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NZAM liquidation – the bane of being an SMB?

The key characteristic of geospatial industry fabric is the spread of small and medium enterprises /businesses (SME/SMBs) across the world. They form the crucial ‘middle of the pyramid’ in geospatial ecosystem. They are ingenious in their own way working locally, nationally and regionally, building a reputation of their own. They can in fact reach remote territories that a multi-billion dollar Multinational (MNC) couldn’t possibly reach. Majority of the mapping companies fall in this category, which are deploying latest technology, incurring high operating costs and typically sustaining with low margins and delayed payments.

When one of the oldest aerial mapping companies in the world declares insolvency despite having led several successful projects in its nearly 80-years of existence and implementing handful of large mapping projects currently, it prompts several questions, a moment of contemplation and a cause for great concern.

The company in discussion is New Zealand Aerial Mapping Ltd (NZAM), which has been put into receivership in July after running out of cash with $1.5 million in outstanding payments owed on contracts in Saudi Arabia. It has now announced liquidation after receivers failed to find a buyer. Fifteen of the Hastings based company were laid off and seven were retained to complete the work-in-progress. PricewaterhouseCoopers, which announced the liquidation has said the company’s assets, including five aircraft and several other properties will be offered for sale on a break-up basis.

Though no details on who failed to pay and why are forthcoming, the issue throws up several doubts including the technology choices, efficacy of the SMBs in delivering projects; user-side awareness, capacities and expectations. Also, the inability of SMBs in raising investments – should we say is also an indicator of the perception of geospatial technology prospect in the market? Collectively, has the geospatial industry been able to successfully project the value proposition of the technology to gain market’s attention and respect? Time for some soul searching!!