Industry Speak

Dr Amiya Chandra

Development Commissioner
Adani Ports & SEZ, Mundra

OOH - Catalyst to Smart Urbanspace

"We hope that the industry recognises that, the Out of Home media (OOH) can be 'an instrument of change' for the Indian cities."
August, 2018

Dr Amiya Chandra, currently the Development Commissioner, Adani Ports & SEZ, Mundra, has authored a landmark book on Indian OOH advertising which was released last month; as Officer on Special Duty in charge of Outdoor Advertisement, Parking, Sanitation, MCD, Amiya had played an instrumental role in framing the Outdoor Advertisement Policy for Delhi. In a candid conversation with allaboutoutdoor.com Chandra, shares his views on the OOH scenario in India and more.

Excerpts from the interview are as follows:

Tell us a little bit about your book and what inspired you to write, OOH - Catalyst to Smart Urbanspace.

There are presently no major publications in India, which focuses comprehensively on the OOH medium, considering a 360 degree view for each of the stake holders. Outdoor is the oldest medium of the advertising; it has evolved over a time period and is presently at a cusp of another evolution.

OOH has tremendous potential and in our view that it can be a game changer for Indian cities and can be a catalyst to SMART city urbanscape.

A decade ago in 2007, when outdoor advertisements in Delhi was on verge of absolute ban, we formulated and presented an OOH advertisement policy document for Delhi, on behalf of the unified Municipal Corporation of Delhi to the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. Post deliberations and vetting by EPCA the Hon'ble Apex court accepted that policy. It took another ten years for the policy to become a reality and in 2018 it was finally accepted and implemented. Lots have changed in these ten years, however the overall approach and view towards OOH has seen little progress or change, including the perspective of the stake holders in OOH industry, the ULB's, advertisers or the advertising agencies.

Our effort has been to bring forth the challenges and opportunities available for the medium, in the same spirit our effort has been to highlight the key issues, their relevance to stake holders and set forth a document which at minimum sets a basic blue print on planning and development of OOH in our cities, especially the ones where there is policy gap or lack of understanding. The OOH if integrated at planning stage can be provider as well as carrier of many SMART city provisions, this important aspect is currently been either overlooked or not properly explored by the key stake holders in OOH i.e. the municipal corporations, the media concessionaires and the advertisers.

The idea is also to explain the outdoor concessionaires the scientific logic behind guidelines and how they need expand their myopic vision and approach. Our attempt has been to go beyond the realm of outdoor devices and also bring to table the challenge of OOH media planning, audience measurements and creative development.

How does it feel to be publishing your first book on OOH? And how does the title OOH - Catalyst to Smart Urbanspace reflect what readers will find inside?

It's our first book on Out of Home together, however prior to this book, I have already written five other books and have been writing in various journals.

The title reflects the essence of the book and our effort is to draw attention of the stake holders in OOH industry on how OOH can help and play critical role in transformation of our towns & cities to SMARTER towns and cities.

The focus of Government is to improve the lives of people; SMART city initiative of the Government is driven by its objective of bringing this positive change through introduction of various essential services through IT and telecommunication. Today IT and telecommunications are key delivery mechanism for SMART cities, as they form the nerve system for the modern city. These nerves have to be present and integrated in every part and section of the city body. To create this system is expensive, time taking and requires strong political will. The roads and streets are the circulatory system of the city; OOH and street furniture are part of this circulatory system. The OOH devices if integrated well within the city infrastructure can be an enabler, provider, carrier as well as the service and maintenance partner for many of the already identified smart initiatives of the government and many others which are yet to be taken up. With innovative approach, it is possible for OOH in partnership with other infrastructure agencies help in providing great solutions in traffic management, tariff collections, information on emergency situation and emergency services, providing free wi-fi connectivity across the streets of the city.

A SMART city in true sense has to be Habitable, Safe and Secure, Accessible & Inclusive, Informative and Friendly to its citizens and tourists alike, and OOH is one such medium which can bind these services as a bouquet and deliver them. In our book we have tried to explain this aspect along with other factors, which either gets overlooked or are unknown to the stakeholders. It was our effort to bring around a formal envelope, so that the industry experts and leaders can push it further.

How and when did you first realize you were a writer?

I have been writing since my JNU days; however those writings were for personal creative reasons and interest and limited to my emotions and experiences in life. My interests areas have been various from religion to art, from meditation to foreign trade, from sanitation to urban area service management, from politics to Out of Home advertising.

I had been writing extensively in various trade journals and magazines since 1996 till date. I am also an Editor- in-Chief of an international Journal, ICON; a Journal of Archaeology & Culture.

However the attempt to write seriously started as a co- author of the book titled Natural Rock Shelters of India: Art & Paintings in year 2013.

My second book was in 2015 on India-Central Asia Relations: The Economic Dimension.

By 2017 the scenario in Central Asia had changed substantially so I wrote my third book 'The Trade Game; Engaging with Central Asia, on improving India's relationship with Central Asia.

I have written five books now, including this book, which I co-authored with Pervinder Singh and is our joint effort over the last one and half year.

What are you hoping people gain from reading your book?

It is a very humble effort from our end; our only aim has been to draw attention of the stake holders on the role that OOH can play in improving our city life. We hope that the industry recognises that, the Out of Home media (OOH) can be "an instrument of change" for the Indian cities.

