With the economic slowdown hitting all businesses, including OOH media companies, some of them have resorted to cutting costs, and offering better deals and packages for advertisers; while others have decided to focus on strengthening backend operations.
Laqshya Media is focusing on improving its designs with a design unit. It also launched a research unit towards the end of 2008, which operates on inputs from outsourced professional field survey teams. The design unit has 18 full-time professionals, including product designers, graphics designers and engineers. This group is supported by a project management team.
The research unit engages in audience and media research and focuses on determining audience delivery, both quantitative and qualitative, at Laqshya's sites in each city. It has also developed proprietary tools for optimised location planning and for optimal selection of sites, where multiple choices exist for a buyer. Besides, the research unit tracks and monitors usage of outdoor advertising opportunities by brands in 20 cities across the country, both by quantity and value. This is done on a monthly basis.
The design unit works on developing better structures, engineering designs, material, aesthetics, adherence to standards, optimal illumination, cost optimization, motion displays and new and innovative formats. It works on innovative displays on specific briefs for clients, but not on general advertisement designs.
Sen informs that the design unit has contributed hugely to the air-conditioned bus shelters that were installed in Dubai, which incidentally, is a global first. "Nowhere in the world were air-conditioned bus shelters installed before this, and that is a major feat, considering the ambient temperature in Dubai is around 55 degrees Celsius. This unit contributes hugely to all our projects."
He adds that the research unit has just been set up; however, Laqshya is already seeing results from the better preparations that this unit is enabling.
Laqshya is viewing the economic slowdown as an important time to strengthen the backend. Sen says, "We also felt the need to establish these functions as a result of our periodic benchmarking sessions, where we benchmark our working processes and results against global leaders in the business. This is done as a conscious and rigorous exercise periodically, to ensure that we stay on the cutting edge and completely updated on global events that are shaping this industry for the future."
Discussing the investments in setting up these units, he points out that right-minded people with specialized competencies and proven, high-quality skill sets don't come cheap; and then, they need correct tools to work with, which also come at a hefty expense. So, Laqshya has invested quite a bit on both these functions.
In these tough times, the company is also rationalizing and right-sizing existing operations and businesses. On the other hand, it is also cautiously and selectively investing in building values that will serve them in good stead in future.
With regard to the slowdown, Sen believes that there is much greater pain in future, particularly in 2009 and 2010. There will be temporary sunshine phases, but the trend cannot be upward for some time now.
He opines, "Too many of the determining factors are outside the control of our actions. There are enormous weaknesses in our systems, reserves and process disciplines. So, the gloom will take a long time to lift and well after major economies first turn around. So, it's bound to last long and it would be best to prepare for a long haul."