Decades after liberalisation, rural India continues to face a debilitating challenge of deficient electrification. India is estimated to be the most power-deprived country in the world with about 400 million Indians living in darkness every night. With a national policy which is fast changing to adopt a holistic green energy programme, quick progress is hoped to light up the nation with public and private initiatives. In the meanwhile, as India continues to suffer from power paucity; media devices like computers, phones and TVs may remain unreliable for reaching non-metro folks. But there is no need to worry; a solution lies right around the corner.
With plans of more villages embracing solar power and moving off-grid, there is anxiety over the future trends of mass communication in rural society. In order to reduce and even eliminate dependence on grid and fossil sources of power, the onus is on advertisers in India to think of innovative means to achieve zero foot-print. The traditional medium of billboards/out-of-home (OOH) can present some succour to advertisers. Since OOH has no power needs in the day time, it is a low-carbon footprint media to a large extent. Yet, much may be done to implement frugal engineering practices in OOH. Just as these methods are enabling waves of development at a local-scale by stripping down input costs to create adequate energy for several thousand villages, they have implications for advertising in small towns as well.
For evening lighting, billboards and OOH media companies need to move away from outdated means of lighting like diesel generators. With high cost of diesel and labour (required to manage the machinery), it has become an expensive option in comparison to other cost-effective means like solar and biogas. Villages in Bihar are already utilising abundant farm waste, like rice husk, to generate electricity; enough to light homes and civic spaces. Not to mention, diesel is also responsible for the creation of fumes and noise, thus causing pollution. Environmental departments in states like West Bengal are already mandating a conversion of diesel-run billboard lighting. Such impetus from the policy side is aimed at encouraging advertisers to reduce their dependence on grids and replicate these set ups in all rural locations of advertising interest.
However, conventional OOH medium is increasingly losing its charm due to the observation that its impact is immeasurable and that controlling content on it is a hassling and tedious process. To beat such limitations, OOH has evolved and as a result, new routes of dynamic audio-visual media have emerged.