‘Adoption of GIS by corporate companies can significantly grow the geospatial industry’

‘Adoption of GIS by corporate companies can significantly grow the geospatial industry’

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Amit Somani
Jt. Managing Director
ADCC Infocad

Towards the end of 1990s, with globalisation at its peak and GIS gaining momentum in government processes, ADCC Infocad made its foray into the geospatial industry. Amit Somani tells us about the transformation of an education company into a geospatial company, how it addressed the issue of employable talent, the similarities between the Indian and African markets and capitalising on the Indian learning curve in Africa, key focus areas, and how the geospatial industry can leap forward

Meghe Group Conglomerate, which is ADCC Infocad’s parent company, is a prominent player in the education domain. Can you tell us about the journey of an education company into a geospatial company?

Meghe Group has had a presence in the education domain since last 30 years. It offers courses at undergraduate and post graduate level, in engineering and medical disciplines. The Group also has a deemed medical university. Apart from higher education, the group also manages about 23 schools across Maharashtra state. With education as the main foray of its parent group, ADCC started its training division – ADCC R&C (Research & Consultancy) in 1997. At that time, computerisation was getting under way in Maharashtra government. The main objective of ADCC R&C was to train the government employees in software like MS Office, MS Word and Excel. ADCC trained almost 40,000 government employees through its 80 centers across the state.

ADCC R&C also had a division called CAD Division. In 1998, this division was formulated into a separate company which is now known as ADCC Infocad Private Limited. Around this time, GIS was gaining momentum in becoming part of a lot of government processes, and globalization was on peak. Being in proximity to Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC), which is also located in Nagpur, we started bidding for GIS projects. We gradually migrated into bidding for projects in the private domain. One of our leading orders was from Reliance Infocom which was the first company to utilise GIS in mobile telephony, in the year 2000.

During this time, we have created lot of urban data, covering almost 200 cities all over India. Post the Reliance order, ADCC took off in a much bigger way. From 1999- 2003, we were working closely with Reliance and 70- 80 percent of our revenues used to come from Reliance. From 2003 – 2006, we started getting more active on the government side and started bidding for government projects coming from adjoining states like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and of course Maharashtra. Data creation was going on in these states for mapping village parcels. Tenders started coming out for these activities and we started bidding for those tenders based on the credentials we had built with MRSAC. We bagged some of the Land Records projects and some projects in natural disaster management.

One of your significant initiatives is the ADCC Academy. How did that come about and what is its objective?

The year 2006 was a turning point with change in our management. Till that time, 80% stakes were controlled by the Meghe Group and 20% by managing partners. In 2006, our chairman Sagar Meghe took over the entire shareholding of the 20% also. This was the time, when there were only 37 employees and a turnover of 300k US$. During this time, we made some strategic changes on marketing and business development front & implemented go-to market strategies and a lot of variable schemes within our organisation for the core management so that they could feel they are a part of the organization. That scaled up year on year and in 2013, we had a turnover of about 20 million US$ and an employee strength of about 1,200+ of which 600 are project based and other 600 are on a regular basis. The escalation in the number of employees also posed the issue of requisite skill set. There was no dearth of talent, but employable talent was an issue. To address such issues, the ADCC Academy came into picture in 2008. We recruited people who came out of colleges and trained them at our Academy to meet requirements of the projects that ADCC was involved in. We designed specific courses at the Academy in GIS and remote sensing, as well as for imparting skills in software like Autodesk and Erdas. Such courses enhanced the skillsets of the new students and we absorbed them on our services side. Eventually, the Academy branched out to being not only restricted to in-house training but becoming a brand in itself in the industry for geospatial training. It is now a profit centre for the company and also partners with Dale Carnegie Training Institute DCTI for soft skill & CRT programmes & expanded its horizon to become channel partners to Varsity for Medical & Engineering Entrance Test.

In addition to India, Africa is the other major market for ADCC Infocad. How did the company venture into the Africa market and what are your activities there?

Our chairman always envisioned getting into exports. In 2006- 2007, we created a unit in Dubai. The main activities of this unit were building (BIM) solutions, 3D modelling, designing and drafting services. There were 60- 65 architects who were deputed from India to Dubai. But with the slowdown in 2009, we had to close down that office. Then, in year 2011, we again started on the export front.

We started exploring the international market through market research and conferences. We finally closed in on Africa, because there were some key activities taking place in Africa, like village boundary mapping. This was the activities where we had a learning curve in India and we saw an opportunity to capitalize on that learning curve in Africa. We set up an office in Nairobi, Kenya. We are working closely with Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), the leading organization for provision of geo-information services in Africa. RCMRD has 19 countries as its member and partnerships with a number of organisations. While RCMRD has tie-ups with some European companies, they had no tie-ups with any Indian company and European companies have a cost element attached to them. We shared with them how our learning curve in India would help them to achieve their goals in member countries and organisations. In 2012, we signed a deal with RCMRD.

We were invited to their governing council in Zambia and were introduced as formal technical solution provider partner for geospatial within RCMRD.

