Friday, February 23, 2007

Is Indian GIS industry only a low end data conversion industry?

The main objective of my writing this BLOG was to remain connected, occasionally, with geo-spatial industry while I am working on establishing AUGTICS. The response to this BLOG is amazing with several hundred people from exactly 100 different geographic locations have, so far, read this India specific BLOG!! I have taken the adjacent snapshot from GOOGLE ANALYTICS that allows me to see from where the traffic is reaching the BLOG!

How is this possible? Simple – the IP address from where the BLOG is assessed is geo-coded and then displayed on the map above! Cool. Today this geo-coding is done at a city level. Tomorrow as the technology progresses furtherer, the resolution will get better and better (your IP will be tagged to your precise location of surfing). Imagine the implication - exact location of IP being mapped, then analyzing your “surfing pattern”, “google adds” will not just be based on the text you are reading but also based on your individual behavior (surfing pattern), increasing the probability of your buy on clicking the advertisement multi-fold! This will be GIS and analytics at its best! Clearly this will be feasible in near future and clearly GIS is going to become pervasive in everyday life!!

My BLOG generated a very interesting discussion on the Yahoo Group - GIS India. I have picked the following text from the emails by Carl, Abhijeet, and Maneesh.

  • “Most of the so called GIS work has been either Digitization [30%] / writing codes for customizing ESRI/MapInfo products[30%], which I really don’t feel as GIS. and most of which are for the US of A and has no relevance for our country.”
  • I know that starting at the digitizing level is a good start for an entry in GIS, but the pay is very appalling according to what IT pays for a person at the same level and the GIS person is gonna be 3 years behind at any level, compared to a normal standard
  • GIS in India is just CAD and only CAD. do it in micro-station or any other sophisticated version, western countries are utilizing cheap production rate in India
  • As far my concerns about India, There are whole lots of things happening around the world. It seems to me that we as implementers are lagging too behind. Ironically, the Gap between innovation (Or perhaps the adoption of innovations) and implementation is growing larger day and night. When-ever, we get to share the similar platform along with the rest of the world, in-spite of the fact that We are being capable, we do appear to be out of the place (For instance-We still talk about converting our legacy maps in to
    digital format."its just -tip of an ice berg- lot can be mentioned).

There were few other emails supporting or opposing the above issues. On this post, at a starting point, I would like to provide my “different view”!

So is Indian GIS industry all about low end GIS data conversion?

There is absolutely no doubt that thousands of people are employed by GIS companies to work on data conversion tasks. Key reasons for data conversion forming bulk of the Indian GIS industry are:

- India cost advantage vis-à-vis developed countries (same logic on which the entire Indian software industry was set and is doing well)

- Several large conversion houses in the US (AGRA BAYMONT, ASI, etc) and other counties have closed down conversion shops in local countries, simply because Indian and other low cost countries were able to carry out the quality data creation task at much lower cost.

In general “data” forms a bulk part of any GIS system (~60%) and coupled with the natural flow of conversion work to India, Indian companies, put together, will be doing excess of ~60% work as conversion job!!! Is this trend going to reverse? Not in the near future. On the contrary on account of boom in the utility companies across the globe, increase in demand of high resolution (and 3D) data and India data development initiatives, I expect that the there will be significant increase in conversion work in next few years!!!! Is this bad development for the Indian GIS industry? Not at all - it makes a great economic sense for the end clients, great business for the Indian companies and employment for several people. So, isn’t’ Indian GIS industry all about low end GIS conversion! Yes, if you look at this visible bulk of work that is happening and ignore the rest of the development around!

So what are the projects/activities other then data conversion? Few pointers:

- Intergraph, Bentley & AutoCAD, all have a product development center in India. It’s a matter of time before likes of MapInfo and ESRI follows the suit and takes advantage of quality talent and lower cost of development in India

- SAC, NRSA and several other government organizations are working on several groundbreaking projects.

- The quality of research works premium educations institutions like IITs, NITs, Anna University, BIT/BITS etc and number of students taking interests in geo-spatial technology has improved and increased multi-fold over the last several years

- Private education institutions like Symbiosis have started producing quality GIS professionals

- Most of the established GIS companies have a sound software development group and several of then are setting up consulting divisions that offers solutions to clients based on geospatial technology

- Almost all IT majors Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Satyam etc have a GIS division/group focusing on GIS application

- And there are companies like SatNav and CE focused on developing India specific products

The eco-system for rapid expansion of GIS application projects within India is just about getting right. With government policy aiding the industry, increased visibility of the technology (thanks to Google Earth/Maps and MS Virtual Earth!), likely availability of Indian data in near future, GIS industry in India is about to experience a revolution! And the constraints that are here, in India, will give rise to new innovations and new types of applications and products that could be further implemented in other developing countries!

