Careers at Indian GIS Industry A Disarrayed Saga

Careers at Indian GIS Industry A Disarrayed Saga


Saurabh Mishra
[email protected]
Name Rajesh Nair; qualifications – Bachelor of Science (Geology), Master of Science (Geoinformatics); first job – GIS Engineer (with a not well-known GIS firm); worked for a year and then switches over..he is now insurance adviser with ICICI Prudential.

Bhanu, a B.Sc. graduate (no specialisation), is working as Business Development executive with one of the India’s leading GIS companies. His qualification in Geoinformatics discipline – a six months Diploma course from a privately run institute. His salary – Better than most with GIS qualifications.

The cases are umpteen, of the stark variations in trends the way Indian “Geospatial industry” offers jobs and engages workforce in itself. So much diverse is the industry in terms of operations, jobs, verticals, skills required, hierarchical growth within the organisation, salary structure, education, etc. that its fails to give smooth and chronicled outlook. ‘What constitutes the Indian Geospatial Industry’ is itself a challenging question to answer. A look at country’s one of the top job sites, on putting ‘GIS’ as keyword, lists down multiple jobs with multiple qualifications (Table 1). Other job titles that were posted were – Opens Source GIS Web Application Developer, Sales and Marketing Manager – GIS, Software Developer – GIS/CAD, Business Manager – CAD Solutions & GIS, Mid-level Design Engineers. It is interesting to note that none of the job-postings were from any of the leading companies that constitute ‘Indian Geospatial industry’. (A survey conducted by GIS Development, suggests ESRI, Rolta, Infotech, RMSI as few of the leading concerns of the sector. Please refer the survey results published in this issue). Despite positive speculations about the growth of the industry, (that generally accompany the figures on application areas growth), and despite GIS coming as one of the avenues of career for graduates of multiple streams (in a nation with unemployment as a persistent suffering), there are junctures at which stakeholders of the discipline stop and think where the industry is moving to, and at more personal level, what is in stock as far as career is concerned. INDUSTRY’S GROWTH The Indian Geospatial industry saw its inception around two decades ago. A broad chronology of the movement of Geospatial sciences in India may be visualised in four phases. At all phases the movement remained linked to developments in academia as well as industry – anyone following the other. The first is, introduction and application of GIS in few researches in multiple academic disciplines/professional courses as Forestry (green cover estimation), Geology (mineral maps), Agriculture (crop disease estimation), Civil Engineering, etc. It became more and more the part of analysis processes. This later on led to addition of GIS modules/ courses to these. It also became a part of curriculum of traditional Geography courses.

The second stage is the utilisation of GIS techniques in various projects on disaster management, urban planning, etc. of which digital spatial database development was a part. It was at this stage that GIS came to be recognized as ‘decision support system (DSS)’. This phase led to the development of courses in Geoinformatics, and even in vertical of Remote Sensing, by traditional universities. Introduction of M.Sc. and PG Diploma in Geoinformatics in Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) in late 1990s may be the example of this development.

The third stage, roughly six years old, is the one when Indian ITES/BPO industry came up on strong footing. This was together with the growth of country’s IT industry. The data conversion jobs were outsourced leading to the budding of various GIS companies. The implication was – mushrooming of training institutes running short-term courses on GIS/RS software. “Having been in the IT training business for a decade it was natural to include GIS also as an offering” says D.Ragavan of Chennai-based Indian Geoinformatics Centre, a privately run institute, when asked about the driving force behind the inception of course on GIS. The fourth phase, the contemporary phase, as we may call it, is the one when companies entered in the business of customisation and development. Companies that fall into IT/ITES domain sensed opportunities in the sector. Mainstream IT companies opened GIS divisions and took up jobs of customisation and application/solutions development. The implication on the education part is seen in the development of courses specifically designed for these contemporary areas of function, i.e. courses that include training in programming skills.

It is all the phases that one finds together when one tries to have an overview of the GIS scenario in India. “Start of GIS in India was a kind of emergency response; lot of jobs came in, companies took up jobs of data conversion, anybody with few IT skills entered into the job; those who were truly targeting to be into this field were very few; so no systematic development of education in the discipline took place. It was all a haphazard traffic – nobody knew where to go and how to go.” says Dr. Shahnawaz of Salzburg University, Austria. The same reason may be cited for the various terms that float to name the discipline itself – Geoinformatics, GeoInformation Technology (GIT), Geomatics, Spatial Science, Digital Cartography, etc.

