‘OOH organisations require deeper understanding of adtech applications’
By Rajiv Raghunath - December 22, 2022
Initially, adtech firms faced challenges in acquiring technical skillsets for developing solutions, but that’s not the case anymore, says Srikanth Ramachandran, Group CEO, Moving Walls. Skillsets are much more required in areas like media product management, sales, and particularly for adoption and application of adtech solutions in OOH business. Edited excerpts of the interview with Rajiv Raghunath.
OOH firms are often faced with a talent crunch. Today, as we see accelerated digitalisation of OOH media and adoption of adtech, is the talent crunch turning into a bigger challenge for the industry? What is your own experience in this regard?
As a forerunner in the industry, our initial challenge was in acquiring the right technical skills. We looked for technical people who understood OOH so that we could build the best solutions for the business.
Six years ago when we began our journey, DOOH was largely viewed as just another screen, another media asset. But, we all know that OOH is very different from many other media channels. Clients make decisions based on location, audience, price, and shapes and sizes of OOH media assets that vary widely. So, a deep understanding of OOH, and combining that with technology was the real challenge for us as we started to build solutions for the industry.
Today, the good news is that acquiring tech skillsets is less of a problem. Like every other industry, finding technology people is now more of a business-as-usual struggle. But there are massive gaps in certain other areas of OOH business. Take the case of media product management.
For instance, how does a media owner adopt the technology solutions? In building digitally savvy products and positioning them, media product management becomes a critical aspect. While media channels like TV command strong product management capabilities, that is not the case with OOH. OOH firms do have a challenge in productising the media as there are massive skill gaps in this regard.
When the media product management skills are in place, there will be sufficient knowledge within the organisation to train the salespeople as well.
While you say that onboarding the right technical skills is not a big challenge anymore, technology people in India are more oriented to the services side of the business. So, how do find talent for media product development?
While there are bespoke tech companies that service large clients by developing solutions -- that have been the heritage of the Indian IT industry, there are companies like Zoho that develop products and ship them around the world. The whole software-as-a-service (SaaS) segment is a case in point. SaaS businesses have been developed with good funding by venture capitalists across multiple segments.
Also to be noted is that a global company like Place Exchange has its development centre in India. Likewise, Talon has its offshore development arrangement in India.
So, there isn’t any major challenge in this regard.
Are career advancement opportunities and remuneration offered by OOH firms attractive to bring good talent to the adtech industry?
There are some good people who have been attracted to this industry, When it comes to remuneration, even in the tech sector, large companies realised that they could not retain paying a premium over what the end-user would pay.
So, be it an agency or a media owner, they should rely on a tech partner to build solutions instead of building any of those internally. It is quite impossible for them to be competing to get the right talent and retain them.
Those talents would prefer working with adtech firms or agencies that that are building their global competency centres out of India.
Partnering is the way forward.
Would you advocate any industry-level training programmes to build a strong talent pool in India?
We don’t need to teach technology or how adtech works. But, there is the knowledge required regarding how organisations would adopt adtech, how to re-engineer the business, etc.
We don’t want the adtech companies to be ruling this industry. Instead, the OOH firms should have a core understanding of how the solutions need to be applied in business for desired outcomes. We see a massive gap in these areas that need to be bridged with training.
We have put something out on our web called the Outernet Academy – we are trying to help people acquire sufficient knowledge to adopt adtech solutions in their businesses.
In my earlier stint with Knowledge Dynamics, we had tied up with the National University of Singapore to build business intelligence training for managers. There was an element of technology relating to business intelligence, what is a dashboard, how to mine data, etc. But the emphasis was more on the application of business intelligence for purposes like sales forecasting.
Would you worry about losing trained talent to the competition?
That can happen. Competition brings about that problem, but competition also creates new opportunities. So, we would have to accept that challenge.