Earlier this week, when the IAA India chapter launched its social initiative #WorkToLiveToWork
, the announcement met with a fantastic response from the advertising fraternity and others who travel to work using Mumbai’s public transport, especially the local train.
This writer himself has witnessed the ugly side of peak hour travel many times. I am reasonably sure many of us in Mumbai have faced similar situations from local train bullies. Once, the footboard mafia, that’s firmly entrenched in the entry point of every compartment, pushed me out of the train, thankfully when the train was standing still on the platform. That’s the time I understood the true meaning of ‘better late than never’.
While millions travelling by the Mumbai local risk life and limb to get to work on time, every day approximately nine people die on the suburban rail network which is nearly 3,300 people in a year, probably much more than acts of terror. IAA India’s leaders believe that even if the number of people losing life comes down from 9 to 7 per day, they would have saved over 700 lives in a year
While this thought is a noble one and deserves the attention it’s getting, the trick and the trap lies in the execution, even if it has the blessings of the state government.
Veteran advertising professional and Campaign India’s prolific blogger, Sandeep Goyal highlights an experience from his days at Dentsu.
Roughly in 2006-07, Dentsu Marcom in Dubai did a campaign for the RTA (Road Transport Authority). The intent of the campaign was to decongest Dubai that was booming at that point of time.
The solution was to implement staggered timings for people to get to work using all mainstream media like outdoor, press and so on. Instead of all offices opening at 9:30 or 10 they created 6-7 slots. The ones who opened shop early would close early.
While the campaign was very well received, the problem was that Dubai was booming and traffic was increasing month-on-month. Despite a lot of companies agreeing to do this, it made little or no impact on the volume of traffic at any point of time. While the RTA intervention may have controlled the end destination point, people left homes at different times based on the distance they stay away from the office. In the case of Mumbai locals, South Mumbai is no longer the place which hosts the maximum working population. Many offices have moved to the western suburbs. Hence someone who has to reach BKC at 8:30 AM and alights at Kurla, would be in the same train as someone who had to reach Nariman Point at say, 9:30 AM.
The other important point to consider is that would suppliers and customers mirror the same business hours that your organisation maintains? In Dubai’s case, some complained that business suffered because clients would not be following the same timings. The market would be open for three hours after the office closed. One option was to have different sets of employees within the office to have flexi-hours. But if employees in two different sets of flexi-hours had to work together, it was a problem. While this could potentially work from the traffic dimension, it would not work from the business dimension.
Advertising leaders like Prasoon Joshi of McCann Worldgroup points out that instead of staggered timings to reach the destination, the movement should be to take the workplace closer to home. When people travel lesser, stress levels would be lower and they would get a better work-life balance.
Joshi says that with technological advancements, each suburb could have a virtual office complex. Organisations could book seats in each complex and employees could get to work in no time by picking the workplace closest to their house. The other advantage of this could also be that rentals might be lower in the suburbs, than hiring a huge office in a central business district.
Another senior communications professional points out that unless large business houses like the Tata Group, Reliance and Birla’s back this initiative, at least for Mumbai, it will find little acceptance among the rest.
That said a mass movement begins with a great idea. And this is definitely one powerful idea that could go a thousand miles if backed with the right execution.
(The writer is the managing editor at Campaign India and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)