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Indrajit Sen

President | 14 Feb 2006

I think that government regulations are the only deterrent in the development of OOH. Mindsets have already changed and there are enough ways to prove to brand marketers and the efficacy of the medium does not need to be proved again, we already have an economy that is driving people outside the home and spending more time outside. So, the whole environment is absolutely ready for this. Now it is only a matter of the regulations to fall into place.

Primesite, Mudra Group’s out of home communications arm, has the most extensive nationwide network that covers over 600 markets and has planned and implemented huge outdoor, retail signage and visual merchandising programmes across various categories.

Indrajit Sen is the man responsible for Primesite being recognised as one of the top three companies in OOH communication in India. He started his career after acquiring a post graduate diploma from BITS, Pilani. He has worked with Primesite for more than five years. With over 15 years’ experience in media, 10 of which were with The Times of India Group as Response Head in various territories, Sen has also worked across verticals all over India.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shikha Saroj, Sen speaks about how the out of home industry has developed in India and how government support will go a long way in developing it further.

Q. How different is out-of-home (OOH) today compared to what it was a few years back?

The biggest change in this medium is the way clients perceive OOH. Earlier, clients used to look at OOH simply as a support medium and something that served as a reminder after print and television ads have done their job. Today, it is being used increasingly as a client-building medium in addition to being a reminder call. The scope of what traditionally used to be the outdoor medium has today increased to encompass an entire communication industry that we call OOH. If you look at the entire cycle of communicating with the consumer – the consumer is exposed to print, television, and radio while at home; he goes out and is exposed to outdoor till he goes to consume or purchase something where he is exposed to in-shop and out-of-shop communication. When he is on the move, it is again outdoor and the radio. This entire cycle of communication leads him to complete a purchase.

If you look at the entire cycle, barring television, print and radio communication, everything else is considered an OOH communication package. Today, outdoor communication is not limited to just hoardings because of the huge media proliferation, which is why the opportunities today are much more. It is all about spotting the correct location where you can get your target audience and then designing a communication at that location that will impact that audience. You are no more limited to a hoarding or a bus shelter or a kiosk. You can create a signage, or brand a bench or put floor graphics on the road – so there is no limit to what you can do. You are only limited by your imagination and technological possibilities.

The other thing that has changed is that we are now just beginning to see professionalism in this otherwise hugely disorganised and traditional industry. Some large groups such as STAR Network and Bennett, Coleman & Co are entering OOH, we are also beginning to see all the other big media groups getting into OOH – this is already the trend worldwide. Globally, media owners own media and this is now beginning to happen in India too. Worldwide, outdoor has always started as a very disaggregated medium and has gone through a period of consolidation and then some have emerged as clear players with large investments and large stakes, and that has been established as one of the main mediums. India has just begun to see this change. I expect a lot of changes to happen in the entire set-up in the next two to three years in terms of the ownership patterns, technology and the investments. Attempts are being made with MRUC to put in place a common currency in terms of the measurement metrics, and simultaneously you are seeing the big groups coming in even as the demand from brands is also changing.

Q. What is the most important factor to connect with your audience through OOH?

Location is the most important factor. The next important factor is how you present the idea and its execution. I will give you an example – Jet Airways is one of our most valued clients. We have been working with them for very long. They have a ticketing store in town where people can go and even check-in before going to the airport. Jet talked about this in various forums but nothing much was happening. We then decided to communicate through a bus shelter right outside the office by executing innovatively to attract attention. The immediate result was increase in traffic and people walking into the Jet store. Though the office was there earlier, it was not apparent to people passing by. After we communicated through the bus shelter, people realised that the store is located there. We supported this with kiosks and directions that pointed towards the Jet shop. So it’s both – location and the way you execute your idea.

Q. What is the size of OOH in India?

Outdoor per say is about Rs 1,000 crore. Incidentally, we are the only company that tracks outdoor usage by more than 400 brands across 16 cities month after month. We have every little detail about exactly how much each brand spends in OOH – be it on hoardings, kiosks, bus shelters, etc. If you take into consideration the point of sales part as well and try to look at overall OOH, it is an additional Rs 1,300-1,400 crore. Put together, the OOH industry is nothing less than Rs 2,400 crore, which I think, is pretty lively. This industry is poised to grow on both accounts – on usage account (on sheer volumes) and with additional investment and upgraded quality, the pricing is going to increase as well. In the next three to four years we are going to see compounded 20 per cent minimum year-on-year. Also, malls are not doing enough on signage, so we will see a lot happening on that front too.