The OOH industry growth is hindered by silo approach of various stake holders including the ULBs, Media Concessionaires, OOH associations and Media agencies who consciously or un-consciously are preventing it to play a constructive role in providing smarter amenities and carrier of SMART city network. We hope that through this book we are able to reason out with them and help break the silo approach.

The book in three volumes tries to trace the OOH evolution and offer meaningful alternatives, recommendations on the OOH advertising policy framework for cities. The book provides insights and an in depth understanding of the medium, its characteristics and principles for a planned approach for development of the OOH medium. It outlines various approaches and tries to provide a direction on design principles. A 360 degree approach has been attempted to understand the OOH medium from the advertiser, media planning and creative design, as they along with other physical aspects of the OOH device plays a vital role in acceptance of the OOH medium as a primary mode of advertisement.

Volume One & Two cover aspects that are related to physical location and planning of outdoor media at a macro level. Collectively Volume One & Two are more oriented towards the ULB's, Media Concessionaires, Town Planners, Architects and other stake holders engaged in the activities of creating new media. Volume three is oriented towards the advertiser and the audience and provides insight on the process, challenges and solutions involved in transmitting the message from the advertiser to the audience, through Out of Home advertisement.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

There were many surprising things while we were trying to research for the book, and the absence of research, tracing historical evolution of OOH in India, absence of data were concern, the surprise was no concrete efforts has been put in by any stake holder in co-creating such essential data base at the city level, state level and national level.

The astonishing factor was when our cities have been facing issues on environment degradation, there were fabulous solutions available internationally and executed through OOH to control them and improve the habitable conditions of the city. Challenges like air pollution, lack of drinking water, water harvesting, power generation and conservation have been effectively tackled through engineering and creating OOH devices and technology that helps the city.

What is the way forward for the growth of Indian OOH industry?

Future is promising, there is great potential for OOH if it is able to overcome the challenges it will be encountering in its evolution. It's our belief and confidence in the OOH potential that prompted us to pen down this book. However we equally hold a strong view that unless the OOH industry does not consolidate, keep the interest of the city in mind and step up on embracing technology and digitisation, slowly but surely it will fade away. When we refer to digitisation and technology, it is not restricted to just creating LED screens, but to create a city level network of OOH mediums in manner where its location, planning, monitoring, rating and operations helps providing a great service to the city. Including making it easier for the media concessionaire to monetise, change, operate and create genuine database for the advertisers, to evaluate the ROI for the media spends.

The industry has witnessed many ups and downs; it has been almost at a stage of extinction in cities like Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad, it's only after intervention by the municipal corporations and OOH association that they could be revived. However the issue that must be addressed gets easily forgotten and we become complacent. Today Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and many other cities are almost back to same unbearable situation, it's a matter of time that courts may intervene and put a stop to all road side OOH. The situation arises purely from short-sightedness of the municipal corporations and the media concessionaires, who rely and encourage only Large format OOH.

With respect to Large Format OOH devices, we believe that they have an important place in OOH, but their locations would have to selected and planned carefully, they should be tied to providing essential services to the city in any workable manner, and that the growth of illegal Large OOH devices must be stopped immediately by all stake holders, including the OOH advertising agencies and the advertisers.

The Large format OOH devices will have to embrace digital technology, serve as environmental sentinels; measure the eyeballs it attracts, justify its ROI. The Municipal Corporations would have to understand that all above innovations require heavy investments by the media owners, and they would need financial security through longer duration of concession period, minimum guarantee period for device location within the concession period. It would need clear mechanism for grievances redressal.

What do you think are the emerging opportunities for OOH in the smart city projects?

Our cities are facing problems at environment, social, cultural and economic level. The urbanisation in India is going to continue at much faster pace than present in next two to three decades as would the challenges in Indian growth. OOH has a meaningful role in all aspects of city life. The OOH would also evolve with time and we are sure that the OOH media concessionaire would start viewing the medium from a different perspective, a medium which can be far superior than any other form of advertising medium and contributing the most in bringing faster transformation at the ground level.

With respect to opportunities available in SMART city projects, the opportunities for the  OOH can be planned and integrated as

a) Intelligent OOH Devices: for traffic management, public address and communication, safety & security, weather forecast, emergency management, city sanitation & cleanliness, pollution control, water harvesting, power generation, public Wi-fi system, G2C & B2C kiosks, tourism etc.

b) Community magnets: social & cultural oasis, street furniture that promotes inclusiveness and compassion for people with special needs, be it physically challenged, senior citizens, kids or women, management of public spaces, water bodies or natural beauty, beautification & city landscape drives etc. which makes our cities habitable.

c) Environment sentinels: Water harvesting and pollution control, improving air quality and smog control, preventing light pollution. Air pollution or smog is a key problem in every major Indian city. Cities like Milan, Lima in Peru where billboard suckers have been installed which filters the air of the city. In fact the billboards in the Lima city also turn air into clean drinking water, and also help in water conservation.

d) Creativity fountainheads: street art, street installations, water fountains etc.

It's a very practical, doable and serious suggestion and it provides an opportunity to OOH industry to be that change agent for the nation.

Lima, LA, San Francisco, New York, Milan, Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, Canberra are few cities to name where great work has been done.

How can we purchase your book?

The book is available on popular portals like Amazon


It can be sourced through our publisher as per following details

Pentagon Press

Contact: Rajan Arya,

Mobile: 9873029771,

email id: rajanaryaa@gmail.com

Interview by: Aarti Pahwa

Tags :  Amiya Chandra OOH

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