RCMRD itself was facing manpower scarcity. They were successful in getting projects from member countries, but were finding it difficult to execute them because of manpower issues. Through this partnership, we decided to bid for the projects jointly and take care of the technical execution. We started seeing the results of this partnership in 2013 itself, as we were awarded a tender in Namibia along with them. We have already received a contract worth 200k US$ from Kenya Power.

Of course, it was a difficult process for RCMRD too to accommodate since no private organisation was attached to RCMRD. We are now starting with the execution of projects in Namibia. We plan the same offerings that we have in India – services which are typically GIS, product solutions, and training. In India, we are in discussions with a number of universities, including Mumbai University, Pune University and Chhattisgarh University, trying to convince them about the importance of CAD, drafting (especially e-drafting), since table drafting and board drafting are already there. We are trying to replicate the same model in Africa, with the universities there. Through such skillsets, the students can become easily employable and the problem of employable talent will also minimize in Africa as well. We have started some courses, with our own curriculum, and we will impart training to them in Africa itself.

What are the kinds of similarities you find between the two markets?

Our growth areas are the same for India and Africa. Both the countries have the similar government structure and the similar basic methodology. Both have colonial heritage, World Bank procedures are part of all developing nations, and we also work under them.

Power and water are the key sectors for the company. Kindly tell us about your activities and offerings in these two sectors?

Most of our revenue does come from these two sectors. We have created some niche offerings like managed data services. All utilities have created GIS data but nobody tries to maintain and update it on a regular basis. Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (MSEDCL) gave us a pilot project for a year for these services wherein almost 256 GIS surveyors and executives were posted at 128 towns in Maharashtra. They updated data on a regular basis and the results were astonishing. We have got an extension for the next one year. Now Chhattisgarh is also availing the managed data services model. These are the only two states in India utilising the managed data services & reaping the benefits.

We are doing a number of projects in our second key domain, water. One of our leading projects is on water contamination mapping, especially in high mining states where there is a high level of contamination of fluoride, iron, etc. We create a decision support system for the government, wherein they can have, a Bird’s eye view of contamination in various geographical area. The biggest such project has been done in Madhya Pradesh with 100,000 sources and with the cost of almost 2.2 million US$. We completed it and handed it over the entire data to MP PHED and NIC. Following the implementation of this project, we bagged tenders from Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh (UP). In UP, we are working on 23, 00,000 sources, distributed among six zones, with the project cost estimated at 16 million US$ and expected to be executed over 3 years. The zone-wise allocation has started.

Our other major involvement is in the water management project, named Sujal Nirmal Abhiyan which is initiated by the government of Maharashtra. This project aims to reduce NRW – non-revenue water. When we talk of NRW, there are a lot of leakages, right from the source to the destination some at the destination itself & some are pilferages which are there but not recorded (that is, illegal connections). As the government of Maharashtra completes its 50 years, they have got a specific mandate from government of India to create its entire data on GIS. We are creating GIS data of around 70 councils within the states (the project is being implemented at the council level), and then we are adding data to it in terms of consumer indexing, hydraulic modeling for that software, and supply of software which is a part of that project. We are also creating billing software solutions for them, which is a mix of services – GIS, consumer indexing and hydraulic modeling. Then there is a product solution which is supply of software – training them and handholding. The third component is software development which includes customised billing solutions to the respective councils for the water connections for the water billing.

We are now working towards replicating this project in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Things have started rolling in these states on the revamping of the water distribution system, collecting / collating the census data and estimating the future requirements of that area. Based on that, we created an entire Detailed Project report (DPR), which is given to the council, which considers the next 15 years’ of planning for them, including what Elevated Storage reservoirs (ESR) they have to create, in which year the source has to be created, what is going to be the probability of water, what is going to be the requirement, and such factors. And in this process, we are also installing flow meters which in turn helps to reduce leakages and thereby NRWs.

We are also taking these electricity and water projects to Kenya and Rwanda. The projects there are similar to India in basic structure and methodology. We will be starting with data creation in Africa in these projects. When we talk about GIS per-se, it starts with consumer indexing and goes to the stage of creating Interface between data & usage of that data Integrity to solve problems & key Governance Issues. On the water side it is in Non Revenue Water (NRW), on electricity side it is pilferages and losses. So in both cases – water as well as electricity, the logic we use is the same reduction of NRW & Illegal connection which is benefit to utility. On this logic we are creating success stories in Africa too.

In India, land is also an important sector for us, with the NLRMP (National Land Records Modernisation Project) coming in and with its emphasis on adopting modern technology. We are bringing in a lot of technology advancements from our side. We have tied up with Digital Globe for facilitating high resolution satellite imageries, so now we are acting as satellite image provider as well.

In your view, how can the geospatial industry in India grow?

First of all, GIS itself is a very segmented industry in India, and GIS is still a luxury. There are not many private companies adopting GIS in India, whereas companies in places like Europe are adopting GIS in their day to day lives – walking, driving, everything. Though in India it is coming up, navigation is the only area which is getting adopted. Adoption of GIS by private companies can be a main area of growth. Also, there are lots of government projects took-off about a decade earlier and are now getting updations, for example NLRMP. That should be a good figure up for the entire industry.