Bhawana Anand, allaboutoutdoor.com
The media owning company recently acquired the Chennai Metro Media and is working hard to make this new venture profitable for their advertisers. The aim is to provide organised & complete advertising solution media and to convert its 1st step into a successful venture into the city. Pramod Bhandula, Executive Chairman, JCDecaux India shares the story starting from their 1st step till their plans and expectations from Chennai.
It is going to be JCDecaux India's 1st association in Chennai and its OOH space. What convinced you to try a hand on this?
Chennai has always been a priority for us. I have been coming to this city ever since we started our operations in Delhi, way back in 2007. So it took us almost 8 years to convince the city administration that they should also have the similar kind of furniture in the city but it takes a lot time to transform these kinds of visions. We also had to understand that the administration had their own limitations like tendering, existing contracts and on-going court matters.
I have been meeting the metro officials for the past 3 years understanding what they have been doing. And finally this opportunity came up, again it was a tender and we were really keen to participate. We felt that it is a good property; we say this with our experience and gut feeling both. Additionally it was very important to sign this 1st contract in Chennai to set up our office and operations so that we can have our presence and then go to the city bosses and explain them what we have been doing in across India and worldwide.
How different or similar is the Delhi Airport Express line metro and Chennai Metro project?
I find airport express line in Delhi and metro in Chennai very similar. Chennai doesn't have billboards, it is starving for media formats and brands are really looking for something good, visibility and credibility is the prerequisite for any brand. Brands are upset about the irresponsible behaviour of OOH industry and fragmented nature of business here. So I feel that this is the best option available today in this industry. It is going to have a great reach in the entire city. Brands need visibility and communicate to the maximum inhabitants and metro is going to cater that. And Chennai Metro Project is going to be successful like Delhi because today you are only looking at 7 operational stations but in next phase it will be connected to the airport after that it will run through the centre of the city so in next 6-8 months it will be connected to the entire city. Delhi has 17 million and in Chennai we have around 6.8 million people which is the one-third of Delhi's population. Looking at the number of stations in Chennai Metro and the environment which has been created such as interchange, present in the centre of the city and etc., is remarkable.
So do you think that the disorganised OOH scenario in Chennai will add to your advantage in order to attract the advertisers to metro media?
I feel so. It is an advantage of an organised plan, not me only, but if anybody else would have been here, will have the same advantage. I think 2 years down the line, the city will be different.
Like you mentioned Chennai Metro is your first foot forward so what are your plans for Chennai city?
We will go to the city-bosses and convince them to have street-furniture. Today it is in shambles, not organized and maintained unlike other major metro cities in the country. Also Chennai has been selected for the smart-city project so we see an opportunity here.
Why Chennai is so important for brands from advertising viewpoint?
Chennai is an automobile hub. After Bangalore, Chennai is the capital of IT and it is most important after Bangalore. Heavy industry is based here and being a metro city of South, the city has a great potential. The brands are looking forward to have some good formats to advertise, even the luxury brands for that matter. I would say that it is one of the best markets after Delhi.
The metro has different set of media formats and placements. Was there any R&D done for it?
It was a good coincidence that Chennai trains have been made by Alstom which also happens to be a French company. So of course great R&D has gone and there is rational behind Chennai metro media.
Display is just one of the options. What other experiential and digital advertising options are you planning to present ?
Not only from Chennai as a city's perspective, but digital from all over the country viewpoint, is a bit delayed. Today I am fighting to stop vandalism and dealing with breaking of property in the city. It is slow but inevitable; it is going to be everywhere. It can take 2 years or 5 years, depending on us that how we accept it as an industry. It is a challenge in a place like Delhi too. People are not feeling secure in taking their media assets on streets. Unlike in controlled environment, vendors feel that someone will break open the panel, so this fear is stopping the arrival of digital media. But it is not a long term hurdle, we are going to get over it with new technology and better pricing and safer installation. It is not happening at same pace like it is in the west though.
How do you see 2016 for Indian OOH industry and for JCDecaux India?
For OOH industry, there is going to be 12-15% growth for sure. For JCDecaux, 2016 is going to be good, we are very hopeful that we will step into couple of more towns. Our wish is to expand where the project is sustainable, environment is friendly and the city wants to work with us as a partner and not as a contactor.