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OOH Interviews

Indrajit Sen

COO and Business Head | 21 Aug 2006

We are like a newborn baby which can only devour energy and grow. In the process, we are using technology, generating state-of-the-art knowledge, data bank and policies. We will be building and consolidating our network to tackle legislative issues across the country, and all this without sacrificing any cash flow.

The Indian Out-Of-Home (OOH) advertising industry is being recognised as an effective medium for executing creative ideas. The advertisers who now use it understand that outdoor displays are much more than flat surfaces that boringly convey your brand or idea.

Taking a step forward, Jagran Engage, the OOH arm of the Jagran Group, has announced major expansion plans in outdoor solutions in recent times. The company, which currently has 11 offices in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Patna, Bangalore and Chennai, is planning to foray into Madhya Pradesh in September this year.

Indrajit Sen, COO and Business Head, Jagran Engage, brings to the organisation 16 years of experience in media marketing. He joined as Regional Head of the Response department at The Times of India in 1990. He was with Primesite, the OOH specialist agency of Mudra Communications, for six years as both CEO and President.

Sen has done his masters in management studies from BITS Pilani and understands media business from both sellers’ and buyers’ perspective that gives him a unique edge over his competitors. In an interview with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha, he shares the Group’s vision, expansion plans and how outdoor advertising is emerging as a preferred medium.

Q. How did Jagran Engage come into being? Who are its founders?

Dainik Jagran, a Hindi newspaper, has been using the medium of outdoor advertising for communicating with its readers. Over the years, Jagran has acquired control over a large number of hoardings, gantries, kiosks, and bus shelters in various states. In the process, the Group realised the efficacy of the medium in building its own brand. In recognition of the same, Jagran decided to formally create a wholly owned division to exclusively promote outdoor assets as a medium. Thus, Jagran Engage came into being with Shailesh Gupta as the Executive Director.

Q. Who are your major clients?

As of date, we have more than 100 A-Grade display properties in Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi, Ludhiana and Lucknow. We have the advertising rights of all city buses in Lucknow, and some important foot overbridges in Ludhiana. We also hire sites for short term display for specific clients.

Currently, we are doing business with leading OOH agencies like Ogilvy, Portland, MOMS, OAP, Initiative, Prime Outdoor; ad agencies like Triton and Innocean; Fame and Rave multiplex chains; direct clients like Star Health Insurance, Apollo Hospitals, Titan (sunglasses), Aircel and UB Group’s Romanov.

Q. The outdoor media has seen the entry of some big players in recent times – News Outdoor, Times Group and DeCaux. How do you plan to beat the competition?

Firstly, we don’t wish to promote street furniture and mobile advertising. We will concentrate on hoardings and billboards in all its formats – spectacular, unipoles and retail concessions. We are in the process of categorising the hoarding and billboards according to the market they serve. Our offerings will be completely supported by researched data on the location they occupy and the audience they serve. In future, we might explore other areas of OOH advertising by creating dedicated Strategic Business Units (SBUs) so that the business potential can be fully exploited.

Q. In an earlier meeting with exchange4media you had said that 'legislation is the biggest stumbling block'. How would you propose to tackle the issues of placement of billboards and restrictions? Has the industry taken any steps to resolve this issue?

Legislation does remain the biggest stumbling block in the development of this industry. But I am glad to inform you that a genuine national all-India industry body will soon materialise. This body will tackle the issue of legislation. So, besides approaching municipal and town planning bodies at different states with proposals designed to vastly improve the existing relevant infrastructure, we are also hopeful that this move will emerge as a powerhouse and permit us to tackle some of the most detrimental issues on a priority basis. In fact, attempts are on to establish the industry body under the name of Indian Outdoor Advertising Association (IOAA) by September end.

Q. How big is the outdoor advertising industry? What is the share of OOH in the total advertising industry?

The share of the total outdoor advertising industry is close to Rs 1,000-1,100 crore per year. However, by the end of 2006, this figure is expected to rise substantially because of new high value media being established as well as the sheer demand also rising from brands as the delivery statistics from conventional media – TV and print – continue to reflect the growing disenchantment of the audience. Already, the media spend pie is beginning to look a little more equitable than what it was a year ago. An average outdoor advertiser spends around 8.5 per cent of his advertising budget.

Q. What are the major innovations you have seen in the outdoor medium in recent times?

The most noteworthy innovation in recent times is undoubtedly the convergence between billboards and mobile phones. Just imagine, passing a car brand advertised on a billboard you get an SMS on your mobile phone asking whether you want to book a test drive. You press the confirmation button, so that someone can call you immediately and fix the appointment. Sounds unreal? Let me assure you that this is already happening in the US and a technology in Bangalore is developing the same application, a "home-grown" solution will definitely enthuse all concerned in no time.

Q. How do you compare the Indian outdoor advertising industry with the global market?

The outdoor industry in India is primitive and fragmented. The investments are low; we lack knowledge of the subject and have an incomplete database. Besides developing the national body, we need to consolidate as an industry. In order for this to happen, at least a couple of corporate giants need to invest and raise the standard of displays and develop a knowledge base that will add value to sites and locations. Once the metrics are in place, a rapid reaction will automatically come from the users – clients and agencies.

Q. What are your future plans?

We are like a newborn baby who only knows how to devour energy and grow. In the process, we are tackling technology and people, generating state-of-the-art knowledge and data bank and policies for managing the same, building our networks to tackle legislative issues across the country, and all this without sacrificing any cash flow opportunities.

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