Year 2001 was the year that took communities from all walks of life for a roller-coaster ride. EROS, Hyperion, Bhuj earthquake, economic slowdown, WTC 9/11, Leica-Erdas, EarthWatch-DigitalGlobe, Quickbird, TES, IKONOS-Price, Indian Parliament 12/13 and to top it all the very fear that we are still engulfed with hightened tention between India and Pakistan. What outcome will one expect in the given situation from the GIS industry? Something not to cheer about.
In the opinion of the people e-viewed, industry had mixed results. While the Indian subsidiary of International GIS vendors were quite bullish, the service provider for private companies in India did not have much to cheer about. The GIS professionals too seemed concerned with the recession in mainstream Information Technology and shares the concerns of its impact on the GIS industry in India. Perhaps this proved to be an opportunity for few companies to do away with dead woods, in the disguise of recession and streamlining.
We have five representatives from the Indian GIS spectrum, representing five different bandwidths:
An Indian subsidiary of a major GIS vendor, Mr. Sandeep Srivastava, Managing Director, Bentley India
A research and education organisation in GIS, Dr. Ashok Kaushal, C-DAC
A Service provider primarily focussed on job works from abroad, Mr. Ajay Lavakare, Managing Director, RMSI, India
A service provider concentrating in the Indian local market, Mr. Sanjay Agarwalla, Managing Director, Integrated Digital Systems, Kolkata
A GIS Analyst, Mr. S. Yogendran
How was the year 2001 for your organisation?
Sandeep Srivastava : The year 2001 has been excellent for Bentley. We have grown our business by about 75% (calendar 2001 over 2000).
In fact we have seen a renewed spurt in people joining the Bentley “select” programme, which is a software subscription service. A lot of companies who had opted out of this programme in the last three years have joined the program back with two year subscriptions. This was also a year in which Bentley further consolidated its position in India by forming a 100% subsidiary and by establishing offices in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi.
Ashok Kaushal : I am restricting my assessment to the Geomatic component only (as certainly it reflected negatively in general, specifically when it concerns training). The overall performance has been encouraging as some of the past leads converged this year.
Ajay Lavakare : Our financial year ends September 2001. For the nine months, we are very pleased with our financial results and with the business overall.
Sanjay Agarwalla : It has been a bad business year.
S Yogendran : I can say that the scenario in year 2001 is good but failed to pick up the speed of year 2000. However, it is true that many Indian companies are getting mega GIS projects for data conversion photogrammetry from abroad. and there is no much employment opportunities mainly for the freshers.
Was there any impact of economic recession/IT slowdown on your organisation?
Sandeep Srivastava : We have not felt the impact in 2001. The tools that we provide are “recession busters”. Companies use these tools for improving their effectiveness and efficiency and this is most relevant in a slow down.
Ashok Kaushal : As mentioned earlier, I am restricting my assessment to the Geomatic component only (as certainly it reflected negatively in general, specifically when it concerns training). The overall performance has been encouraging as some of the past leads converged this year.
Ajay Lavakare : There has been some impact so far, especially in our software services division. However, we foresee the impact potentially impacting our organisation starting calendar year 2002, since essentially what is happening in the slowdown is that decision-making is not happening, and the lack of decision-making in the last three/six months will start making an impact from 2002. RMSI is forecasting a 20% increase in GIS revenues in 2002 for us.
Sanjay Agarwalla : Yes. Most of my Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) clients have postponed their decision. GIS is down in their priority list.
S Yogendran : The IT crisis impact, was on companies that were depending on US.
Do you propose any radical measure for your organisation in the year 2002?
Sandeep Srivastava : We believe in a conservative and incremental approach and therefore we see no radical changes or measures within the organisation. We do however, foresee a major growth in 2002 (to the tune of 100%). We also see a spurt in our training and services and business through the newly launched V8 generation products.
Ashok Kaushal : Again, drive is more towards grabbing more projects using Geomatics technologies.
Ajay Lavakare : Not really. We would like to de-risk our business from being very US-centric to become less dependent on the US market, and therefore some new initiatives in continental Europe are being planned. Also, we have made a conservative forecast for our revenues stemming from pure application software development. We are also being more cost-conscious and cautious in our spending. Sanjay Agarwalla: When the going gets tough, the tough gets goings. This implies more aggressive marketing, better data products, value for money applications and moreover keep the tempo going.
Which industry segment in India (with respect to GIS) has been the best performer in the year 2001? (In terms of purchase of data, software, services, etc.)
