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For whom the bell tolls?

By Vasant Jante - June 09, 2023

Vasant Jante, Founder & CEO, VJ Media Works shares his perspectives on the fast-changing Indian OOH agency landscape

Like a tree that has branches and leaves stemming out of the trunk as it grows, Indian OOH is witness to an increasing number of specialist agency professionals who are venturing out of their respective organisations to launch their own agencies, instead of taking up any lateral job positions in different other organisations. The difference with the analogy of the tree is that, the OOH professionals are not incubating any new ventures within the organisations where they are employed, but are breaking away to set up independent ventures, while perhaps contributing to the expansion of the Indian OOH base itself.

Vasant Jante, Founder & CEO, VJ Media Works

The success enjoyed by the first few who ventured out to set up their own startups have encouraged several more to follow suit, and as a result we are seeing a flurry of new specialist agencies at the national and regional levels that are imbued with the ambition of offering quality, differentiated services to advertising clients. At the same time, the pattern seen in the sprouting of these new ventures needs some attention.

In most cases, the founders of the startup agencies have hived off some business account or the other from the organisation that they worked for, and those accounts alone are seen to be sufficient enough to build a new business, and a lot more attractive than the employment that would have come their way at any other organisation.

The financial benefits apart, these professionals also see in venturing out an opportunity to assert their own professional freedom while also entertaining ambitions of competing strongly with the larger organisations in the domain in due course.

In the last one year alone, an estimated 10 new specialist agencies have been established across the India market, with each venture clocking business upwards of Rs 25 crore a year. While some of that business, as I have stated earlier, would have been hived off from other organisations, what is also evident is that these agencies are able to bring newer brands into the OOH fold.

So, we are in situation where on one side there are media owning firms have also branched into agency business, and on the other there is the proliferation of new agencies promoted by OOH professionals that came out of established specialist agencies. What do these trends mean for Indian OOH as whole?

How does this impact the top five specialist agencies in the country that have been at the forefront of OOH business?

Would the new specialist agencies stay the course and fulfil their business ambitions?

Where are they all going find the right talent for the right roles, especially in these times when OOH itself is becoming a multi-layered business interwoven with data, technology, and what have you?

Are all these ventures playing an active role in bringing more and new brand advertisers to the OOH medium, thereby contributing to the industry’s overall growth?

Is the proliferation of agencies also helping unlock the OOH potentials of non-metro Tier 2 & 3 markets? After all, OOH is a highly localised media and how these agencies will deliver on the expectations of local and regional brands is also to be watched closely.

Are these trends further fragmenting the acutely fragmented Indian OOH business? Is business consolidation a far cry in these emerging circumstances?

There are questions aplenty that shout out for attention as the Indian OOH agency landscape undergoes tectonic shifts, but there are a few outcomes that are fairly indisputable.

First, the advertising client is spoilt for choice and so will walk away with the best possible rates for campaign rollouts.

Second, given that the OOH share of the ad pie is not going to be growing at an appreciable rate, a number of agencies vying for business has only grown, and that will lead to more cut-throat competition. The ones that come out unscathed will rule the roost perhaps.

Third, in the midst of these disruptive situations, the agencies will all be called upon to come up with innovative ideas to attract business, and that will indeed uplift the whole industry. 

That said, the market structure and forecasted outcomes are all just taking shape. Who will be caught napping, and who will go up the growth ladder on the strength of business acumen and creative thinking, we know only in due course of time. Those that are virtually at zero will only have one way to go – that’s up, but those are perched on a higher branch may have to be exercise great caution for there is chance that they may slip and fall.

Interesting times these are!

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