"Well it's not that Indian OOH industry alone doesn't prefer change or experimentation, globally, there are many challenges. The nature of challenges may differ from market to market but it’s the same everywhere."

Before getting the science, metrics and analysis into the Indian OOH industry, the industry needs to have a sense of maturity, habit of experimentation and market dynamics to transform this traditional business into a new professional entity, believes Rishabh Mehta, Founder & CEO, LOCAD. This fresh entrant into an Indian outdoor industry is trying to offer the real time analytics to help business owners and agencies get meaningful insights, but the problem arrives with the denial and inquisitive attitude of a big chunk of this industry. However the company, which has an international base too, is not leaving any stone unturned to bring the revolution in this industry with its new and international standard products. Rishab shares his offerings and market response with Bhawana Anand in a detailed interview.

1) You work in different OOH markets i.e. India and International. How the outdoor scenario is different at all such places?

As a company we are headquartered out of Singapore but our focus is on India to begin with. Currently we have 2 offices in India (Delhi & Mumbai).

With respect to outdoor advertising market: India and International: let me start by saying that all markets are quite different in nature primarily due to the following reasons:

a) Maturity of Market
b) Use of Technology
c) Market Dynamics and processes

One of the similarities across different countries and India is the fact that OOH as a whole is a fairly small part in the overall marketing mix. Some countries are way ahead in terms of adoption of technology and have basic infrastructure in place for moving from traditional billboards to Digital innovative formats and more, whereas, in India we are now trying to start with that process. More, sooner than later technology will help to improve the current process and flow in the Indian OOH industry.

Indian OOH industry is pegged at approx. INR 6000 cr. (numbers mentioned do not reflect true size) and is quiet unique to other global markets. It is characterized by the following:

1) Highly Disorganized and Fragmented
2) Lack of Reliability & Quality Benchmarks
3) No real use of technology in OOH sector

2) Could you share the difference between India and other international markets when it comes to adaption and experimentation, since Indian OOH industry doesn’t prefer experimentation?

Well it’s not that Indian OOH industry alone doesn't prefer change or experimentation, globally, there are many challenges. The nature of challenges may differ from market to market but it’s the same everywhere. Having said that, it does take more time in introducing any new technology or product in India as compared to other markets.

Interestingly for us, it was actually not that bad. When we first started speaking with OOH companies in India, there was immediate interest and willingness to try however, I will have to agree that the pace was slow in terms of real adoption and roll out. We are confident that this will only improve with time as companies start getting used to using technology and really see how it’s helping them in becoming more efficient.

3) You deal into the technical and analytical aspect of OOH which is quite challenging for Indian OOH concessioners especially media owners, so what challenges do you face while approaching them?

That is one part of what we do. We look at this from a slightly different perspective. There are big media owners and then a whole lot of small and fragmented media owners all across India. It was impossible to get them all to use technology or to make them understand the importance of such practices overnight so we started working with bigger media owners first as they were eager to use technology to make their current process much simpler and transparent. Also as some of them have had some exposure to use of technology in their other global markets the willingness to do the same in India was much higher.

One of the key challenges was training and educating the ground level staff to actually understand the technology and how it would improve their day to day activities. Once they understood and saw how easy it is to use there was no looking back.

The key is to make them understand that technology is a cool thing which helps not only in eliminating inefficiency but also in better monetization of their media assets.

4) A huge penetration is happening in non- metro cities. How are you planning to approach all such markets? If you have approached, then what challenges have you faced?

Yes you are right. We strongly believe that non-metro cities will play a huge role in the coming years. With increase in spending powers and consumption in tier II and III cities it will open up a whole new world of OOH media. Technology again will be a key contributor in removing pain points, offering standardized platform for advertisers and in helping media owners monetize much better.

5) You have a service named LOCAUDIT OOH for monitoring, since the Indian OOH media is so vast like you have billboards, mall media, transit, office spaces and etc. how do you ensure the complete monitoring? What is your procedure of monitoring?

Yes, LOCAUDIT is one of our products which is currently being used in India. This is a powerful tool for OOH proof of posting, monitoring of sites and reporting (both internal and external) for brands, agencies and OOH media companies.

Outdoor media remains one of the most effective ways that marketers can reach audiences with a creative visual message and a high degree of frequency. Yet the age-old efficacy question remains: With such significant investment, how can you be sure that you are not only getting what you paid for, but also getting value for money?

The answer is our monitoring app, which not only checks if the correct material is properly displayed, but also assesses the condition of the structure and the quality of the advertisement installation, site impact, light visibility, time taken to pass, nearby clutter and obstructions. “The photographs, data, time and location information – collected using our Android app is uploaded automatically and maintained on the cloud so that it can be viewed remotely whenever the client needs to do so.” The advertiser can simply create daily /weekly/monthly or yearly tasks and assign the same to their relevant service monitors while keeping a real time track of the same.

6) You are offering your services directly to brands/advertisers as well. How has been their response? Do you think their viewpoint towards OOH industry has changed in over the years?

We have just started engaging with few brands on the same and expect to see it gain traction by mid next year. Today, the biggest challenge for brands/advertiser is the fact that there is no single platform wherein one can go for their OOH media needs + lack of 3rd party independent monitoring solutions + non reliable research data. Brands and advertisers realize that all these can only be answered with the help of technology; hence they are now opening up to looking at more innovative solutions in OOH.

7) You have another service called Location based advertising which is a hyper local Mobile Advertising Platform. Pls explain about this service? This service is quite popular internationally but rarely happens in Indian OOH so do you think the Indian advertisers are open for this?

LOCAD - location based mobile advertising platform is being used by top brands across industry verticals globally. Mobile advertising has been popular in the AdTech space however, rarely used in the OOH segment. What we have done is simply connected the AdTech platform to our OOH platform which gives us our unique positioning. OOH media companies can now offer digital reach to their clients which can be measured to the last penny thereby strengthening their position. TIMES OOH was one of our first clients to use this service. We are now in talks with many other big OOH media companies for offering such solutions. The data gathered from the platform is highly valuable and can be used very effectively for running subsequent targeted campaigns for brands and advertisers.

8) There are other companies in India which are trying to provide some science and numbers to this industry. How your services are different and more enhanced in comparison with them?

In the last 12 months there have been many new entrant in the OOH tech space however, none really offering a complete solution. We on the other hand are looking at offering a more holistic solution besides technology. We would like to be positioned as the leading technology and innovative solution partners for OOH industry.

9) Pls share the details of your clients. Who are all you planning to tap in coming time?

Many top global OOH media owners / agencies are currently using our platform on a pan India basis. We are in talks with all major players like Kinetic, Poster scope, AAO, Milestone, Mudra Max, Laqshya, Pioneer, OAP, Street Talk etc.

Interview by: Bhawana Anand