Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What Ails Enterprise GIS in India

Folks: Sorry for staying out of scene. Don't get time to do so...

However, I have been regularly channelizing my thought on Indian GIS market through GeoSpatial Today (

One of my earlier post , i converted into an article.

To check the magazine version - check the following link: Check page 32-33


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why is Enterprise GIS implementation penetration low in India?

Back in action after few months!!! Reason, I will be visiting GIS India show tomorrow to get reconnected with GIS community and I realized that the blog is not updated.!

Sometime back, someone asked to to give my views on Indian GIS market. I decided to analyze the reasons for low implementation of enterprise wide GIS systems in India - specially private sector.

Indian Geospatial Market is on the verge of a humongous growth. We are witnessing huge growth spurts; companies are bagging projects that are valued more than the total annual revenue of company. In the early 1990s, most Indian GIS companies relied on outsourced business from overseas market with US accounting for bulk of business followed by UK/Europe. Indian business used to account for less that 10 per cent of the overall business of large companies. However, trends are changing and so is the equation as business from the Indian market is increasing and what is noticeable is a fine geographic mix of business. It is a welcome change, albeit a bit slow.

GIS, in India, is coming of age. Gone are the days when it used to be a fashion statement and people would harp on how governments use GIS. Now the momentum has is picking up and all the rhetoric is transforming into reality This is largely attained due to government focus on use of GIS and large initiatives like R-APDRP and NLRMP but this is just the start. US GIS market had seen growth in 1980s on account of parcel digitizing (sort of subset of our NLRMP) and in 1990s on account of large AM/FM conversion projects. For India, both growth shots are administered at the same time. Landscape of competing companies is also changing very quickly with companies like HCL, Infosys and Wipro showing interest in Indian GIS projects. TCS and Satyam were trying to use GIS from the early years, while TCS is getting more and more active, Mahnidra Satyam still needs to find its feet in Indian market. In addition to that huge number of small companies has also mushroomed.

In true sense, both NRLRM and R-APRDRP projects will give effective results only when an effective enterprise GIS system is deployed by the states. In the private sectors utility companies (Telecom, Power, and Gas) are early adopter of GIS and lot of them will keep on enhancing their enterprise GIS systems. So the industry will witness state of art GIS based enterprise systems in coming years. However, sadly, rest of the private sector is significantly lagging behind in enterprise GIS implementation.

One can argue that implementation of enterprise GIS systems is lagging in India because of economic slowdown around the world. But, this is the time to implement enterprise GIS systems as GIS will help in increasing operational efficiencies. GIS solutions can help organizations overcome their operational challenges and deliver improved profitability. Banks, retailers, realtors, insurers, asset managers, and others seek to understand markets better before embracing GIS for micro and targeting marketing, optimizing business openings and closings, segmenting consumer data, and managing fleets. GIS can visualize, manage, and analyze any business asset (employees, customers, and facilities, all the way to the supply chain network) because it has a place in the world. Over 75 per cent of business data has an address component. Sadly though, the “eco-system” for enterprise system deployment in India is not highly conducive and even though there is lot of ideas on table, implementation is not as cost effective and hence has not gathered momentum.

Reasons for less adoption
There are several reasons for less adoption and implementation of enterprise wide GIS systems in private sector in India, the top two are:
a) Low cost, high quality standard GIS base map
b) India specific Geocoding engine

a) Low cost, high quality standard GIS base map
You need a base map for your GIS enterprise implementation. A base map on top with which company business specific layer or information or assets can be mapped. Sadly though, blame it to less adoption by market or low investment by Indian GIS companies or on Indian government mapping policy, there is no standard national base map that can be used by enterprises and application developers.

Even in R-APDRP projects, base map will be generated by the states from scratch. This is shear wastage of efforts and resources. There was and still is window of opportunity for companies TeleAtlas and Navteq to push their high quality maps as base maps (as derivative product) but with respective acquisitions by TomTom and Nokia, these companies seems to be going slow on government and private sector data sales.
Indian companies like Computer Eyes (MapMayIndia), SatNav, ML Info etc are still trying to crack this market with varied level of success. Google is also creating its own Google Maps but adoption of the data is so far low at enterprise level. Advocacy to use Hybrid map (satellite data merged with limited vector data like prominent landmarks) has still not lost momentum but the fact remains that if there was a single base layer available for organisations that is high quality and low cost, application development for enterprises will gain momentum.
In the present scenario, few of companies get their own base map developed and then over time, the GIS implementation is sub-optimal as the base maps get outdated. Large Telcos in India are using their GIS systems sub-optimally simply because of the base map issue. Or are ending up spending money (like Reliance) to keep them updated.

b) India specific geocoding engine

In UK, using Postcode Address File (PAF) of Royal Mail you can do a building level Geocoding– a feature that is used by numerous organizations for visualization of addresses in GIS. In US, there are numerous commercial geocoders available that provide a street level geocode of any address. For select Metro area, parcel level geocoders are also available. In India, at best you can get locality level match. So if you have to do accurate mapping of your individual consumer database on GIS, that has to be done manually, a huge cost and time deterrent for any enterprise GIS implementation that wants to deal with geographic visualization of the address database.

Not many GIS/product companies have tried to develop an India specific geocoder. Large part of the reason is non standard addressing in India but to some extent it has to do with the fact that we do not have a government data-source as a start point unlike US and UK. While there is a huge initiative taken up by department of post to modernize,, develop a geo-tagged address database this will be a huge effort. One hopes that UID project will map each address and potentially geocoded address database could be developed from the UID database (as a by product, provided each UID is tagged geographically to an address).

There are reports that Google is working on an India specific geo-coder. If the geocoder is available for rest of the industry for developing applications, it will give a huge fillip to the Indian enterprise GIS application development. Tele Atlas and Navteq also has incentive to develop geo-coder (database). Not sure if that's going to happen, given Google moves has put TA and Navteq on back foot!!

In addition to the above two key reason, lack of availability of high quality demographic data in GIS format will probably be third key hindrance in development of enterprise GIS. Essentially you need to free the enterprises for the core issues and challenges of basic GIS data layers for them to focus on their business need and leverage GIS for enterprise efficiency enhancement.
Five years down the line (by 2015) hope is that substantial data (from government departments) may be available for enterprise GIS developers and business to exploit it and develop enterprise GIS applications. So while Indian GIS companies are busy executing R-APDRPs or NLRMPs or other government programs and missions, there is an opportunity for someone to address these basis issues and exploit the so far relatively untapped enterprise GIS systems market in India. Regardless, the Indian GIS future appears extremely bright!!

I look forward to meet with many of you over the GIS India event!! See you at Gurgaon - place that I have got to know really well in last 3 years - as one that has given highest real estate returns in the entire NCR market in last decade!!


Visit Me Again!!!

All Points Blog