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!


bachi said...

dear manoj.

i do partially agree that Indian GIS industry to a majority is focussing data conversion due to cheap and quality labour that we have (trust better in quality than CHINA)

High end Gis Models are also being carried out done in the indian market. With new software players also focussing on GIS, I am very optimistic that India is and will definitely be a happening place in the near future.


Janmejay Rathore said...

Dear Mr. Misra,

I have heard about you from my friends and ex-collegues who work for RMSI. Your blog is part of my selected blogs I read regularly.

It is good to learn from the experience of an industry veteran.
Here's wishing you all the best for your new venture!

With regards,
- --

Anonymous said...

Dear Manoj,

Its really nice to learn from the experience of an industry legend.

Wish you all the best

Anil Kumar Gavva,
Pradeep Kumar B,

Nipuna- A Satyam Company

Anonymous said...

Hi Manoj,

Nice to see the response to your blog... Good work.

Few thoughts/queries:

* I will always prefer/be taking the country wise info seriously when using geocoding from IPs, cause this only will be a true picture(atleast for sometime in future).

* I will like to point out the man-man ratio of a developed country to ours for the same work!! This in 90% of time has contributed to lessen the quality than increase , according to me.

* True, A Post-graduate in GIS/RS can get the sort of job you are referring to in your post, not a BE/any other UG for the matter, and an career in IT with a year/two exp. during that time, will very easily land you in the same package.

* Again, GIS digitisation/Data Conversion is a good start for GIS, but what next? is the big question.. True *few* can land in good jobs as GIS DBA or something like that after a time... What for the multitude who set their career in there(GIS data Conversion) needs to be answered... This is where IT scores over according to me.


Manoj Misra said...

Carl: Thanks for your comments! Great points.

In in next few post, I would write about the impact of technological developments on IT and several other fields on GIS and vice versa. And then we will debate how we can truly distinguish several professionals involved in diverse activities.

One crude analogy that I can draw for digitization task in GIS to IT field is "Data Entry" and people starting at entry level in both fields will face similar challenges, to migrate to mainstream IT (if they feel that's a better career option)!!!

Stay tuned!


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