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!!



Sushanta Kabi said...

It’s nice to have your wonderful analytical views on Indian Domestic GIS Market. Its very informative. We may have to wait few another years to see the real implementation of enterprise wide GIS system in India (in private sector arena).

We can smell the change (positive wave) in the domestic GIS market(you always bet for in your blog) with inclusion of big players in domestic projects.

Intelligent use of Base Map is a real issue always. Its the same in case of developed countries like US and UK too. Specifically coordination between government authorities and private players. I would like to share an interesting experience with you. Few Years back while working in a telecom plant conversion project for a north American city, we experienced that we have to capture the same base map (Base map capture is necessary before the telecom plant placement) what we have captured six months back for the same city government authority. I draw the attention of our executive president and gave me the very pleasing and wonderful reply.

His replies are:

- There is still lack of coordination between city GIS departments and Private Players. Most Private Players prefers to prepare their own base map due to recent update and high quality issue.

- This also provides ample business opportunity for the companies to convert the same base map again and again for different authorities.

It’s for sure; Google Inc will come first in providing India specific geo coder.

Map India 2010 theme "Defining Geospatial Vision for India" was very appealing this time. Hope chilling weather at NCR not chilled the event. Few enthusiastic players and individuals seems to be missed the event this time starting from Dr. Kapil Sibal..

Thank you.


Debadutta said...

Dear Sir,

Hope you must have had a good time at the GIS events at Gurgaon and must be doing well now. Every time I read your blog, I find new rays of hope for the future GIS in India and of course for me as a bright career is ahead !!

I am also quite optimistic about the Indian GIS future. BUT I believe the future of GIS in India is largely depends on the success of the current mega projects that are already being started or about to start !! Isn’t it ? What is your prediction over the success of these mega projects in India ? How long it will take ?

As you have mentioned and though the US market had seen growth in 1980s on account of parcel digitizing and in 1990s as AM/FM conversion projects, the evolution of GIS in US can be traced back to 1960s. So the amount of technical, social and institutional factors that shaped the development of GIS and the development paths that US GIS has gone through and how the GIS have developed and diffused down the years in US, is yet to be seen in India. It is true that most of the renowned GIS companies in India are more than a decade old and are experienced and seasoned enough in delivering very high end GIS solutions to the rest of the world, still the GIS in India is very young. Though we are witnessing the huge growth in Indian Geospatial Market in terms of R-APDRP and NLRMP projects, I have little doubt over the success of these projects and if the data can be truly utilized for a successful Enterprise GIS implementation ?

When I see (and you would believe), the specification and scope documents for any projects of Tele Atlas, Navteq or similar companies, I wonder the amount of research and effort they have put for a structured, organized and robust data model, before jumping in to the field. That is the secret of their data quality and success of the projects, which I have not seen in some of my NLRMP handled projects.. lot of contingent and flaws. No personal experience about R-APDRP but so far heard the same: “Hardly anything Structured”. That is the huge paradigm shift when representation of GIS comes in to picture between US and Indian Geospatial Market and that puts the Indian companies in a troubled situation.

In this scenario I hope, a lot of effort is required in generalizing the rules, specifications and scope both at Company (mainly it is Government now) and Consultant level for the success of these mega projects. Else it will be put on hold or terminated like many Govt. GIS projects before it reach to a formal closer or the outcome may be the much recent chaos that “Himalayan glaciers may disappear by 2035…” in which lot of GIS is involved !!!

These are my personal observation. How do you see these things ? It would be really helpful for us if you post a blog related to these issues. What should be the approach in dealing with such Indian projects, when the scope is always volatile in nature ? What is the SUCCESS Mantra for that ?

(Genesys International Corp)

saragrahi said...

Interesting conversation. Sorry to chime in so late.

The general feeling among GIS aware public in India is indeed the same as expressed here. At national level, or even at state or municipal levels, there is no framework for data capturing, storing and subsequent publishing/sharing with public (for base data or dynamic data). I understand the latter issue is more political than technical.

I believe (however naively) that starting to fix geo data issues, beginning at local levels (a bottom-up approach), could give us a handle to address this issue. Do you think that an effort to:

1. provide software tools to the government to bring together disparate geo data sources, and

2. provide services for data collection and maintenance, starting at municipal level

will give us the much needed handle to start addressing data issue in Indian organizations?


GIS Application Development said...

Its pleasure to see your reviews about the GIS Companies in India. Thanks for sharing these ideas with us.
Some of the problems facing by GIS company are competitive price, increased staff salaries, unavailability of skilled personnel, incapability to keep existing personnel, Increasing client’s demands, and dull earnings etc. All the above reasons make the companies to think about outsourcing.
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sai bpo services said...

I am also quite optimistic about the Indian GIS future.It is true that most of the renowned GIS companies in India are more than a decade old and are experienced and seasoned enough in delivering very high end GIS solutions to the rest of the world.Thanks for sharing such an advisable post with me.
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