Today it’s essential to have a digital footprint in everything you do: Alok Jalan
“The startup scene wasn’t always as glamorous as it is today,” said Alok Jalan, MD, Laqshya Media Group. “It’s been an absolutely incredible journey over the past 25 years,” he added. Laqshya Media Group, which was founded in 1997, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The last two years have been difficult in all sectors. Where some industries have recovered financially, the Out of Home (OOH) industry, on the other hand, continues to grow. According to multiple industry reports, OOH media grew 27% in 2021, but remained only 50% of 2019 levels. Additionally, the industry is not expected to return to its high levels. before Covid before 2024.
Jalan, on the other hand, predicts that the group’s monthly pace will return to 2019 levels by May or June this year. He estimates that revenue for the 2022 calendar year will exceed that of 2019.
In a conversation with exchange4media, Alok Jalan, MD, Laqshya Media Group, shares the group’s 25-year journey, Covid’s impact on the OOH industry, and more.
How has the trip been so far?
There was no easy availability of funding at that time. You just had to build the business organically by putting in all the hard work you could and with what little money you had. When we analyzed all of this advertising space, we found that on the one hand it was dominated by large advertising agencies and on the other hand it was completely fragmented with a lot of small media owners at across the country. So we realized that there was a void and that’s how we started to offer solutions to many multinationals and large Indian clients.
During 2005-2006, we began to feel that we would need funding because many new opportunities were opening up with the upcoming privatization of airports and metros. We went around and managed to receive private equity funding, which was the first of its kind for an outdoor media company in India. After the financing in 2006, we got a lot of new contracts including the driving contract for Hyderabad airport, a contract for 1000 air conditioners in Dubai. And then in 2008 we raised another round of funding led by one of the top five private equity firms in the world, which was another high we could reach.
Can you share the key developments of the last 25 years?
I believe that these two financing rounds were the first ever by an Indian company at this level. So I think that inspired a lot of people. This has really created a lot of excitement around our company as well as in the sector.
As we progressed, we realized that OOH media alone might not be enough. We wanted to do a lot more. So, in 2012-13, we entered the event industry with event and experiential marketing, in which we started owning events, creating our own event IPS and owning large-scale event services. with many global and multinational customers. And then after a few more years, we realized that we also had to enter the digital space because everything is going digital. So that’s when we started a company called Digital Labs and also started offering digital with experiential marketing to increase the overall value proposition for customers because in today’s world it’s important that whatever you do, you have a digital footprint.
How has the OOH industry evolved over the past 25 years?
There has been a lot of growth in the industry in terms of the quality of advertising, the number of options available for sites, and the budgets allocated to OOH. Additionally, the depth of OOH across the country has increased dramatically, allowing brands to advertise effectively in more than one million cities nationwide and on most highways. From paints, to pDOOH, to convergence with mobility, OOH has come a long way.
Looking to the future, I think things are going to be bright for the OOH industry, because even after being the oldest medium, it has the newest features in and of itself. So, today you will see many digital billboards across the world and in India as well. As we move forward, new technologies like augmented reality are going to create a lot of excitement in the media industry. We are also seeing a shift in the media consumption habits of Millennials and Gen Z as they are largely on their cellphones or away from home. This is the huge opportunity that we want to exploit by making the best use of these two media.
When do you think the OOH industry will be back to 2019 levels? How was it for Laqshya Media Group?
Our estimate is that our monthly execution rate will be back to 2019 levels by May or June of this year. We had a very good start to 2022 but the second and third waves pushed us back a bit. However, since the reduction in traffic in the third wave was not as significant as in the first two, this helped to maintain the momentum towards normal. We expect revenues for calendar year 2022 to exceed those of 2019.
What will be the sector’s main growth drivers this year?
The industry’s main driver of growth will be its self-confidence. At LMG, we use cutting-edge technology to deliver ROI to our clients, we use hyperlocal technologies to track the effectiveness and efficiency of OOH campaigns, we use high-end creations and innovations to improve the recall of our clients’ brands, and we are constantly expanding our footprint on DOOH sites to deliver targeted and transparent campaigns to our clients.
What sets Laqshya Media apart from other OOH agencies?
In a way, this specialized, autonomous and independent OOH agency, which we launched, has become a trend in the sector. And we have always ensured – customer before self, people before profit and industry before short-term gain. This value system has brought us to this level and has also helped us with the lowest attrition rate in the industry and the highest customer retention rate.
Has the pandemic changed the profile of OOH advertisers?
I will answer this on two levels – pure OOH (billboards, BQS, etc.) and on the broader platform of all OOH media (billboards, experiential and mobile).
In terms of customers, it’s deepened – with start-ups and digital players arriving on all OOH media outlets with deep pockets. Traditional users, including real estate, automotive, BFSI and FMCD/FMCG, also retained their confidence.
On our side, while the pandemic was a real big shock for us but then we thought about a solution to deal with such a situation and all the opportunities that hide in such a situation. So first of all we took all of our B2B events as well as B2C events online, so we launched online events with offline presence as well and offline events on the ground events that were there, we also launched their online versions. It created a new opportunity and a new market for us outside of our home since everything was locked down. We were just looking at how to create a better value proposition as soon as we put people on the road. So we started working on a lot of data and our most advanced audience measurement called Sharp was discussed and planned at that time during the lockdown to know how to create more value for our customers.
During lockdown we all consumed a lot of content and we were all very digitally active which ultimately made us think we should have a better digital footprint and look at all the areas where we can use digital for our growth. So now we are ready with the types of online and field activations for online and field customers and various other things. So we tried to use digital and all of our services.
What will be the group’s main area of interest this year?
As we progress, we want this company to become one of the biggest companies in the media and entertainment industry by using and leveraging all kinds of emerging technologies using lots of data and analytics and various innovative ideas and creative. So a mixture of all of these things that we want to add a lot of value to all our current and future customers with, we also want to add value to all the employees, all the people who have been with me and their lives.
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