Five years ago, Trimble had 10 employees in India. Today, it has 400. Bringing state-of-the-art technologies to the Indian shores, Trimble is providing localised…
Steven W. Berglund
President and Chief Executive Officer
Trimble Navigation Limited
Five years ago, Trimble had 10 employees in India. Today, it has 400. Bringing state-of-the-art technologies to the Indian shores, Trimble is providing localised solutions to suit the market. Steven W. Berglund, President and Chief Executive Officer, Trimble, explains why India is important for Trimble and how it is adapting to this evolving market…
From being a technology company to being a complete solutions provider – Trimble has undergone a tremendous transformation in recent times. What has brought about this transformation?
There are two elements behind this transformation. One is the pursuit of growth. By exploring solutions, Trimble endeavours to expand its horizons. This approach gives us more intellectual space and therefore leads to growth. The other is the shift in the requirements of the market. We believe that the market wants, and is embracing, our evolution into a solutions company. As technology gets more sophisticated and at the same time also becomes more useful, users expect integrated functionality. So whether it is a government agency or any private client, users want solutions which enhance productivity and efficiency. This has driven Trimble’s evolution.
Do you think it is also a representation of the changing face of the industry?
I do think this represents the changes being witnessed in the industry. Hopefully, we are leading the way as opposed to following. Users’ requirements are changing as the elements of solutions are becoming more complex. New technologies and more nuances, the integration of wireless and more positioning and software content requires a higher level of standards. So I believe that Trimble reflects the state of the industry.
In just six years, Trimble has witnessed tremendous growth in India. What makes India an exciting market for you?
India is becoming a legitimate growth market in its own right, fuelled by overall growth in the country. In the geospatial context, India is definitely an exciting market drawing us in. In turn, we hope to drive some of the developments within India by bringing in new concepts-taking the best of our technology from across the world and localising it for the Indian market.
We hope to create a balance between the two and create unique solutions. The potential solutions that can be derived for the Indian market in the process can be equally relevant for other parts of the world, be it Brazil, South East Asia or Africa. In that sense, India is providing a unique laboratory to try out new things.
What are the verticals you are focussing on in India?
In the last few years, Trimble has placed greater emphasis on verticals like electrical utilities, waste management and railways, to name just a few. We have created an organisational structure to focus on these industries with the idea of assembling Trimble’s point technology into a suite of capabilities that we can bring to these verticals. In addition, we are focussing on cadastre, mining, energy and power sector. We have categorised the utility space into electric and water management. In energy, we have established an oil and gas vertical.
We have recently forayed into this vertical and are exploring the possibilities in oil and gas sector. We are focussing on distinct, well-defined groups and verticals and creating a unique set of capabilities for those verticals. It is part of Trimble’s core strategy and it works out particularly well for India.
What kind of challenges do you foresee in India for these verticals?
We are approaching the Indian market with an appropriate level of humility. We need to understand the market before we can comment on difficulties or opportunities. Even though we are now close to 400 people in India, it is still a learning process. We also want to ensure that we organise ourselves appropriately as a company-to be both strategic and opportunistic of the market place. So the challenges really are internal to Trimble, that is, to make sure that we are demonstrating the appropriate flexibility and adaptability to the Indian market. It is an evolving market and we need to learn about it to be relevant.
One of the challenges in developing countries like India is that the adoption of advanced technologies for infrastructure development is low. How do you propose to address this issue?
Emerging economies have the opportunity to adopt stateof- the-art technology without the legacy that has to be considered in most of the cases. Therefore there is a potential of being revolutionary and radical in terms of conceptually embracing technology. The opportunity lies in reversing the typical paradigm of being slower to accepting more advanced technology. However, creating this change is not easy. From Trimble’s standpoint, the key is to respect local conditions and adapt to them. At the same time, we need to take on a bit of missionary role and try to evangelise our vision to the local circumstances based on our experiences from around the world. We need to present our views as alternatives to engage in these leapfrog activities. I am relatively optimistic that if we play an active role, we may be able to contribute to creating some leapfrogs in technology.
How do you foresee the positioning market in India, given the development of GAGAN and IRNSS?
Trimble has three core technologies: positioning, wireless communication and information technology. Positioning, in general, is core to most of the solutions we offer-either position or location. So we do see ourselves playing a multi-dimensional role in this sector. In the case of India, we also see ourselves-may be more so than other places in the world-as being a fundamental contributor of core technology, whether it is participating in the development of satellite positioning at the national level or creating new standards within the company.
India has a rich pool of qualified human resources. Can you tell us about your R&D activities in India?
We have 400 people in India and a significant portion of those people are engaged in development activities. We have development centres in Chennai and Pune. We intend to grow that capability. We inherited the Chennai facility in 2007. At that time, it was only focused on mobile resource management applications. Today, most of the Trimble divisions are accessing the Chennai facility for development with 15 divisions present in Chennai for R&D requirements. It is largely a matter of Trimble taking a decision about the relative utility of Indian development and taking advantage of it. We have about 5,500 employees at this point of time around the world out of which 400 in India. Five years ago, we had approximately 10 people in India.
Acquisition has been a key strategy for Trimble. In India also, we witnessed the acquisition of Tata Automotive Mobility Technologies. How has the move benefitted the company? Can we anticipate more acquisitions in India?
Acquisitions are not necessarily core to our growth strategy. Acquisitions have played a role, principally as mechanisms to establish beachheads in new market spaces, fill in product line gaps or add new technologies to our solutions portfolio. More importantly, continued innovation and industry domain experience are the primary factors which allow Trimble to focus on organic growth as our principal strategy in our core market segments. For example, it is more prudent to buy a small company which has domain experience and leverage that acquisition to gain a better insight into the market place. That is the strategy for acquisitions that we also follow in India. The other question that we try to answer in terms of pursuing the Indian market is whether the competencies or centres of domain experience that exist in India for an acquisition will allow us to serve the market place in a better fashion or not. In a way, the acquisition of Tata operations was a bit of both. It gave us a better window into the Indian market by bringing in people who understood the market. It also fuelled our ambition, that is, we could use it as a platform for future growth within the country. I think if we find those circumstances elsewhere with other Indian companies, certainly we would engage with the idea of acquisitions. As an alternative, we may look at partnering with companies since acquisitions may not be the best mechanism to leverage a relationship in the Indian market.
You have talked about localisation of your solutions, while internationalisation is the fundamental core of Trimble strategy. How do you maintain a balance between localisation and internationalisation of solutions?
It seems like a bit of paradox but in reality it is all about balance. What we need to do as a company is to leverage our best international solutions as much as we can. The reality is that one cannot afford to do everything multiple times in the international market. So on the one hand, it’s a matter of scale-being able to scale up on a worldwide basis and apply that scale everywhere in the world; on the other hand, there is a need to recognise the elements which are unique to a particular market and incorporate that uniqueness in market solutions. This way, we will not invent unwanted products or solutions and then look for customers. At the same time, we need to reinvent ourselves to meet the requirements of each national/regional market.
The idea is to create a hardware platform worldwide and a base level software platform. Then, depending on the specific local market needs, we can create a localised software layer on both hardware and software. This way, the balance would always be dynamic. It is something that we need to continually deal with. It is not easy but I think it is the appropriate approach to the market place.