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Same game, more attitude

IN CONVERSATION

Gargi Gupta  |  New Delhi 

This year has been an exciting one for the is already in and Viacom is waiting in the sidelines. But it is Rupert Murdoch's News Outdoor India (NOI) "" which began operations in India early this year by winning a contract to develop 131 bus-shelters in Bangalore "" that industry-watchers are keeping an eye on. Sumantra Dutta, managing director, speaks to Gargi Gupta about NOI's plans for India.
What are the problems that beset OOH in India?
The Indian outdoor industry is highly fragmented and disorganised. While there is tremendous potential, in its current state with no investment in quality products (billboards, bus shelters and street-furniture), the task is very daunting and basic. The challenge is to bring the industry at par with other media mediums "" print, TV and, more recently, radio.
To my mind, the key issue facing the outdoor industry is linked to its respectability status when compared with these other more mature mediums. Due to lack of large players and their ability to invest in the category, the outdoor industry has been unable to raise the bar in the areas of product portfolio, marketing techniques, introduction of recognised research methodology, and so on.
How do you see the entry of players like NOI changing things?
In my view, over the next three to five years we will see massive consolidation in the Indian outdoor market and the emergence of a few large corporates whose sole agenda would be to bring about a more competitive and better outdoor industry. The process has already begun with the entry of some media majors. As I see it, it's going to be the "same game, more attitude".
What are your plans for India?
NOI's focus will be on creating India's first national outdoor company and bringing to India an international standard of product and service, besides providing Indian cities with the same quality of displays that can be found in the world's leading cities. We will also focus on helping the government with its regulatory policy process and providing assistance to bring about regulatory initiatives that promote investment and growth.
Will you be looking at acquisitions/tie-ups?
Given our experience in other countries within the News Outdoor Group, we are looking to form joint ventures with local companies. We will partner with only those who have the knowledge of current operating conditions and display a serious "fire in the belly" perspective for growth. Also, our focus would be on bringing value to our partners by helping them grow, share and introduce best practices so that they become competitive and growing organisations in the new environment.
What role would you want the government and local municipalities to play in the development of OOH?
In developed countries, the outdoor category is key contributor to the smart look of the city. The quality of outdoor products there is of the highest possible standard. But in India we are far from that scenario. This is where the government's involvement, especially with regard to regulation, is key to building an infrastructure that Indians will be proud of.

First Published: Wed, November 08 2006. 00:00 IST
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