We are not just a planning and buying agency: Milestone Brandcom’s Nabendu Bhattacharyya

As Founder and Managing Director of Milestone Brandcom, Bhattacharyya shares his thoughts on the OOH industry in India


Nabendu Bhattacharyya, Founder and Managing Director of Milestone Brandcom, has redefined every leadership position that he has held in his corporate journey of 18 years across brands like Selvel, Emirates Neon & Ogilvy. After having reached the top as President – Ogilvy Action, he is now in control of over 45 per cent of the Indian OOH industry.

In a conversation with exchange4media, Bhattacharyya shares his thoughts on the OOH industry in India and more.

Watch the video here or read the full interview below:

How was 2018 for the OOH industry?

Lots of things happened in 2018. Industry came out of demonetisation and GST was implemented. Telecom and Handset as a category became larger, although they were strong in 2017 as well. OTT players too came out in a big way. Around the world clients like Amazon, Netflix, Google and Apple invested a lot of money. The good part was television and newspaper as an industry probably didn't grow much but it did not decline as well because of Digital becoming more prominent. Outdoor remained immune from this fall. 

Outdoor has grown not just in India but worldwide as well. Telecom, Handset followed by OTT, e-commerce and FMCG have invested heavily but real estate and jewellery took the hit from the GST implementation. As compared to other industries, OOH has remained immune and even grown marginally. The sector has witnessed a growth of 10 to12 per cent in India, whereas the world average has been six per cent. In India, it was above the world average. 

How would you compare the growth of the OOH sector in India with global developed markets like US and China?

China is one of the markets where the growth has been extremely good. It has grown by 13 per cent in the Out of Home space whereas in the US it has grown by about 6 per cent. The US base is very high but largely the growth came from the DOOH space where all the mediums are allowed to convert into digital, whereas in India this is not allowed at most of the places. The authority doesn't allow you to digitize most of the media. 

According to you, where are we lacking in terms of innovation?

Largely, innovation is the function where stakeholders are involved with creative agencies, the client followed by the Out of Home specialist agency which should have the capability and hunger to do something new. There is a disconnect here. The OOH does not necessarily handle the creative part of the business. As a result, most of the innovations OOH offers is improvisation rather than innovation. It's part of the creative agency to look at all the mediums differently. 

When it comes to business, how do you differentiate yourself from rest of the outdoor agencies?

Milestone is the only agency which came as an entrepreneurial space. Milestone has created a different milestone in that space. We treat our businesses not only as an Out of Home player but we believe that we are a full integrated Out Of Home communication agency. We have also set up our creative agency, Milestone Dentsu, where we have started picking up creative businesses. We are not just a planning and buying agency but we create communication. We suggest clients and do fully integrated communication. Whatever is the need we address that. 

How is DOOH’s growth in India?

DOOH in India is only available in controlled environment like malls, cafés, multiplexes and airports where the major chunk goes and it accounts for 20 per cent of the industry share which is Rs 600 to 800 crore. The space is growing but on a street level DOOH is still not allowed because authorities do not allow display of digital OOH. It has to be a static billboard. But I am hopeful that these laws will change since it's changing worldwide as well. In the US, DOOH has grown by 14 to 15 per cent annually, whereas static media has only grown by 4 per cent. It has a huge future and it has to change. 

With so much hype around DOOH and Programatic, do you think the industry is still leveraging the full potential of both?

In India it’s difficult. As I said, 10 per cent is DOOH. Unless it becomes 60-70 per cent digital, it is difficult to apply Programmatic and Digital OOH. Internationally, it’s possible. Programmatic is a combination of all put together-Digital, Television, OOH. It's used effectively in the US but in India only 10 per cent of the mediums are digital. 

With a growing demand for accurate audience measurement, how does Milestone Brandcom cope up with industry expectation?

We are initial investors in the space. We invested in data and created our own proprietary tool-Milestone Optimizer. We are constantly updating and have our 10 city measurement ready and these 10 cities contribute to about 80 per cent of the investment in the industry. So we are ready in terms of our data. In the industry some of the agencies must have done something by their own but till now it's not in that shape where it is ready. BARC happened because broadcasters invested a lot of money. Generally, this kind of investment requires media owners and that's the challenge but I am sure media owners will understand. It’s for their good. All of us are aware of and are putting our thoughts behind this. But we have started in some way to put the norms in the industry together. 

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