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OOH Interviews

Sunder Hemrajani

Managing Director | 15 Oct 2009

The industry is evolving fast and so are the OOH media options and technologies. Internationally, one can witness extensive use of large format LED screens, networked screens with remote content scheduling and management, use of LEDs as light source, interactive screens and use of ‘cold cathode’ in place of neon signs. Technological advancements have also been used for measuring the media effectiveness and consumer-centric innovations, which let the consumer experience the advertiser’s product in many different ways. The key challenge for any technological advancement is its adaptability and adoptability, apart from the cost implications.

Sunder Hemrajani is an industry veteran with over 25 years’ experience in sales, marketing and general management functions in leading consumer goods companies such as PepsiCo, Whirlpool, Hindustan Unilever, etc. He had a 14-year stint with HLL, where he had handled senior assignments in the Home & Personal Care and Foods businesses. He was a part of the team which conceptualized and implemented ‘Operation Harvest’, HLL’s foray into the rural hinterland in the nineties.

Hemrajani moves to Whirlpool in 1995 as Vice-President, Sales, where he was involved in successful integration of the refrigerator and water businesses and the launch of Whirlpool brand in India. In 1999, he joined PepsiCo to lead the company-owned bottling operation in North and East and subsequently moved to corporate office, where he was Executive Director – Sales for the South Asia Business unit. His last assignment was at Reliance Capital, where he was President, Distribution.

He is also a member of the guest faculty at FMS for the Retail Marketing and Distribution Management subjects for the MBA programme.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Pallavi Goorha Kashyup, Hemrajani speaks at length about the latest technological advancements made in the OOH sphere and where the industry is headed.

Q. When and what made Times OOH enter the Indian outdoor scene?

Times Group entered the OOH business with the acquisition of bus shelters in Mumbai in 2005-06. It was natural for one of the largest media companies to have a strong presence in the OOH segment as well to complete its bouquet of media options. The acquisition of some of the prime properties in the country helped gain market share and standing.

Q. Has the slowdown affected your company? What measures have you taken to counter it?

The economic downturn has hampered the growth rate of the OOH industry, and Times OOH being one of the key players was not isolated. But the sector is still poised to do better than the others. The downturn called for re-strategising and re-organising and the focus is on category development and targeting new segments, cost optimisation, productivity enhancement and increased customer engagement through customer-centric innovation and value creation, etc.

Q. What are the technological advances that the medium is witnessing? What are the challenges that you are facing here?

The industry is evolving fast and so are the OOH media options and technologies. Internationally, one can witness extensive use of large format LED screens, networked screens with remote content scheduling and management, use of LEDs as light source, interactive screens and use of ‘cold cathode’ in place of neon signs. Technological advancements have also been used for measuring the media effectiveness and consumer-centric innovations, which let the consumer experience the advertiser’s product in many different ways. The key challenge for any technological advancement is its adaptability and adoptability, apart from the cost implications.

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

The Nokia Touch Screen done by Times OOH is one such example of technological innovation. Innovative use of LED lights to create various kinds of moods and impact is seen in bus shelters as well as hoardings. The concept of converting bus shelters into lounges is also catching up. The list is endless, but definitely customer-centric conceptual innovations supported by technological advancements are catching up.

Q. The outdoor media has seen the entry of some big players in recent times. How do you plan to beat the competition?

The growing OOH market has definitely attracted some of the bigger and organised players to enter the OOH industry. With the entry of big and organised players, it has essentially become a value game. The value in terms of types of media, customer profile and engagement, innovation, technology, service, etc., would act as the differentiator.

Q. Who are your major clients in India?

We have clients from all segments. Our clients range from small retail segment to large global players. BFSI, real estate, education, telecom, auto, FMCG, consumer durables, and IT are the top advertising categories for Times OOH. We have provided services to almost all big players in these and other segments.

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

Different industry reports have different estimates for the OOH business, the market size and the range. As of now, the outdoor advertising industry is worth between Rs 1,200 crore and Rs 1,600 crore. The market would possibly have been bigger if the slowdown had not hit us. In the long run, OOH still seems to be a high growth segment, and as of now it is estimated to be about 6 per cent of the total advertising industry.

Q. Has the issue of regulation in the OOH industry been raised strongly enough? Why is the government being so negligent about it?

The OOH sector is so fragmented, unorganised and still in the developing stage. Some regulation would definitely be a positive step towards making the sector more organised and, in turn, will help in consolidation to maximise the value for all stakeholders, be it state, public, advertiser or the media owner. Having said that, the next question is whether the OOH industry should look forward for some government driven regulatory regime or move towards a more mature, self-regulatory mechanism. There has definitely been some positive development from the government side, primarily at the local level, and some movement has happened within the industry as well.

Q. What kind of innovations can we look forward to? What are your future plans?

Innovations that would be adaptable and adoptable. Some stunning customer-centric conceptual innovations riding on the technological and capability advancements would be the next stage that is poised to maximise value for the OOH stakeholders. We plan to focus on such innovations.

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