The Metro is not just changing the way Delhi is looking. It is also changing the way the Delhi resident looks at life, his lifestyle and his environs. Delhiites, who always loved the independence of a personal vehicle, are slowly but surely adapting to the Metro Rail culture.
It has been eight years since the first coaches of the Metro rolled out. However, it is only in the last year or so that the network exploded. From just a 22 km stretch in 2002, the Metro today crisscrosses Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon with approximately 200 km of tracks carrying 1.2 million people. Besides connecting people, the rapidly evolving rail system has - and is in the process of - changing consumer mindsets, media habits and the city itself as a market.
At present, around 10 per cent of Delhi's population commutes by Delhi Metro (owned by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation - DMRC) everyday. The number might be small as of now, but with the Metro spreading its tentacles across the city and its neighbourhoods, more and more people are expected join the gang. afaqs! explores how much of this has happened already and tries to predict what lies in store ahead.
The first big change that the Delhi Metro rail could bring is to unify Delhi as a single market and make it more homogenous. Till recently, its citizens used to look at Delhi as several independent territories - Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida, Ghaziabad, South Delhi, East Delhi, West Delhi, North Delhi or old Delhi. Each independent territory had a unique identity of its own. If West and old Delhi were the hub of trading activities, South and Central Delhi and Gurgaon became the hub for nightlife, entertainment and offices. With the Metro reaching out everywhere, such labels could be a thing of the past.
This changing landscape will affect the job market in a big way. Firstly, the corporates need not be located mainly in South Delhi, Gurgaon or Noida. Instead, they can have their offices anywhere in the city.
Companies too can now attract talent from anywhere in the city. In fact, till recently, it was almost impossible for a Noida resident to take up a job in Gurgaon, however lucrative the offer. Either he or she, had to shift base or give up the offer.
Many industry observers believe that Delhi could now emerge as a hot career destination - quite like Singapore, where the Metro system was used to promote the city as a good place to work and attract talent from across the Asia-Pacific.
Entertainment, shopping and eating destinations will come closer and closer to the consumer. For instance, a specialised restaurant in old Delhi could turn out to be the favourite destination for a South Delhi or Gurgaon resident. A specialised music or art teacher in West Delhi is now accessible to students from North and East Delhi.
This will help local brands grow further and increase their area of operations. Popular South Delhi shopping destinations could make way for large malls in the NCR depending on its proximity to the rail route. Functional markets could come up in and around various Metro stations making weekday shopping easier. This is common enough in Mumbai.
Out of the comfort zone
The local brands, which traditionally catered to a radius of three to four kilometres, will have a wider reach now to promote themselves. Their media plan need not rely on just distributing leaflets locally. It can get bigger and include classified advertising in print or OOH. This change would mean more business for media companies.
Consider the OOH industry. The Metro has already had a significant impact. Instead of large hoardings that stick out as complete eyesores in many cities, the new-age backlit screens at Metro stations clearly make one feel that he is walking through any world-class city. Newer outdoor innovations will keep coming up constantly.
The coaches themselves could don brand colours and messages. The Metro itself has provided Rs 60 crore worth of outdoor property inside the stations. The OOH industry in Delhi has grown from Rs 280 crore to Rs 350 crore in the last two years.
The high footfall at Metro stations could also act as a destination for an activation and experience zone for many brand owners. Besides, word of mouth coupled with social media will only multiply the effectiveness of the campaign and become a unique and cost effective way to reach the youth, who are growing up under the shadow of the Metro.
Travelling by the Metro would mean great freedom for commuters. Firstly, their hands will be free of motorbike handles and steering wheels. They will also get some free time while travelling. How will they use this?
Mumbai's experience inspired media companies to launch three compacts (read tabloids) - Metro Now, Mail Today and Mid-Day. Unfortunately, the first-named, which was launched in the early days of the Metro, was forced to shut shop. It was probably a little ahead of its times.
The Metro could give rise to more experimentation. Free newspaper formats, for instance, could work. Some could be on the lines of Metro Moment, a London-based tabloid that is designed for a 20-minute read. There could also be a market for specialised newspapers on sports, city, entertainment and international events. FM and music are other options, though DMRC bars playing of music inside the metro (for safety reasons). The DMRC could go for in-train and in-station radio services. TV news channels could try out what they do at airports.
As the travel time comes down sharply, people will find themselves with more time on their hands. For instance, a shopkeeper in Chandni Chowk would have taken 90 minutes, in peak hour traffic, to reach his home in South Delhi. His commuting time now may be reduced by 40 minutes. The time saved could be spent in a gym or a spa, on a book, at a music concert, in a coffee shop or just taking a walk. People may visit more relatives and friends from far-flung areas. This could result in more sales for sweets, chocolates and gift items.
Wheels of Change?
The Metro could become the big leveller. It will create a 'public space' shared by all segments of society, becoming a melting pot of sorts. Aspiration could take a upward or downward move. For everyone who adapts a formal dress code imitating others, there would be some going in for a funkier look inspired by the younger generation. However, coming to the million dollar question - will the Metro rail stop people from taking out their cars at the drop of a hat?
Not necessarily. Delhiites love to flaunt their cars and they would continue to do so especially the SEC A segment. Besides, an automobile is a sign of increasing prosperity in any economy. India is no exception. What could change is the number of cars on the road on weekdays. Or, a first-time buyer could delay his purchase by a few years. Those who were planning to shift from a two-wheeler to a car might also delay that gratification. The Metro would seem to be very attractive proposition instead. This could affect the used-car sales or the purchase of a second car.
More stories will emerge. Just as Mumbai's locals inspired filmmakers and authors, the Delhi Metro is on its way to becoming a reference point in ways that are far removed from the tracks on which its trains run.
(Based on interviews with Amitabh Saran, BuzzInTown.com; Anirban Chaudhuri, Dentsu Communications; Anita Nayyar, MPG; Cajetan Vaz, Cajetan Vaz Brand Consultant; Harish Bijoor, Harish Bijoor Consults; Jitender Dabas, JWT; Kishore Chakraborty, McCann Erickson; Naresh Gupta, Dentsu Marcom; Rajeev Gopinath, Madison Platinum and Santosh Desai, Future Brands)