital Marketing Industry. To be on the top of the game, one needs to change with time and technology to upgrade their tools and techniques of functioning in the industry.

Five tips to increase your social media engagement organically in 2018


Social media is a powerful tool for businesses of any size to increase their brand awareness and credibility. Social media marketing plays a vital role in a well-rounded digital marketing strategy.

While some say organic SEO is dead, and only PPC Campaign is the way forward, don’t believe a word.

Organic SEO is highly effective when combined with extensively thought out content curation. And this is where social media marketing plays a consequential role which benefits SEO in a number of ways.

A well thought out social media marketing strategy can help you gain broader and more engaged audience.

So, don’t think you can’t grow organically. You can, if you follow these steps diligently:

  1. Know your customers’ persona

Businesses, today, not only want to attract and convert customers, they want to retain them for long-term.

And I am sure that’s what you want to.

So, how to create a loyal brand of customers.

Know your customers persona: Who you want to target, what are their needs and requirements, and how you can fulfil those.

Social media has emerged as a great marketing tool for Brands and they are using them to know the persona of their customers better and understand their wants and needs. Hence to create a loyal brand of customers should be on top of the Brand’s online marketing strategies.

  1. Improve your content with relevant keywords

The demand for content is on the rise. Leading brands have realised that to attract, engage, and retain customers, having high-quality content which engages the audience, can help establish their brand and build trust among the customers.

Content is nothing but storytelling.

Tell you audience an engaging story to get their undivided attention.

But before writing do a keyword search. Use of right keywords can boost organic traffic and engage users. And implement them subtly across the content.

Writing content for SEO is an effective engagement strategy, however use of unnecessary keywords can get you penalised by Google.  Remember that!

  1. Be interactive

You might have great content but are still wondering why it is not showing in your organic traffic?

Everyday over two million blogs are published. In this scenario it becomes easy for your content to get lost in crowd if it fails to engage or excite the audience.

You will be amazed at how contests, puzzles and quizzes can work wonders for companies to increase leads. People love to engage with such content which challenges their knowledge, hence the content should be such which attracts and engages the audience in such a way that they want to come back again and again.

  1. Share the relevant link on various platforms

So, what do you do once you have published a great content on the website?

Well, don’t wait for engagements and impressions to automatically trickle in. Your work is not over yet!

Share, share, and share!

Share the relevant link on as many social media channels as possible. It is not only about sharing the link, you have to also keep in mind the right or the best time to share the links which differs for various platforms.

And don’t forget the use of hashtags liberally, which will help your audience find the right content quickly on a particular topic.

  1. Engaging with the audience

How do you feel when people comment, like or share your posts on social media?

Euphoric, right?

People’s response and comments on your posts show the level of engagement of the audience with your content. It shows people are loving your content.

But the level of engagement shouldn’t start and end with the audience.

You also need to engage with the audience by responding to their comments.


Getting organic traffic from social media engagement is a ‘tough cookie to crack’, if you also factor in the constant changes in Google algorithms, but is not impossible.

Social media has become a catalyst for business growth and brands can no longer underestimate the importance of engagement. With the right plan you can achieve your goal to increase your social media engagement organically in 2018.