Call it wise or unwise, one tends to compare the growth of Geospatial industry with other similar sectors – mainstream IT being the prime. (Similarity in terms of their initiation at the same time). Whereas IT has grown with a compounded growth of more than 50% between 1992 and 2001 (Fig 1), there are no concrete figures available for GIS industry.

Biotechnology in India has grown manifolds in the last decade – touched a US$ 2 billion in 2007 from insignificance and growing at 37% per annum. Biotechnology sector is projected to grow further – targeted to touch a US$ 5 billion by year 2010. ( It is also interesting to note the case of telecom industry. Telecom network in India has grown to be the fifth largest network in the world and the industry is estimated to contribute nearly 1% to India’s GDP. Major industry-boosting development was the National Telecom Policy of 1994, which is one of the most enlightened regulations framed for the sector in the region, and arguably in the world. As opposite, the GIS industry’s growth looks mired. Ambitions have met failures. There have been cases where firms were forced to closed down their operations or have diversified. Companies have not been able to move up the valuechain; market does not offer much jobs. New companies open but close down after a period. Restrictions, unfriendly policies with regard to map data generation and dissemination have been hurdles to innovations.

Sl.No. Job title Job description Desired qualification Advertiser’s Profile
1. GIS Executive a. Map conversion using GIS software, like AutoMap, ArcGIS, MapInfo, etc.
b. Quality check c. Training new users on Map conversion technologies
d. Team Management
a. Graduate / PG with 1+yrs prior exp in Map conversion using software like ArcGIS, AutoMap, MapInfo
b. Candidates with education background in GIS/Geography related subjects
A “global IT firm” offering services as GIS technology solutions along with advanced plant technology and media solutions
2. GIS Analysts, Programmers a. Master’s degree in GeoInformatics/Remote Sensing/Spatial Information Science/ Geography/ Hydrology/Geology
b. Bachelor’s degree in GeoInformatics / Civil / Electrical / Electronics Engineering
Specializes in custom application projects
3. Assistant Manager/Manager- GIS a. Process Management-Developing and documenting GIS processes for GIS operations;
b. Customer-Generation and circulation of standard reports for different departments
c. Financial-Preparation and vetting of revenue based reports
d. People & Org Development-Training on GIS to Business, technical and finance team at circle.
UG – Any Graduate – Any Specialization
PG – M.Tech – Any Specialization
Private telecom services provider
4. GIS Technician GIS based Parcel and Flood mapping using ESRI ArcGIS9.1/9.2 and AutoCAD Map 2008. 2. Must be experienced on parcel mapping using either ArcGIS or AutoCAD. 3. Raster and Vector data concepts 4.Georeferencing, Digitization (Manual and Semiautomatic), topology creation, Image mosaic and edge matching using ESRI ArcGIS Environment. Tech- Skills: GIS SoftSkills: GIS a. 1.5 – 4 yrs of Exp. GIS based Parcel and Flood mapping using ESRI ArcGIS9.1/9.2 and Auto- CAD Map 2008.
b. Must be experienced on parcel mapping using either ArcGIS or AutoCAD
c. Must be aware and good understanding on all projection system
d. Raster and Vector data concepts
e. Georeferencing, Digitization (Manual and Semiautomatic), topology creation, Image mosaic and edge matching using ESRI ArcGIS Environment. TechSkills: GIS SoftSkills
Offshore transaction services, technology services and analytics
5. Project Lead – GIS a. Responsible for maintenance of existing clients; monitor project progress; prepare presentations and technical papers.
b. Must have experience in creation of proposals and technical presentations.
c. Must have experience project estimation and planning.
d. Candidate must be from GIS industry.
Diploma or BE in any discipline with 6 to 12 years of relevant experience in GIS industry.. GIS Software Solutions Company
6. IT Coordinator Minimum 55% marks MCA/ BE Computer/ IT. Minimum 3 Years Experience in data management, net working, web maintenance and GIS. State government agency for rural development
7. Photogrammetry Engineer a. Creation and maintenance of the geographical database by digitising the source material as mentioned in the respective project requirement documents.
b. Quality Checks on data produced on digitization.
c. Rework for the deviations found during the Quality check.
d. Keep MIS updated for efforts as well as outputs.
a. B.Tech/ M.Tech/M.Sc in Civil, Geology, Remote Sensing
b. 3-6 years. Hands on experience on Planimetry and DTM capturing
c. The candidate should be Quality Oriented, Flexible, Willing to work in shifts
An IT company
Table 1 Mutiple jobs, mutiple qualifications