The power problem in Mumbai has hit the out-of-home (OOH) players in the city. The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) has issued an order on August 27, 2008, instructing all its officers to replace old fixtures of illuminated devices with new devices that would help save electricity, such as Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs). OOH owners have stated that this has added to the problems that the domain has been witnessing in the city. The OOH fraternity sees the move as economically unviable and has said that it cannot be implemented with immediate effect, as suggested by the BMC order.
The order is backed with the fact that Mumbai witnesses a power shortfall of 550 MW, of which 135 MW is being utilised by billboards during peak hours. OOH is an important medium for media owners such as television and radio broadcasters and even the print industry. Can LEDs serve the purpose that the halogen lights used for billboard illumination do?
exchange4media spoke to OOH players on whether they are ready for this transition phase, and the whether the move makes sense in the current OOH scenario.
Soumitra Bhattacharyya, CEO, Laqshya Outdoors, welcomed the move from BMC, but cautioned on some of the ground level problems that come with it. He explained, “Laqshya wholeheartedly supports any measure that promotes eco-friendliness. However, I would like inform here that we had installed solar lights on one of our sites as a trial. Unfortunately, they were stolen within a month and we were back to square one. LED lights are expensive, but are worth the cost if we can make it viable from a business point of view.”
He added, “We are willing to invest, but such changes should not be pertained to a change in the policy, as these matters are more than just commercial negotiations. Also, these initiatives get a boost only when the Government extends support or relief to media companies for trying to change and invest in these kinds of devices. To take matters ahead, it cannot be just a proclamation but a well-thought out policy in which Laqshya, and I am sure a few more of us, would then willingly participate.”
In contrast, condemning this move from the BMC, Kalpesh Vora, Director, Creation Publicity, one of the largest billboard owners in Mumbai, said, “This is ridiculous.
One more problem gets added to the bunch of problems that the outdoor media industry in Mumbai is already facing. As a media owner, I am just tired with these different sets of rules and regulations that are imposed by the BMC. Also, this step cannot be implemented with immediate effect as the LEDs that BMC has mentioned are neither manufactured in India nor are they easily available.”
Speaking further on the cost factor, Vora elaborated, “LEDs will be approximately four times more expensive than the usual halogen lights and the result would be three times less effective than the halogen lights. For example, as far as I know, a 40’x20’ billboard, which uses a minimum of four halogen lights, costs around Rs 30,000. The LED lightning cost for mere illumination would come to Rs 1.2 lakh, over and above the maintenance cost. To top it, this would raise another round of objections and challenges from the Mumbai Media Owners’ Association. In the current scenario, if the BMC forces, the implementation alone would take a period of over a year or so.”
Indrajit Sen, CEO, Stroer India, too, was concerned about the cost factor. He said, “Energy saving is a necessity. However, this needs to be done in a phased manner. LED products need to be evaluated, as they are too costly.”
Ajaz Memon, Director, Network Media Solutions, feels that this is a move in the right direction, provided the Government gives the subsidy and comes up with long term tenders. “LED bulbs are a proven technology in terms of both longer life as well as reduction in electricity consumption. In the long term, the industry would be better served in moving towards LED illumination. In fact, the BMC should have suggested this move earlier. To offset the higher cost of LED bulbs, subsidies should be given, along with a longer duration of tender.”
Abhishek Kandoi, Director, EncycloMedia Networks, brought the social responsibilities of media owners in the picture here. He said, “This is a good step taken by the BMC, both for conserving electricity and giving billboards a much sleeker look. Initially though, there would be issues in implementing the LEDs, mainly because of the investment that needs to be done by all media owners, but in the longer run it would benefit the industry. India is a country with acute power shortage and the media industry needs to consider that.”
Billboards have been a sore point of contention for the BMC for a long time now, wherein the intention to reduce the clutter by bringing billboards down has been suggested on various occasions. The move to use LEDs in a sense shows BMC’s intention in favour of billboards. The big problem, however, would be what policy or order would the BMC release next before the OOH media owners have had the time to adjust to this one.