Q. What do you think needs to be done to push the Indian OOH industry forward?

Firstly, is realisation by the government that there is a genuine need for OOH to grow. The revenue monetisation part for the government can be managed far better by working with industry professionals. In most cities, government owned companies run the public transport. They can do a far better job by monetising the asset and managing that in a very aesthetic manner, which will not offend public programme and at the same time generate more funds than it is drawing today. This will also benefit everyone in the city. This can be managed far better and without the corruption and manipulation.

For this industry to come up to its full potential, we need to increase the awareness amongst policy makers that they can handle what they are doing in a much better manner. This is very important as we are operating in a very controlled environment due to government regulations. Once this is done, the interest in investment will automatically increase and this industry will take off. In India, brand penetration is not just about reaching top 16 cities, but approximately 400 to 500 cities.

You have to have not just mass media but local penetration as well. Local penetration in India has to be exploited correctly to reach your audience there and that can only be done through local media that is based only in print and OOH. Developing the print media needs a lot of other infrastructure, so you are left with only OOH – call it rural or activation – that connects with the audiences in small towns and rural areas. It is a very huge market and a huge opportunity.

Q. Other than government regulations being a deterrent in the development of the OOH industry, what are the other disadvantages that you can think of?

I think that government regulations are the only deterrent in the development of OOH. Mindsets have already changed and there are enough ways to prove to brand marketers and the efficacy of the medium does not need to be proved again, we already have an economy that is driving people outside the home and spending more time outside. So, the whole environment is absolutely ready for this. Now it is only a matter of the regulations to fall into place.

Q. How would you compare India’s OOH industry to the global one?

The biggest difference is in the holding patterns. It is hugely fragmented in India, whereas internationally, the consolidation has already happened, which in turn, has led to a lot more investments happening in the medium. This has to still happen in India. Of course, there are distinct economy led differences because in India we have 20 people available at a very low cost, who physically go and do a lot of things. Internationally, they have to do it with maybe just three people in a truck as there is a lot more automation and standardisation that you do not find here.

Here people have not yet found the need to standardise as they can customise and use resources depending on the situation. That automation and standardisation has led to better quality than we get to see in India. These are the two primary differences – firstly, the holding pattern that has made the difference in the structure of the industry and the way it works, and secondly, better quality due to standardised and automated processes.

Q. Which, according to you, have been effective OOH campaigns?

The cutouts for ‘Indian Idol’ on mobile vans was very well executed. An exercise done in Delhi’s Connaught Place area, where trees were covered with giraffe stripes to create awareness about Save the Animals campaign, was also well done. Ogilvy has done some brilliant work too.

Q. Who are Primesite’s key clients?

Some of our clients are Hindustan Times, Zee Group, and Jet Airways. We are doing a lot of work with the Max Group in Delhi right from their hospitals to their insurance companies. We have just completed the entire signage design assignment for Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and we are now involved in implementing and executing some of the signages. We have got special divisions working on hospital signage for Apollo Hospitals and Wockhardt Hospitals. This apart, Maruti Udyog Ltd, TVS Group and Sify are also among our valued clients.

Q. What are some of Primesite’s current and future projects?

In the OOH solution sphere, we have found in the past that having strong creative inputs has always been appreciated as well as been a large source of business. So, we are going to strengthen that part of our delivery. Over the last three years, we have developed significant expertise in signage and we will also strengthen that further and leverage that knowledge to get us into more specialised businesses of retail, hospital and healthcare signage, public signage along with municipalities, corporations and road transport units.

We have also specialised in one more line of work – called Visual Workplace Management (VWM). VWM is an essential part of any total quality management (TQM) or total productivity management (TPM) programme and this is something that hitherto has been practiced by foreign consultants (primarily from Japan) with companies in India getting into TQM and TPM programmes. We are the only company that has expertise in VWM. We are already doing a lot of path breaking work on this with companies like Jubilant Organosys, Tata Group, and Aditya Birla Group. We are doing good and new work in this line.

We also have design cells consisting of graphic designers and architects in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata. Design and related application in the OOH area is going to be our core deliverable. Visual merchandising emanating from our knowledge and expertise in the OOH area is where we will extend in the future. This is why we did the ISO to help us get our processes on a very firm footing. We have got the ISO 9001:2000 certification to give us that process purity. We work out of 13-14 offices all over the country and we need to have a standardised process in order to deliver.

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