PR agency W Asia expands to KL, hires Kiranjeet Kaur to lead ops

PR and social media agency, W, is opening its office in Kuala Lumpur on 8 July, led by Kiranjeet Kaur (pictured) who was previously the national PR manager at Hilton Kuala Lumpur. She will report to W's group managing director for Asia, Annabel Fox.

Kaur was with Hilton for close to two years and prior to that was with Cohn & Wolfe as associate account director for about five years, prior to its merger with Burson-Marsteller in 2018. During her time there, she ran the agency's consumers accounts including Nestle and Dulux. Kaur also worked at Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur and RAPR Mileage Communications.

In a statement to A+M, Kaur said what most attracted her to W was its energy and entrepreneurial spirit. "I was told that W the place where you can do the best work of your life. I can’t wait to bring this ethos to KL, to build a team that is committed to creating great work along with developing a great culture," she said. Kaur will be joined by senior executive Nicholas Gab and will be supported by assistants. The agency is also working with senior consultants in Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysia expansion marks the agency's second full-scale office in Asia and fifth office globally. W in KL also comes four years after the UK-based agency launched its Asian headquarters in Singapore in 2015. The KL offering was formed as a result of increasing clients needs in Malaysia, and among the list of founding clients for W in KL include Marc Jacobs Beauty, AppNexus, Women of the Future Awards Southeast Asia and the entertainment property for the racing community, The Podium Lounge.

W in KL will also support the growth of W’s recently acquired travel communications agency, Lotus UK, as it plans to extend its reach in Asia. The new Malaysian team will offer a combined specialism in the consumer, travel, lifestyle, digital and corporate space – offering a full PR and digital service to local businesses as well as regional support to global brands, alongside the Singapore office.

Fox told A+M in a statement that due to its unique commercial yet creative approach, the agency believes it will not have direct competitors, but it will be operating in the same space as larger boutique agencies and the local offices of global network groups. Like Singapore, Fox said Malaysia is becoming very digital-focused and the influencer market is developed, which is an area it will be tapping into with consumer clients. She added that there seems to be a "big appetite" in Malaysia for thought leadership.

"We have been doing a lot of regional work from our Singapore office for some larger blue corporate chip clients so this is something the new Kuala Lumpur office will be supporting on," she said.

When asked about the potential challenges W will face in Kuala Lumpur, Fox said that anywhere where an agency is unknown can be a challenge and this was even more so when it opened in Singapore. Despite having credentials in Europe, W still had to build up its operations from scratch.

However, with a successful business in Singapore and plenty of existing Malaysia work under its belt, Fox said the agency is "in great stead". "That said, the key to opening is the local knowledge – and with extensive experience, and supported by a great team, we believe Kaur is the perfect person to deliver the high standard of service that we believe we are known for," she added.

W currently has more than 20 employees in Singapore and works on clients including Pizza Hut, Moët Hennessy Diageo, Bang & Olufsen, foodpanda, Air France, Wyndham Hotels and Marc Jacobs Beauty. Its Singapore office is led by managing director Hilary Davies, replacing Fox who assumed a new role of group managing director for Asia Pacific last June.

Meanwhile, W also expanded its operations into Bali in July 2017, advising clients on regional communication strategies as well as building public relation campaigns across Asia Pacific. Its Bali operations, however, is not a full-scale office unlike Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.  While W has yet to choose its next market for expansion, Fox told A+M that Southeast Asia is the focus of its growth and it believes emerging markets such as Vietnam are particularly interesting.

Fox said: "With many of our clients asking if we can offer a full service in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur seemed like the perfect choice for our second Asian office. We’re really excited to bring Kaur into the W family - her travel, consumer and corporate experience will complement our creative, yet commercial approach."

Global CEO and W founder, Warren Johnson, added that having explored the region "extensively", it is "really excited" to be opening its next office in Malaysia. "Like Singapore, we love Kuala Lumpur’s rich cultural diversity along with it being a growing, global business hub. With a presence in KL, we can now offer both our local and global clients access to larger part of Southeast Asia," Johnson added.

(Read also: On the record: W’s Annabel Fox)