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Calcutta HC ruling impacts OOH business of eastern India during Durga Puja

By Pray Jani - October 21, 2020

According to media owners, usually, during Durga Puja festival, media occupancy rate is 90% but this time they are finding it difficult to keep even 20% of the media occupied; Sales have fallen by 70% and due to no pandal branding, accounting loss of approx. INR 1.5 crore business

Pandal hopping, community lunches and glitzy cultural soiree will be missing this Durga Puja festival as it will be a low-key affair on the backdrop of this year’s pandemic. Expressing apprehension that overcrowding during the festive season could lead to an “uncontrollable” rise in the number of Covid19 cases, the Calcutta High Court has ordered that Durga Puja pandals in West Bengal will be out of bounds for the visitors “in public interest”.

The area covered by the pandals and the additional area around the pandals extending 5 metres from the smaller pandals and 10 metres from the bigger pandals will have to be barricaded as a no-entry zone. Also, the High Court limited the entry of Puja organising committee members- 15 for smaller pandals, 25 for bigger ones.

This is affecting the OOH business of the state. During Durga Puja, this year, the eastern part of country including West Bengal, Orissa and Assam do not seem to be busy with brand engagement activities like innovative puja branding or hoarding display as it is believed that the target audience is going to remain inside their homes.

Speaking about this year’s OOH activities, Niranjan Dash, CEO, Torrent Advertisers, said, “The government has mandated that there will be no pandals which will take away the incentive of people coming for outdoor. Moreover, a lot of outdoor media has been scrapped due to this mandate. Usually, during Durga Puja festival, media owners see an occupancy rate of 90%, but right now, we are finding it difficult to keep even 20% of the media occupied. There are almost no campaigns right now.”

Ideally, media is booked by brands months before the festival. However, this time the media owners have not seen any substantial inquiry for the OOH or pandal branding. Media owners believe that the lack of outside movement has posed a threat to the existence of outdoor media. Although the market has opened up in Bhubaneshwar, local brands indulged in jewellery business and educational institutes are yet to appear on OOH.

West Bengal is the epicentre of the Durga Puja celebration. With traditional media facing challenges of cost cutting, digital outdoor media is expected to dominate this season.

“Certainly, the traditional media is facing an undercutting. The media is not getting sold at the right price. Brands expect heavy discount from the media owners which, at this point, is not something that they can afford. On the other hand, digital outdoor media is getting sold at a decent price. Enkon has a network in restaurants, bars and corporate parks which provides a strong visibility for the brands. Still, the revenues aren’t close to what they were in 2019,” said Aninda Banerjee, MD, Enkon Pvt Ltd.

According to Aninda, their network of screens has only between 20% and 25% occupancy rate as against nearly 100% last year. FMCG, healthcare, steel, real estate and jewellery industry are the biggest spenders this year in West Bengal.

He added, “As brands see an OOH budget crunch, they are looking at investing in a media that can offer highest return on investment. Simultaneously, the programmatic outdoor is becoming more and more desired by the brands who want numbers to define their campaign. Therefore, brands shy away from traditional media. They are observing a trend where a lot of inquiries are flowing in for supermarket, ambient and retail media space.”

Assam is yet another state where Durga Puja brings lot of business for OOH industry. Generally, retail stores are the biggest spenders on this occasion along with some local brands. However, due to the pandemic, only Pantaloons has appeared on outdoor media. Although, automobile sector has been extensively advertising on OOH, the campaigns’ duration is only between 12 and 20 days.

Speaking on the market condition in Assam, Anoop Khanna, Proprietor, Fast Track Integrated Marketing Services, said, “The market has revived but it hasn’t reached its true potential. Occupancy rate is below 50% and many of the brands which appear during this time have not even been inquired. As compared to previous year, sales have fallen by 70% and due to no pandal branding, we are losing out around INR 1.5 crore of business.”

Anoop added that the firm owns exclusive advertising rights across all railway stations in Assam. This time, there are no activities happening. And, the media that has been occupied was taken at a 50% discount or may be more.”


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