Sandeep Srivastava : Defense applications, cartography and civil assets seem to be the best performers as far as Bentley is concerned.
Ashok Kaushal : Projects have still done better specifically from the government which took more time in spreading awareness and getting funding from multiple sources. Ajay Lavakare: Don’t know, since we do not service the Indian GIS industry much.
Sanjay Agarwalla :
Government – Telecom and Municipalities. S Yogendran: ‘Conversion services’ tops the list. How will you respond to the NSDI initiative taken by the Government of India?
Sandeep Srivastava : The NSDI represents a unique opportunity for GIS vendors and end users. Bentley has geographics ispatial edition. This will allow the data to reside in Non-proprietary data servers and allows any GIS application to use this data. Standards such as aecxml, the openGIS standard & oracle ispatial will help in promoting NSDI. Second we have upgraded our content publishing engine “viecon publisher”. This is ideal for streaming GIS data as images or as other web based formats.
Again this would be a boon for NSDI, which would have to make data easily available to end users over the web without compromising on the integrity of the data. Also “viecon publisher” allows hybrid map data (raster & vector) to be published together – this would prove a boon to users who would like to use vector maps (from say Survey of India) and satellite images (from say NRSA) together.
Ashok Kaushal : I am strongly in favour of NSDI. We have worked prominently towards promotion of DVD through projects and making average as part of Geomatica.
Ajay Lavakare : Given our focus on international business, NSDI is not an important priority for us. Also, the initiative seems very ambitious, and we are yet to see any significant potential benefits that encourage us to participate in NSDI deliberations very enthusiastically. From what we can see, difficult issues such as restriction of SOI maps, banning of aerial photography and unclear policies on digital map data still remain unsolved.
Sanjay Agarwalla : Positively. Yes we do need a standard dataset at various level for the country. This will help us deliver better applications to the clients and also this will assist the client to take a better decision. The current and myraid datasets only lead to confusion. Like for “my data is the best” scenario will be removed. One authentic data source upon which better value can be added will only help the growth of GIS.
S Yogendran : NSDI is there, but the GIS stakeholder in India is not aware of it. That’s the problem in our government policy. I can say the awareness of NSDI has not really reached the targeted segments. GIS industry to fall in line with the standards of Global Spatial community and for the standardisation for global acceptance.
Any observation or remarks you would like to make. Or highlight any milestone for the Indian GIS industry in the year 2001.
Sandeep Srivastava : I think the year for the “dotcom GIS” industry was bad. The promise of delivering map enabled content over the web has failed for the time being in india.
The indian consumer is still not ready for wap GIS or in dire need for a web based Direction service, etc. People who based their growth on this have not done well in the market.
The Indian market needs very strong geo infrastructure tools where GIS can be married seamlessly with site, survey, etc. Companies who focus on helping users create and manage their spatial assets have done better and will continue to do so. GIS for the sake of GIS is meaningless and has to be tied down with the development of basic infrastruture like roads, rails, ports, plants to make them meaningful for the users and planners. This also gives a very meaningful purpose to GIS besides, the production of “pretty pictures”. The biggest milestone has of course been the “NSDI” initiative.
Ashok Kaushal : In general, I have seen this small time industry trying hard to continue with GIS projects (in particular digitisation) and training. Most of them have failed miserably. Ajay Lavakare: The major GIS export companies (Rolta, Infotech, RMSI, Genesys) seem to have grown very well in 2001, enjoying growth rates of 70-100% in revenues and profits. I am not aware of the performance of the other Indian GIS companies.
Sanjay Agarwalla : The most important change we observed was acceptance by various state governments about the importance of GIS and how it can help them taking better decisions.
S Yogendran : Major initiative are being taken by state governments Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal etc., as they included GIS in their IT policy.
Can we have a comparitive financial study of your organisation (i.e. comparitive financial study of 1st two Quarters of this year and for last year)?
Sandeep Srivastava : Bentley Systems is a privately held company and does not disclose its financial results. However between 2000 and 2001 the growth in quarter1 (AMJ) and quarter2 (JAS) was more than 120% for us.
Ashok Kaushal : We were more clear in terms of targets and have performed double than previous year
Ajay Lavakare : For RMSI, Revenues for H1 2001 (Apr-Sep’01) grew 101% over H1 2000 (Apr-Sep ’00); Revenues from GIS activities grew 102%, and profits for H1 2001 grew 182% over H1 2000.
Sanjay Agarwalla : Financial figure this year? For us the drop has been for the first two quarters of more than 100% and 100% of our billings are from Indian customers.