Interview: K K Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Rolta India Ltd

Interview: K K Singh, Chairman and Managing Director, Rolta India Ltd

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K K Singh
Chairman and Managing Director, Rolta India Ltd.

The man who realized the importance of modern technological tools, sensed the advent of knowledge economy and felt the need of a ‘white collar industry’ in late 70s, now heads Rolta – one of the leading five companies in the Geospatial industry around the world. K K Singh shares his views and visions with GIS Development

How has Rolta grown since its inception in the early ‘80s ?
We started this company in 1982. The idea was to set up an IT company. We also wanted to a create a nucleus and a business model. That time there was a need for data processing jobs and it was a kind of primitive service. After that we started providing more extensive services like complete turnkey inter-branch sheet consolidation. Bank of Baroda, Central Bank of India, and Union Bank of India were some of our clients. We then entered into development of software, inventory and payroll management, financial accounting, and providing enterprise solutions. TCS was the main competitor to us in this business. It was in 1984- 85 that we started sending people for overseas services; it was a kind of “bodyshopping” where we engaged people in multiple tasks. By 1985 we wanted to be clear as to what do we want to continue as. We also thought of started training and PC making, but finally decided to enter in CAD/CAM/GIS market. We found that there was ample scope for these technologies. It was realized that we should carry our business in partnership with a leading technological firm and so we partnered with Intergraph in 1986.

The first breakthrough came when we supplied very large and comprehensive latest digital mapping systems and solutions to Survey of India in 1986. This was followed by other major surveying and mapping organizations, as Forest Survey of India, National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), becoming our customer. We then entered into providing Plant Design solutions and for this also partnered with Intergraph. By 1990 we realized that we need to manufacture platforms and hardware workstations and also enter into software development. The next development was to enter into second line of customers other than large organizations.

In 1993 – 94 we did away with “bodyshopping” and planned to go for turnkey projects solution. Offices in US, Europe and Middle East were opened. In the process, we did bag $50 million mapping projects for Saudi telecom, Hong Kong telecom and many others worldwide, including the electrical companies. By 1999 – 2000 we had dominant market share in GIS/CAD/ CAM and Plant Engineering.

We also took license for Internet services. The idea was not just to be an Internet service provider but to create a technology fountain around which we could develop our competence for e-enabling all our GIS/CAM/CAD solutions and specialise into security related technology by working into a live environment and in the process enabling technology to be absorbed into the company. We did that in 2000.

Today, we are into photogrammetry, providing end-to-end solutions. We have 70% market of GIS/photogrammetry and around 85% of plant engineering. All major companies are our customers. In Internet sector, we provide e-securuty services in partnership with CAV and have customers worldwide. Recently, we have partnered with Stone & Webster – a leading EPC company. We are into joint venture with the company under many international projects. We have Reliance and ESSAR as our big customers. So, to summarize, Rolta has grown systematically through these years, taking one step at a time.

What are your views on the recently released Map Policy and how will it help Rolta?
This is a great development and it will definitely help the industry. I am glad that a new policy has been laid out. We can expect a lot of difference from the past situation; a lot many products can now be available to the customers. I should say that this is a right step in right direction. We are well geared to tap this opportunity and plan to produce value-added services for sectors like dispatch delivery, photogrammetry, emergency services, municipalities, etc.

It is understood that “maximising” has been a core philosophy in Rolta throughout its operations. Please elaborate. The main focus of the company is that it will play pioneering role in the field it decides to operate in. Be it CAD/CAM/GIS or Internet. We are guided by our vision statement and make all efforts in ensuring utmost customers satisfaction that leads to maximum benefits reaped by our shareholders.

What is your vision for Rolta in the next five years and how do you plan to realize it?
There are areas that we have identified. For example, geo-engineering which encompasses geospatial science and engineering. We are taking the technology round the world and now we are one among the top five geospatial companies of the world. For example, recently complete city of Dubai has been mapped by us through aerial photogrammetry techniques, and it is appreciated all around. We are focusing on the businesses through which we will be able to touch upon general people. I would like to mention that a policy in this regard makes a lot of difference. Much of the development that we see worldwide, GIS is apparent but it is there. Our country has been recently recognized as peaceful nuclear energy country. All embargoes have gone. We plan to go full swing with Stone and Webster in the nuclear power plant design and construction and similarly for oil and refinery plant design. There were no joint ventures earlier in the plant construction design. In CAD/CAM/GIS we will be able to go forward domestically and worldwide. Also, after 9/11 we are expecting good growth in the e-security business.

How would you like to profile the Middle East region in terms of market maturity?
Middle East region is a vibrant market. Rolta has been working for 10 yrs in the region. It entered in 1995 and the single largest order that we bagged at that time by Saudi Telecom. We have worked with Dubai municipality and have made inroads in AM /FM and photogrammetry markets.

Where does India stand ?
The difference lies mainly in the policy that are existing in a particular country. India’s sound policies can be seen when one talks about the mobile telephony. We are on par with any other country in this field. As far as GIS is concerned, if policies are in place latest technology too can be developed for further development and welfare of common man. I do not consider India developing, we are 4th in terms of Purchasing Power Parity. The government has done the job of enabling the technology developers to carry on with this kind of people-oriented research. Nothing more is required from the government. These policy issues offer great challenges.

How would you comment on the trends in the sector of photogrammetry and aerial photography in Asia in particular and the world in general?
With more and more satellites being launched the trend is now satellite based digital photogrammetry. Satellite imageries have now replaced the conventional aerial photography. How to make maximum of these imageries is the question, and our partners and us are working that out.

Rolta has a special programme for educational institutes and academia with regard to software pricing. Has this programme yielded returns for Rolta ?
If technology is appreciated by students and learned by them it becomes more relevant and satisfying for us. We feel happy that innovative young minds are working on the technology and this may lead to future innovations in the field. There is also a commercial angle to this. One can distinguish the quality of our products, and will be very encouraged to use our technologies when they get into professional careers.