Chairman & MD
Well, the last milestone achieved by the Indian OOH industry was getting an Indian OOH personality in the board member of the FEPE International panel. It is a worldwide association of outdoor advertising companies engaging in worldwide lobbying for outdoor advertising: with authorities, international organizations, political opinion formers and the communication media. Noomi Mehta, who has always been quoted as the OOH veteran along with the Chairman & Managing Director of Selvel One is the new representative of this rising industry. Mehta has always taken the onus to move forward this industry, is now all geared up to improvise the Indian outdoor reputation on the global platform as well as bring back the home various new outdoor initiatives, learnings and technologies available on the global platform, shares with Allaboutoutdoor.com exclusively. Below are the edited excerpts of his interview.
What is the stature of Indian OOH industry on the worldwide platform?
It is a mixed bag because they recognize the potential of Indian OOH industry. However, at the same time, they are aware of the complications which occurred, particularly when very large funds entered into the Indian market from 2-3 transactions which failed in the past. Definitely, the news travels around; therefore, the reaction of authorised investors varies for the Indian market. Indeed, the bad image of Indian market hasn't been able to attract big investment and not being able to give returns. Going with the big reputation of India, they are excited with its potential as to what things could be and most of them are as well trying to understand. Around 20 years back, some amount of investors had come to me from a very big fund company based in US & Europe (not for my company) in general where they were looking different sectors & various other factors of OOH market. And I had made few presentations to them. But at the point, Citi Bank had invested in us, and it was the first ever private equity investment in the Indian OOH industry in the last 90s. It was a significant step forward for the industry. But from then till now, I think things haven't moved forward in the right way; the way it should have been. But now surely they see the potential but they are not very sure that how & where the potential will be unlocked which cause them very cautious.
And now you are there, how will you improve its outlook on the global level?
FEPE has invited me in their next annual meeting which will be taking place at Stockholm to give away a presentation on Indian OOH industry and potential lies there. So now I am looking at the figures and statics opportunity available. India has an incredibly compelling story. The facts I will be considering to present there are- developing around 40-50 new airports till 2025. Second is developing an industrial corridor between Delhi & Mumbai which is to be served for fast running lines, industrial parks and each park with their own power generation plants. Then, India also has a smart city project which has 100 cities part of it. The numbers of all these projects are overwhelming in terms of potential. If we explain smart city then things come under it are that the city looks smart also interacts with its citizen digitally and use technology for pass the information to make life easier and better.
How do you see OOH medium becoming part of the Smart City project?
In this smart city project, OOH plays a significant role because OOH is one way through which you can disseminate information to each and every person. In combination with mobile/smart phone, OOH is a huge boon because any kind of information whether it is local or topical information or lifestyle can be communicated via outdoor medium. Every genre of information such as parking availability or tables available at restaurants can be communicated. It makes life easier for everyone as well as quality of lives improve through digital combining with OOH. The share information capacity is huge.
1st time somebody will be representing Indian outdoor industry. In what ways it will be benefitting our industry?
I have been associated with IOAA from past 9-10 years and it has to start from there. One of the prime steps we need to take is to regulate the authority & bureaucracy to make a sound OOH policy. Recently, the road authority stated that hoardings causes the distraction which is absolute untrue. Not a single study in the world has proven this fact. We ourselves have undertaken studies on accidents and as per the entire breakup available, not even 0.1% accident has been caused by any hoarding everywhere. We need to educate them that outdoor medium can play a very significant role and they need to change their approach. If we count major cities of the world, they all have outdoor advertising and sound policies for instance London, Tokyo, Sydney, New York, Times Square, Chicago, LA, Hollywood and etc. Moreover, these sites are known by their signage. They have top rated signage and this has been possible because they have policies in place which encourages and promotes them. In Times Square, there is a penal tax for not having signage. They have made OOH so essential that it's cost is bigger than the construction cost and that is the only reason that they earn hundreds of million dollars revenue over a period of time.
Second is that they have to get rid of this ban concept in their minds. The right doesn't enable them to ban anything but only reasonably regulate that is the constitution of the country. Third we need to tell them that the rights given by them has to be on long term policy, it can't happen that media owners invest on digital technology and they think we recover our money and earn profits in 12 months because it doesn't work that way. Since digital outdoor boards cost huge money therefore they have to let us make some money. These are the various challenges required to be sort out first. After that, the clients come into the picture.
Aside authority, what about making clients ready for Digital OOH?
The international clients would be quick jump on it but the local clients would be reluctant to use digital because they haven't understood & experienced this before. So for local clients learning would be required in order to tell them how to take its leverage. The biggest issue with clients is that they are interested in their personal ego first than their TG. That is why any MNC's MD or head changes, very often the hoarding locations varies along, so that the new honcho can see their own hoarding while traveling for work. It is very amateurish way of approaching OOH hoarding. However, the clients have dual ways to go about it, but we can do is put forward the key things, learnings through seminars, conferences to make the clients understand. And of course the canvas of creativity on digital is astounding. It is brand new science and an art form.
Interview by: Bhawana Anand
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