TV on the Go
The television advertisement business is a small portion of the load shedding-affected Nepali economy. While most would see it as a reason to complain, a smart few, like Media Space Solutions (MSS) looked at it as an opportunity to find a solution and to build a business around it.
Media Space Solutions is responsible for the new TV screens in microbuses and new Sajha buses. The idea of having screens in public transport may not be an entirely original one, but it is definitely more relevant in Kathmandu where most TVs don’t function for most of the day. Due to loadshedding, major Nepali TV channels are finding it hard to run regular programming, and advertisers obviously are not keen on including TV ads in their marketing strategies. Amidst these challenges, MSS found a way to bring these ads to viewers outside their homes.
Srijal Bhattarai, Shaurabh Rajouria and Pratap Bist, three individuals from three different backgrounds came together in 2010 and formed Media Space Solutions. A year into their business, which started with digital signages in Bhatbhateni stores – the first of its kind in Nepal – the company considered another first – having TV screens in micro buses. It was ridiculed by many. Without any regard for the discouraging opinions- which must have seemed rational considering the state in which our microbuses run- they started working on the idea.
The trio worked on it for eight months, keeping the idea limited to a handful of people. Srijal Bhattarai, the co-founder with an MBA and an M.Phil in progress says, “The few who knew, worked on the project around the clock. A completely new software-driven system was set in place and various surveys were conducted.” While their technical skills were on full throttle, their people skills were also put to test. The partners had to meet and convince various stakeholders, including government agencies, micro bus owners, drivers and committee members.
The group met with personnel from Nepal Traffic and Yatayat Bibhag, to present their new idea. Exhibiting the various utilities of their idea, including circulating traffic information, they were able to convince the government bodies and get the idea greenlighted. However, they still had to comply with few standards, such as the placement of the screen and removing speaker the next to the driver. Similar to the positive support from the government agencies, the vehicle owners and drivers did not have much to complain about with an added source of income.
After working for eight months on the project, putting everything in place, screens were put in sixty Jumbo Toyota Hiace micro buses, spread out in six different routes, playing songs and movie trailers, traffic notices and paid advertisements. Recalling the first trip from RNAC to Naryanthan, Sourabh Rajouriya, the partner specializing in broadcasting engineering says, “I’ll never forget this incident on the first trip, two school children got on the microbus and one of them said, “janch ta bigryo, tara micro ma TV herna paera mood chai ali thik bhayo.” In other trips, there were also incidents like people missing their stop to finish a song”. Even the drivers seem to love the screens, “Bus owners now take it as a matter of pride to own micro buses with screens,” he says.
Pratap Singh Bist, the co-founder with a finance background says, “A lot of thought was given to the content. Our main focus was the appeal to the audience rather than the number of adverts.” During the first eight months, the group conducted surveys, asking passengers what they wanted to watch. A stringent screening process was put in place to make sure the contents were suitable for all viewers. In spite of the importance of paid adverts, the company also decided to limit adverts to one-fifth of the total. Bist says, “All the thought we have put into the content has paid off. We get numerous calls everyday – feedback, inquiries – mistaking us with the advertisers – song request calls, and even calls asking how the shows can be viewed at home.”
With a company that only seems to be moving forward, the future must be filled with possibilities. The recently introduced new Sanha Buses also have the MSS screens, along with CCTV cameras, a new effort by the company to promote etiqutte and safety in public transports. Talking about the possibilities for the future, Rajauriya says, “With a proper system in place, the future of digital signage is vast. Being able to connect different places, spread information to the masses in seconds, reaching people in specific places from a distant source, all are possible.” With 15 digital signages, 60 micro bus screens and 16 Sajha bus screens, the foundations may have been laid for such possibilities.