Future of the OOH space in Kolkata vis-a-vis Mumbai and Delhi

Though Mumbai, and Delhi are touted to be the twin meccas of the Indian advertising over many years now, there’s an emerging cosmopolitan cousin that has been shockingly out of the hype and hullabaloo that emerges from the conversations on the popular ad vistas of India. 

With a nod from a few who have been tracking the Indian ad market, and a shrug from others who have just started thinking of it, the place is Kolkata, where the OOH space seems to be a lot more inviting, and open to innovations as compared to its relatively more cosmopotalis-ed, and recognized brothers.

So is this a revolution in the future of the ad, a mere windstorm that would lose its vigour with time, or a revelation for a hundred aspiring advertising professionals, who head to Mumbai for formulating their own success story in the ad industry without even a doubt?                                 

Well, the skeptics would retort that only time would be able to tell. But how about shedding some light on the status quo of advertising in the city, that is popularly known for its ‘jhaal mudi’, ‘roshogullas’, ‘sondesh’(and of course a lot of other things that more than just whet the appetite!).                                 

Here’s what the numbers say: The health of the OOH industry as a whole is predicted to be hunky dory in the near future. As per the FICCI PwC report, the OOH industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13% from Rs 11 bn in 2006 to Rs 17.5 bn in 2010. Infrastructure development in the form of highways, expressways, airports, increase in commuting time, and robust growth of the Indian economy would drive this growth. (Ref.: www.equitymaster.com)                   

Though in spite of the healthy future predictions, there’s no doubt that recently in Kolkata, the OOH sector has taken almost a 50% dip in its revenues, given the slowdown.( Ref: Report by Pradipta Mukherjee, Business Standard (Kolkata), Mar 23, 2009). However, this could be just an outcome of the corporate houses cutting down their advertising expenditures because of the economic conditions that are prevailing. The same report mentions that nationally too, the ad revenues have dipped by 50%. Currently, Kolkata seems to have a 25-40% vacancy in the outdoor space; but Mumbai is much worse with around 50-60% vacancies. Therefore, in hindsight, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the OOH space in Kolkata is flogged to a lesser extent than in Mumbai, in light of the recent slowdown rues.

However, in general, there’s speculation that the OOH space is expected to see a tremendous growth in the future, given the expected infrastructural growth, increased amount of time spent outside home, and the general economy boom in the coming years. But, at present, more than half of the OOH revenues only come from the tier 1 cities, and places like Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata are the frontrunners. In these hubs, a lot of the industry decisions also have to be dependent upon the regulations on outdoor advertising, which are being implemented by their local civic bodies. These regulations are designed keeping in mind the road safety of the commuters. The permission criteria, under the regulations, usually consists of site selection, physical characteristics (including size and shape, colour, illumination and luminance, advertising device content, structure), legibility and development. These obviously differ from one city to another, based on the infrastructural demands, resources, the civic body that operates in that city et al. The regulations, though mostly form a very latent aspect of the way advertising operates in a particular land, are nevertheless very important determinants of how appealing a geographical unit is to the corporates, and how inviting is it to the agencies that would be enrolled by the corporates.

According to the most recent ruling of the Supreme Court, there have been some regulatory changes as far as the outdoor advertising environment in Delhi is concerned. A ban on billboards on certain places has been lifted, after almost a decade. But there have been certain restrictions at the same time. As a precautionary measure against road accidents, billboards on unipoles will be placed at a distance of 50 m from red lights and intersections. Moreover, the new policy disallows hoardings near cremation grounds and along all arterial stretches, viz Ring Road; and rooftop hoardings. (Ref. : www.signnews.com, report: Ban on billboards lifted a decade later Delhi to see a planned boom in outdoor advertising, dated:27/09/09).                                                     

In Kolkata, the civic body is set to designate six no billboard zones, and a ban on advertisement on tobacco products, alcohol, and drugs. (Ref.: http://www.ilovekolkata.in, report: billboard ban on the cards, dated: 08/04/2009) . However, the strength of the OOH sector in Kolkata lies in the range of media vehicles it offers, that goes beyond just billboards. One could also explore and innovate with traffic consoles, and large sized unipoles, amongst the other things.                                                    

The recent Maaza campaign with the tagline ‘Maaza lao. Aam ki pyaas bujhao’, has been intitated in Kolkata only in the form of a hoarding, and is likely to be tried in other cities soon. Initiating a campaign in Kolkata, and not in places like Mumbai and Delhi, by a company of such high repute (Coca cola), is sure an indication of the health of the OOH space in the heart of the West Bengal.

In conclusion, the current regulations in Kolkata, are allowing the industry experts to experiment with a bouquet of media options, and the recession has had effects that are lesser in comparison to the considerable loss that Mumbai has seen. Moreover, the recent policy in Delhi seems to have gone easy on the hoardings, but it tightens the restrictions on the unipoles. Therefore, even though stating that Kolkata is likely to overpower the strength of Mumbai, and Delhi would be a tall statement, it would be unfair to discount the hope that the OOH industry in Kolkata is set to take a leap in the future.

So, are we waiting to see the change? Or do we not need to wait anymore? 
Like the skeptics would please, let time only tell.

One Response to “Future of the OOH space in Kolkata vis-a-vis Mumbai and Delhi”
  1. palakmathur says:

    It is good to know that non-conventional geographies are also getting the place in the ad world. Mumbai and Delhi have been the hubs for the media and advertisement industry. If Kolkata can emerge as a new hub then it would be a great news. Not only because a new city is born, but also, it would definitely help to increase employment prospects in the state.

    Nice write-up and good analysis.

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