four months of appeals, discussions and debates, the Supreme Court has set aside the ban on mobile hoarding vans, which was issued in Mumbai in May this year.
A blanket ban was ordered on mobile vans that carry advertising messages, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by gynaecologist, Dr Anahita Pundole and others. Pundole alleged that the permission granted to different applicants not only caused environmental problems, but also resulted in serious damage to heritage buildings in the city. It also disrupted the movement of vehicles, thus leading to traffic congestion.
A couple of OOH media companies, such as Supri Outdoor Media and Imaan Publicity appealed to the SC, stating that they were abiding by all the conditions laid down in the contracts.
afaqs! spoke to a few media owners to understand what transpired and to get their take on this incident.
A visibly disturbed Mohammed Arif Ansari, general manager, business development, international, Supri Outdoor Media says, "There are some people like Dr Pundole, who are sitting just to do things like this."
He says that while a PIL was issued quoting traffic congestion, they provided evidence that their mobile vans were only placed in designated spots, so there was no way congestion could have been caused due to these vans.
On the losses incurred by the company, he says, "These four months have caused a loss running into lakhs of rupees for Supri, since our core identity is mobile ad vans. Also, a number of people are involved in our business, like drivers, cleaners and mounters; and they do not understand what a ban is. We've had to pay them from our pockets these four months."
Sudesh PaulAnother media owner, whose business, however, was not heavily affected by this ban, is Bright Outdoors, which operates around a dozen mobile vans in Mumbai. Sudesh Paul, business development manager, Bright Outdoors says, "The fact is that these mobile vans are not positioned in any such location where it might affect traffic. It was a blindfolded decision taken. And once they saw that these mobile vans were not obstructing any traffic, they were convinced and the ban was lifted."
He shares that Bright Outdoors has taken these mobile vans on a subletting basis. "We have about 12 mobile vans in Mumbai and around 1,460 hoardings, which is a share of 40 per cent of Mumbai's hoardings. Mobile vans are an extra offering to our clients. For example, an advertiser with a modest budget can also advertise on Mahim Causeway, where hoardings could cost anywhere between Rs 5-25 lakh a month; whereas these mobile vans are cheaper at about Rs 3 lakh."
Junaid Shaikh, director, media solutions, Roshan Publicity points out that before the ban, permission was given to these mobile vans by traffic authorities themselves. "The municipality has to plan and anticipate these things before giving permissions. Town planning is key. This lack of infrastructure and planning has caused the problems and has been bad for businessmen all over. It is this small percentage of businessmen in the country, who are paying taxes that are supposed to go into building infrastructure. These acts by the corporation are all very impulsive. We cannot work this way. In fact, bodies should support businessmen so that we can support others involved too, because if one person loses his job he might be desperate for money, and turn into a criminal even."
Sanjay DharSanjay Dhar, COO, Integrid Media says matter-of-factly, "Every new outdoor medium will go through its own process of such events before the right balance is found, which is acceptable to all the constituents affected by the medium. Mobile vans, being a relatively new medium, too, are going through that phase."
While he feels that the government's job is never an easy one, as they also have to go through the process of taking one step after another to find the right balance; he also thinks that such bans are very damaging to the media owners, who invest significant sums of money in such projects, only to be suddenly left high and dry by a ban issued abruptly, before the contract period has concluded.
"It also creates a certain amount of uncertainty for the medium, which is not very healthy in the long term," he says.
First came the ban on billboards and hoardings, and then this. Though this specific prohibition has been lifted now, are such bans limiting the scope of OOH in the country?
Dhar is optimistic when he says, "The revenue garnered from OOH media goes towards the government and municipal bodies providing facilities and infrastructure for the benefit of the citizens. We don't think that the scope of OOH is being limited. Instead, the scope of OOH is being redefined and enhanced, and we are confident that what will emerge finally will be a much better mix of OOH media, both in quality and quantity."