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Mumbai OOH leaders call for consistent, forward looking ad policy from BMC

By Sakshi Sanghavi - July 04, 2024

Media owners highlight the need for regulations that align with global standards and prioritise safety and sustainability.

As the BMC prepares to unveil its new policy for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region on July 5, key figures in the outdoor advertising industry are voicing their insights and concerns. Ahead of the policy's release, stakeholders from various companies have highlighted the potential challenges and opportunities it presents. Their perspectives underscore the need for updated regulations that align with global standards, enhance safety, and promote sustainability. This pre-release commentary reflects the industry's anticipation and the critical importance of consistent and forward-looking policies to support the growth and modernisation of outdoor advertising in Mumbai.

Junaid Shaikh, Managing Director, RoshanSpace commented, “We are eagerly anticipating the introduction of the new policy framework for outdoor advertising. It's crucial that policymakers start viewing OOH as integral to urban planning, not just as advertising space. The current regulations are outdated and must be modernised to align with global standards. From a contemporary perspective, OOH should contribute to city beautification and smart city initiatives, akin to how modern constructions in real estate are engineered to withstand natural calamities. We need dynamic policies that encourage innovation and quality, not just size.”

Neeta Gulati, Director, Alakh Advertising said, “As we look ahead to the introduction of the new BMC policy in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, there are several challenges we foresee. One significant concern is the potential inclusion of terrace hoardings, despite ongoing legal complexities surrounding their use. While initial impressions of the distance regulations appear manageable, there remains uncertainty regarding the future stance on LED advertising, which is crucial given our substantial investments in this technology. Clarity on these fronts is essential for industry stability and planning.”

Mangesh Borse, Founder Director, Symbiosis Advertising was of the view that, “As we approach the introduction of the new BMC policy, there are concerns about its potential impact on the outdoor media industry, particularly with stricter regulations anticipated. The focus seems to be on tightening controls following unfortunate incidents, which risks unfairly penalising compliant businesses like ours. We've always operated within legal parameters, paying substantial taxes and fees, so it's disheartening not to have been consulted adequately on a policy that directly affects us.”

Yogesh Lakhani, CMD, Bright Outdoor Media commented, “The forthcoming BMC policy introduces stringent measures focusing on hoarding stability, including deeper foundations and doubled materials to enhance safety. As we prepare for implementation, our priority is ensuring robust infrastructure that prioritises public safety above all else”.

Shahid Hakim, Founder at Wallop Advertising said, “The upcoming BMC policy poses potential challenges, especially with its reported ban on advertising on glass facades. This restriction could significantly impact our industry, particularly in urban areas where space for traditional hoardings is scarce. Glass facades serve as vital advertising mediums in global financial hubs like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York, contributing to urban aesthetics and economic vitality. BMC should consider forward-looking policies that integrate these modern advertising practices rather than imposing regressive bans.”

Consultation with industry stakeholders:

Talking about whether media owners were consulted in the process for the new policy, Neeta said, “Reflecting on the consultation process for the new policy, it has been a mixed experience for industry stakeholders like us. While there have been recent engagements, historically feedback hasn't always been effectively integrated into the draft policies over the past few years. We appreciate the recent efforts to seek input, but the challenge lies in ensuring that these consultations translate into tangible changes that address industry concerns comprehensively.”

Adding to that point Mangesh said, “From an industry perspective, lack of an inclusive stakeholder engagement could impact our operations and investments when the industry is undergoing a digital transformation, thanks to technologies like LED screens and digital street furniture. We hope future policies will involve stakeholders from the outset to ensure fair and effective regulation.”

Contributing to the subject, Yogesh said, “Unfortunately, stakeholders within our industry, including ourselves, were not extensively consulted during the drafting of this policy. While a few association members met with BMC officials, final decisions seemed more aligned with public sentiment than industry expertise. Nevertheless, the implementation of strict safety regulations remains crucial to safeguarding our urban landscapes.”

Junaid said, “The reduction in the minimum distance between billboards under the new BMC policy from 100 metres to 70 metres is concerning as it may lead to clutter. Decluttering is vital for maintaining standards, and longer contract durations can ensure media houses uphold quality without compromise. Contracts spanning 3-5 years often force compromises on quality to meet costs, which shouldn't be the norm.”

In Shahid’s perspective, “In terms of industry consultation and policy drafting, I've had some interactions with BMC officials and industry associations like IOAA and MHOA. The final version of the draft policy largely recycles existing regulations rather than innovating to meet current industry needs I believe there's a need for more proactive engagement from BMC with stakeholders to ensure policies truly reflect industry perspectives and advancements in technology.”

Prospects for consistent regulation

Talking about whether consistent regulations are the need of the hour, Neeta commented,  “Looking at the broader landscape of outdoor media regulation in Mumbai, there is cautious optimism for achieving greater consistency. Despite past revisions and delays, recent consultations and discussions around potential litigations signal a potential for more stable and predictable regulatory frameworks. This is crucial not only for ensuring operational stability but also for addressing longstanding issues such as licence fee escalation, which poses significant financial challenges for the industry. Moving forward, we hope to see policies that strike a balance between regulatory rigour and facilitating sustainable growth in outdoor advertising.”

Mangesh advocated the same by saying, “Looking ahead, there is a shared desire within the industry for clearer and more consistent regulatory standards, particularly concerning safety, engineering and aesthetics. We advocate for longer-term licences that match the longevity of our infrastructure investments, promoting stability and sustainability in the outdoor media sector. Issues like escalating licence fees also need addressing to foster a supportive environment for responsible business practices for such a versatile medium”

Agreeing to the point, Yogesh said, “Moving forward, as we look ahead to the implementation of the new BMC policy, our foremost concern lies in achieving clearer and consistently applied regulations within the outdoor media sector. While we applaud the policy's strong emphasis on safety, which is crucial for the industry's integrity and public safety, it also underscores the ongoing necessity for robust dialogue and collaboration between regulatory bodies and industry stakeholders. This partnership is essential to ensure that future policies not only meet safety standards but also support innovation and sustainable practices across the outdoor advertising landscape.”

Taking his stance on the point, Junaid said, “Looking ahead, achieving consistent regulation in the outdoor media sector is paramount. The focus on safety in the new policy is commendable but requires ongoing dialogue between regulators and stakeholders to ensure that policies are not only stringent but also support modern engineering and aesthetic standards. Emphasising quality over size, similar to global standards seen in iconic cities, will be key to enhancing urban aesthetics and functionality in our cityscape.”

Shahid highlighted, “Regarding consistent regulation in outdoor media, our industry supports enhancing safety standards. However, I have reservations about the proposed removal of ACP sheets from hoardings. ACP sheets not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of our urban landscapes but also play a crucial role in structural integrity and weather resistance. Instead of banning ACP sheets, I propose alternative inspection methods, such as technological monitoring and periodic physical checks through accessible panels.”

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash 


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