afaqs!

Sambhaav Media expands its presence in Gujarat and beyond

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In OOH News | August 12, 2008
The media major of Gujarat has big expansion plans when it comes to OOH in its own state and in the neighbouring states

In an & #BANNER1 & # exclusive interview with afaqs!, Kiran Vadodaria, chairman and managing director of the Ahmedabad based Sambhaav Group, discusses the outdoor media scenario in Gujarat, the company's expansion plans, and the way forward for out of home (OOH).

Sambhaav Media, the print media company that owns Jansatta, Loksatta and other publications, was established in 1986. It entered the OOH and FM spaces not very long ago. Discussing how the spread to other media started, Vadodaria says, "With the competition in print media increasing even in the Gujarati language, in which we have a major presence, we felt that we needed to create a multiformat media platform company, rather than just a print one. That's how we thought of FM and OOH. We got the first OOH bid in 2004 and we started building our business from there."

At that point in time, OOH was a largely unorganised business sector in Gujarat and most of the vendors clearly did not understand the media scenario. "What helped us was our understanding of the print medium. This helped us understand the advertiser's need of target audience, response and that OOH can also deliver provided you understand the outdoor space to be a media vehicle, rather than just an empty space that can be sold," says Vadodaria.

Sambhaav started looking at Ahmedabad scientifically for OOH, did research through government bodies on the commuting patterns in the city, the density of population there, income groups, and how far people travel for work.

Kiran Vadodaria
Based on this data, the company designed location plans for its sites. It started with unipoles, a new concept that offered stand-alone visibility. In 2006-07, Sambhaav built 570 designer back-lit bus shelters in Ahmedabad. It now also owns 600 non-lit bus shelters, 1,096 Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) buses, 120 unipoles, billboards, utilities, gantries and 70 pole kiosks. Vadodaria says Sambhaav Media now has more than 65 per cent business coming from street furniture, which again is a new concept in both Gujarat and India.

Next, Sambhaav Media started bus shelters in Rajkot. It also offers backlit kiosks, billboards and gantries now in that city. The company entered Rajkot in 2006-07 by acquiring five year lease rights from the existing vendors. "In the absence of municipal corporations not coming up with bids, the only entry point was to acquire the property of already existing vendors. We started upgrading what we acquired - the old billboards, the poor lighting. In two-three months' time, the advertisers and the agencies noticed that the scene was changing. We approached the corporation in Rajkot, asking to replicate what we'd done in Ahmedabad. They came out with a five year bid and, starting off in November last year, we've now built 100 shelters in the first phase with 100 more to come," says Vadodaria. Sambhaav is also in talks with the Surat city corporation for bus shelters in that city.

Vadodaria says, "Earlier (bus) shelters were considered shabby media. Today, every single brand is present on shelters, be it FMCG or financial institutions. Once you provide bus shelters with good aesthetics, good services and a housekeeping team to maintain it, then the advertiser thinks, 'Yes, whatever I'm spending is worth it'."

He adds, "We're trying to convince people about uniformity in design also. They are all in one state, but the four different cities have different designs. But one can't change mindsets very fast, so for now, Vadodara has a different design."

Vadodaria feels that advertisers have also become very alert when it comes to outdoor spends. Because print and TV are expensive, they are looking at other media to promote their brands. "This media (OOH) delivers and the kind of spend it delivers year-on-year is going at around 17 per cent. That proves that advertisers find value for money in their outdoor spends," he says. About 25 per cent of Sambhaav's revenue comes from local clients.

Sambhaav Media now offers sites in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Surat and it plans to offer 100 per cent all-Gujarat media solutions by 2009.

The company has an inhouse creative studio, from which it offers clients the services of a creative department. "Creating ads for print and for outdoor are very different. We find sometimes that the kind of creative a client puts up will not give him good results. We then present them three-four different creatives to choose from," he says.

Sambhaav has plans to offer a one-stop solution to clients by launching an agency of record (AOR) soon. "We will offer our sites and outsource sites where we are not present and offer plans and solutions to clients," he says. Sambhaav has already done this for the Reliance IPO and for Adani. It is looking to grow its media business as a separate business, just like its creative division.

Sambhaav Media is also looking outside Gujarat. It is starting a project involving 400 bus shelters in Delhi in August. "We are also looking at neighbouring states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. There's a need to offer solutions in places like Indore, Jaipur and Udaipur. For now, we are exploring the markets and gathering data. Many brands have their decision making hub for these states also in Gujarat. So, decisions can be taken much faster if we offer not just Gujarat, but Rajasthan and MP also," he says.

Vadodaria concludes by saying, "There was a lot of wrong stuff happening and that's why the industry was in such a bad shape. OOH media is not bad - the bad name was created by the way it was being handled. OOH media delivers across the globe and in most countries. If you look at the research, you'll find outdoor to be the most economical media today. But you have to do away with the clutter and build street furniture that will be of benefit to the public."

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