‘We are 18, have 1 face’

‘We are 18, have 1 face’

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Tell us about GEOkomm Net- works.
Years ago, there was a lobby organisation in Germany called Geokomm. We used to lobby for geospatial companies. Dr Peter A Hecker
Dr Peter A Hecker
Managing Director,
GEOkomm Networks

Tell us about GEOkomm Net- works.
Years ago, there was a lobby organisation in Germany called Geokomm. We used to lobby for geospatial companies. Then we thought we should do more focussed things for the companies. We analysed the situation, saw that there are lot of highly innovative companies and we wanted to get them together. German government sponsored a study to identify the potential. Based on the study, government was ready to fund a network of companies. So, we got 18 companies and four reputed research organisations under one roof.

For example, we have the National Research Institute, an old and reputed institute in Germany. They build satellites, monitor earthquakes, measure earth’s gravitation field etc. Our companies are the first beneficiaries to use this data and develop algorithms for analysing this data. Another institute is the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI). They are working on informatics in general but geo-visualisation in particular. They are strong in 3D modelling and 3D visualisation. Another one is the Centre for Agriculture and Landscape Research. They work on the human impact on environment. They use lot of GIS and remote sensing imaging technologies.

We use the capacity of these research organisations/ universities to create products, services and product chains which are helpful in the business. Usually, companies like those in our network do not have enough resources to conduct research to develop a product. Our strong cooperation with universities complements the situation. These joint research projects are government funded. Universities get money and companies also get money because they bring in their manpower and technologies.

This network has a focussed philosophy. We act like one company. We have one face to the customer but not 18. The local markets are well developed. We didn’t want to use public funding to cannibalise the local market and get stronger. So, we started exploring the markets abroad. That was how we started four years ago.

Whose brain child was this? How is this concept of network of com- panies working out?
The background was the analysis of the situation in the region. We discussed with the government about the growth of small and medium enterprises. We found that creation of such a network and the situation of cooperative environment is a sensitive issue. We have to create a high degree of confidence for cooperation. When we talk together, they have to know that even if I know something about their company, it doesn’t leave the room. This is very important. We have a few companies that still don’t open. Others are more open, more active, share more and have better opportunities.

Majority of companies in this network are tiny ones with about 3- 15 employees. Their disadvantage is that they do not have marketing persons in their companies. They work and are happy if they can cover their costs at the end of the day. The concept of network has the development of such companies as a motive.

The capital region of Germany has world’s best research environment in geoinformatics. We are trying to build contacts between the companies and the institutes. We organise meetings where they can exchange ideas, share knowledge and common project proposals. Lot of public money is going into research. It would be prudent if we can commercialise this research or do research based on the clients’ needs and make money out of that. This is the basic concept.

What kind of products and servic- es does GEOkomm offer?
Most of our companies do not have a product. They have services. It is extremely expensive to elaborate a product. We do have some software products though. The whole workflow can be a product too. We are still in the tailor- made production situation instead of mass production. We are covering remote sensing, geotainment – an interface between geo-information and entertainment like gaming, education, landscape modelling. There are a number of potential markets for this.

What are the potential geographies you are looking at?
We are not very big. We do not have funds to expand at a time. We are going step by step. We started in Germany, we went to Sweden and Bulgaria. Middle East is an interesting market for us, especially Saudi Arabia, Oman and Syria. India is interesting to operate while Pakistan is a difficult terrain. We are interested in ventures that lead to mutual development.

What are your plans for Middle East?
Let’s keep the economic crisis out of our discussion. Hopefully this will not last too long. The Middle East seems to be interesting because there is an enormous activity of change. Change in terms of construction, environment, and infrastructure being built up. Every where, there is need for high quality geoinformation technology, products and services. We can deliver all that in a bundle. This is our advantage. We can cover the whole value chain. After two visits to Dubai, we already have first revenues, companies are happy. For the first run, I think we have done a good job. I am out to see if we can do something similar in India. It is probably a bit more difficult because the Indian market is different from the Arabian market. It is more developed.