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June 26, 1997


Geographic info system for investors soon

An Indian company, in a joint venture with a US firm, is planning to offer a geographic information system which would help investors in deciding the best location for manufacturing or retailing business.

"The system is designed to cater to needs that could range from locating sites for a chain of retail stores, or even a hydroelectric project," said Rajesh C Mathur, chief operating officer of NIIT GIS Limited.

He said a potential investor, seeking information on the geographic spread of a market as huge as India, can access the data from his company. The information includes the demographic data for various geographics within India or delivery logistics, he said.

"The GIS system can help the company or investor find its customer in terms of target profile, desirable income levels and so on," Mathur explained.

NIIT GIS Limited is a joint venture between California-based Environment Systems Research Institute, a global leader in GIS and mapping software, and New Delhi-based National Institute of Information Technology.

Said Mathur, "We are targeting a turnover of Rs 100 million by the yearend, of which at least 10 per cent is expected to come from business applications by foreign investors."

"Eighty per cent of business decisions are geography-based. Whether it is new investments, or new territories, there is an undertone of geography that runs through the whole thing. GIS then becomes an enabling technology," he said.

He said transnationals like Motorola extensively use GIS at the corporate level. "They have already benefited from this technology outside India and would be ready to deploy it in their Indian operations too."

Besides site selection, GIS can also be used to analyse data to generate information that could help business.

According to Mathur, the input to the system could be from satellite imageries, aerial photography and field surveys.

"The GIS will facilitate creation of maps and data in digital forms supported by powerful walk-throughs and analytical data," he added.

The company provides GIS software and develops applications for its customers. However, buyers are expected to deploy it themselves.

"We provide the database, depending on the application that the customer wishes to utilise," said Mathur.

He said the real constraint for wider GIS application is the non-availability of reliable databases. "The data we are given today is very basic; it just manages to cover a few layers," he said.

The company is working with the Department of Space to map the country's natural resource information. Mathur said the Department will provide all the data, and "we will create applications on it." He believes that the combination will greatly enhance their market size.

Currently, detailed information is available only for the cities of Delhi and Bombay; Bangalore and Calcutta are being developed, Mathur said. Extensive data collection is taking place in many states to build up a good database, he added.

Currently the company sources its databases from various independent institutions. It has a large bank of non-business users in India with almost 90 per cent of the clients coming from the government sector, Mathur said.

"Traditionally, the government is always one of the largest clients world-wide, as the system is used in defence, forestry etc," he explained.

In India, GIS users include the Department of Space, Survey of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Ministry of Defence, and the Department of Telecommunications.

Mathur, however, said the government is not an extensive user of information technology.

Mathur sees a large market for GIS in the management of natural resources, like forestry, water resources urban planning and remote sensing. Road transport is another sector which the company is targeting as routing is one of the major applications of the GIS system.

The company is specially targeting telecommunications, power distribution, highway building and city development authorities among potential users.

- Compiled from the Indian media

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