A train to the future

By : |June 6, 2008 0

BANGALORE, INDIA: It was a joyride for passengers traveling to Delhi in India’s premier Rajdhani Express from Bangalore. Instead of the Rajdhani’s signature scarlet red and custard yellow colour, it was completely enveloped with an advertisement of the country’s leading telecom giant, Airtel. And once inside the train, there were more pleasantries waiting to be exchanged.

Working behind the fanfare and media attention, however, was the economics of change, having a cognizable, threefold impactstate-of-the-art services and facilities for onboard passengers, a conspicuous presence for advertisers and an image makeover for the Indian Railways.



While the advertiser, passenger, and the world’s largest railway network might be the obvious stakeholders and beneficiaries of this unique and first of its kind venture, the involvement of a printing company, HP, to take on the mammoth task of wrapping the 19-coach train with the ad was as significant.

Idea behind it

The move to change the look and feel of the Bangalore Rajdhani, and subsequently three other Rajdhani trains, came not only to provide advertising rights on the train and earn revenue but to render the best in-coach service and facilities seen till date on any of the regular route trains. In this case, in return of advertising rights, both external and internal, the train has been upgraded completely with a new kitchen, high-quality flooring, cleaner toilets, and 24-hr house-keeping services.

Executed on a public-private partnership, the model achieves the ultimate goal of providing customers with the best of services.


However, the aspect that caught the attention of passengers and passersby immediately was the Airtel Barriers Break When People Talk ad that covered the length of the train, including the engine. The ad, seen across cities, with two boys playing football on the border, covered the windows and doors of the train as well as blanketing its entire surface.

Adding to the already tough task of wrapping the expanse of the train was the fact that the coaches will tear through high winds and extreme heat, not to mention rains. A strong, all-weather material and high printing quality became essential in order to have the desired impact on the campaign, and sustain it.

The onus went to HP, a frontrunner in the printing business. HP took the responsibility of executing the whole printing and application process of the ad. HP entered the large printing format space some three years ago and since then, through a series of acquisitions, has worked its way up the ladder.

The USP of this is that first, it is a new and interesting concept, and second, it is a mobile billboard, a billboard that can travel. A train can catch the attention of those at stations, and it is rare to see an empty station. We have identified some strategic routes on which this concept can work best, says Sandeep Chawla, chairman and managing director, Peacock Media, the company that had proposed the idea to the Indian Railways and undertook the project.

Printing prospects

Fleet ads, as they are popularly called, are undeniably the best eyeball catchers and present advertisers a great prospect to market their product. For products and brands, both new and established, the eagerness to spend big bucks on fleet advertisements is spelling more business for the thriving printing market in India. However, with fleet advertising, which may include wrapping large transit vehicles with all-weather, computerized polyvinyl, a more professional and skilled approach is required, not to mention a more powerful machine and different material. This is where offset printing takes a beating and digital printers come into play.

HP’s Scitex TJ8500 large format printer used for the train wrap

Fleet graphics and wrap-arounds spell big opportunity in the Graphic Arts space. It has found increased acceptance across the world and is steadily making inroads in India. More and more marketers, advertisers and media buyers are looking at this new media to propagate the message of their brand.

This initiative has given a new medium in out-of-home to advertisers to communicate with consumers. The first ever train wrap in the country in the form of Hazrat Nizamuddin-Bengaluru Rajdhani Express is a testimonial to the birth of a new media in the country, says Paresh Shetty, graphics and imaging manager, Hewlett Packard India Sales.


Shetty also goes on to explain that according to a recent study by PIRA, India’s digital printing industry is growing at 73 percent and 86 percent of the pages printed today are in the graphics arts space. However, only 6 percent are printed digitally, which for a company like HP means huge business opportunities.

Driven by the boom in the advertising market, the graphics ads space is riveting for the leaders in the printing business. It started in 1993 when a company called SuperGraphics wrapped a bus in computer-generated vinyl. The Crystal Pepsi became the first digitally printed wrap advertising. Subsequently a coach of the Amtrek was wrapped for Holiday Inn, and Apple iPods earliest ads where building wraps. World across, however, bus wraps are the most popular, being used to promote healthcare, sports teams, TV shows and even office commodities.

Ignited India

In India, there have been several instances in the recent past where the public transport system alone has been poised to become a revenue booster for the government. In August 2007, Assocham (Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry) along with the Delhi Transport Corporation proposed to earn Rs 100 crore by way of advertising on public buses plying both within the state and inter-state. Some 800 well-maintained buses had to be identified out of the fleet of 3,500 DTC buses, and keeping in mind the fact that these buses travel to states which are hubs for the services and manufacturing industry, and earn huge amount for the country.

Another recent example is the Delhi Metro. However, while these were all primarily for internal display ads, the Haryana state buses plying from Delhi to Gurgaon have been completely wrapped with an ad of HUDA (Haryana Urban Development Authority). With the states like Delhi, Karnataka, and Maharashtra set to overhaul their public transportation systems by means of state-of-the-art buses, metro rails and sky buses, the scope for wrap advertising, and in turn the printing market, specifically in the graphics ads space and, large format printing, will see visible growth.

The prospects don’t stop at that, buildings and aircrafts are likely to be the next target for advertisers when it comes to wrap ads. While eventually these is brand recognition and taking the credit for the success of the campaign would be the advertising company, the almost unsung hero in the eyes of the public, responsible for ensuring good printing quality, a wear and tear resistant printing material, and manually sticking the wrap ad on the designated mode of structure/vehicle, is the printing partner.

But they are not complaining. Monetizing on the growth of wrap advertising is where they are not taking a backseat.

The formerly untouched wrap advertising market, especially in the Indian Railways, has been ignited for with the Bangalore Rajdhani. As three other Rajdhani trains are being readied to be rolled with wrap ads in other routes, it won’t be too long that this trend extends to trains other than the Rajdhani or even the Delhi Metro. In fact, don’t be surprised if you spot the Indian Railways mascot, Golu, posted on the Rail Bhawan building.

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