Is Indian GIS Industry poor paymaster?

Salaries or (let me reword is at “price” of a professional) is largely driven by economic reason of demand and supply and the self-life of the skill. Yes there are several companies that pay a very small amount to digitizing operators largely because the skill set required to do the task is available in India in abundance. But the price (salary) commanded by skilled GIS professional at times is higher than the normal IT price! Currently there is a sort of “war for talent” going on for the skilled GIS professionals in industry and only weapon used in this is money!

What does this mean to individual professionals?

But while industry will evolve based on the market forces, government policies and industry dynamics, industry will always have mix of job (low end – high end, low paying – high paying) without exception! Within that framework, there is enough room for individual professionals to shape their careers – if you have been working on GIS data conversion for years, go ahead and enhance your skill set’s (and thus your self-life and self-value!!) matching with the dream job you want to perform – and surely you will get your dream job!! It’s the prerogative of individual professional to shape his/her career and destiny. Industry will, most likely, value you not more than the value you put to yourself!

Remain tuned with this BLOG to hear on Indian GIS industry from me and keep writing your comments on the BLOG! And BTW, now you can reach this BLOG by simply typing – easy to remember, if you spell my name correctly!

Manoj Misra

PS: On AUGTICS front, things have started rolling (but not as fast as we really wish)!! We are making new contacts and friends on every day basis. Portal development is progressing fast and is on track. We have zeroed in on the name for portal (and have it registered) and future Chief Research Officer for AUGTICS identified and informal offer made and! Market for the work that we are doing look promising and exciting based on research and meetings with potential customers and competition!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mapping the future !!

It's the biggest news in today's Times Of India - Mapping the future (click on the link to read the news)! It reads, by March-April, websites will be announced which will allow users to access all the 4,800 Survey of India maps where at the click of a mouse geographical and physical data can be superimposed!

This development might be the biggest catalyst in changing the face of Indian GIS industry.

Couple of years back I was at the meeting organized by CSDMS (GIS Development) between Mr Kapil Sibal, Minister of Science and Technology and Industry. The signs were very clear then that big change was about to come!

This event also highlights what Median can achieve - great work GIS Development folks! Keep it up guys!!

Now it's up-to the GIS professional and companies in India to capitalize on this development....

Manoj Misra

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Indian GIS data - bright future ahead !

On AUGTICS front, exciting time and smart & hard work continues. The real estate/community portal development is coming along nicely with the team doing exceptional job in not just coding but coming up with superb ideas. I continue to engage prospective clients, partners, investors and getting content and AUGTICS ready for website and portal launch!! I somehow stole some time to write this post...

Today morning, in my RSS Feedreader box, a specific news caught my attention: Mumbai Police Implement Intergraph Public Safety System . Years back, I had made a presentation to a group of over 20 high level police officials of an IT savvy southern Indian state and while they all were very excited about using GIS applications and saw enormous benefits in implementing it, non-availability of detailed mapping data became the show stopper. It appears that things are now changing..

Map World Forum was a good place to gauge the mood of the industry. Each and every person I met was extremely excited about how their companies are growing and about the future potential. That’s confirmed from the information from the publicly traded companies like Infotech and Rolta and quick ramp-up of a Hyderabad bases GIS start-up company Geospace Integra to close to 100 people mark within the first year of inception!! Most of this growth is driven by outsourcing, but there is a lot happing around in India, which, in future, is likely to change the Indian GIS scenario significantly! Let’s take a different view...

Recently I logged on to ORKUT to learn a bit about how community and networking portals work (I need some of that knowledge for AUGTICS). To my surprise I found several GIS related communities. Here are some interesting tit-bits that I found from ORKUT:

  • There are over 20 GIS communities on ORKUT and the biggest community has over 1300 members with more than 90% from India!
  • My search for people above 30 years of age in the GIS word retuned just 20 (and for above 35 only 4) people from the list of thousands!
  • There are ORKUT communities of companies like Infotech, RMSI, Rolta etc and that posts on them can give you some insight on the company cultures.
  • From the various posts. I quickly assimilated a list of over 60 companies working in GIS arena. List indicates that all the major SW companies (Infosys, Wipro, Satyam etc, apart from TCS) have their own GIS staff /divisions.
  • IBM India is working on AutoDesks Mapguide (?!)
  • Collage students are developing digital maps of India at Google Hyderabad office!
In the last few days these were the two news of that are worth taking note of (click on the links to read more)

From other sources, I also learned that:

  • Indian government is planning a massive GIS mapping budget that will far exceed the current SOI budget
  • Navteq is developing India street navigation data
  • Microsoft also has plans for India data development.
I also recently visited mapmyindia site and it's heartening to see increased data on this site.

So can we find a trend from this? Yes, at least one- there is focus on the Indian data development!!!

In the coming days, with government and industry initiative, we can expect a lot of data to come in public domain or be available from private sources at a reasonable cost. This will act as a fuel for growth of GIS applications in India. A growth where India focused applications impacting the masses will be developed, where applications will be developed to solve the Indian consumer problems. A growth that will only be limited by our imagination, innovations or availability of trained manpower!

It will not be a surprise if data availability acts as a catalyst for more and more international players to come and focus on Indian GIS market to sell their concepts and products! So, an exciting time lies ahead for the Indian GIS industry!!

Manoj Misra

1. Thanks you for posting comments as well as your direct emails and SMSs to me. Keep writing and sending your feedback. It's helpful and really appreciated.

2. Apart from the data development activities, there are significant developments happening on the Product Development, Remote Sensing and software application development in the Indian GIS market. Stay tuned to hear more!

3. Yogendran @ IIC has done a wonderful analysis of GIS industry in 2000. The report is at GIS Lounge and it still makes an interesting read!!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Start of a Different View - Indian GIS Industry

On 4th of January this year, I bid a formal farewell (that was preceded by several informal farewell parties) from RMSI. In August 1992, at the suggestion of my guide at IIT Delhi Prof Rema Devi, I met with Ajay Lavakare who was in the process of setting up RMSI in a small basement office at Pushp Vihar, South Delhi. That’s when I first heard about GIS! Ajay and GIS got me motivated enough to deviate from my focus on programming, fuzzy logic, modeling & simulation techniques for EIA (Environmental Impact Analysis) and join a GIS start-up!

The last one month has been really hectic and interesting where I have spent hours in preparation of setting up a new venture. Several tasks like government approvals, liaison with Chartered Accountant and legal experts, portal as well as website development, meeting with VCs, meetings with potential customers, partners and employees, networking with entrepreneurs and industry professionals, connecting with friends and associates for guidance & support in addition to firming up my business plan have really kept me engaged, engrossed and energized. AUGTICS formally got incorporated on February 2, 2007!

My hope was that I will remain away from GIS Industry related activities, for some time, but persuasiveness of Sanjay Kumar CEO, GIS Development got me to Map World Forum where I presented a technical paper titled “Metadata and data quality: Will it impact interoperability?” in the seminar on "Standards and Interoperability". It was a privilege to meet with fellow speakers of the session Michael Jones (CTO Google Earth), Dr Sailelesh Nayak (Director INCOIS, India), Murray Armstrong (CustomWeather Inc., USA), senior executives from Autodesk, ESRI, Oracle and chair of the session Mark Reichardt, President OGC.

I also met with several other GIS professionals at Map World Forum and what amazed me was the very high participation from international delegates – so Map World Forum was truly a global forum. I must mention about my meeting with Dr N C Gautam that left me extremely impressed with his energy and enthusiasm for GIS even years after his retirement from NRSA . His enthusiasm, in some ways, reflects volume about the opportunities in GIS industry in India!

Although I could make it to Map World Forum only one day, I filled myself up by following the exceptionally informative All Points Blog . The one article, titled” “GIS Technology: An International Market of Enormous Potential” by Joe Francica on directions magazine specially caught my attention. This provides a great perspective on what is happening and can happen in GIS industry in India. The world is taking note!!

Few days back I received an email from Tie Delhi describing the success story of fellow Tie Delhi chapter members. One of the stories was about the award grant to RouteGuru by Techtribe. (Press release at techtribe website reads --- “RoutGuru’s founding team leveraged the techTribe platform to collaborate with others in the GIS domain, receive mentorship from successful entrepreneurs in the mobile and GIS domain, and receive grant money of up to 1 million rupees to bring the concept to reality”). Clearly a lot is happing within Indian in and around GIS industry.

The beautiful “Best Paper Presentation Award” trophy that I got at Map World Forum, the elegant Diamond Star trophy (highest award instituted by RMSI and first one awarded to me on Jan 4) that adorn my office and eye opening learning from meetings at Map World Forum and press of the past one month keeps me reminding of my association with GIS industry and makes me think a bit more about geospatial industry in India…

I am initiating this BLOG to share with you, some of, my past 15 years of experience with Indian industry, reflect on the current market trends and attempt predicting the future of Indian geospatial Industry. So stay tuned to get - A Different View!!

Your feedback and comments are highly welcome, specially on what issues and subjects will interest you most!

Manoj Misra

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