Autodesk is much more than CAD software

Written by Heena Jhingan | Updated: Feb 17 2014, 08:10am hrs
Autodesk is a brand synonymous to computer-aided design (CAD) software. Quite a large number of peoplefrom design professionals, engineers and architects to digital artists and studentshave used Autodesk software at some point of time to unlock their creativity and solve important challenges. However, the San Rafael, California headquartered firm wants to change that perception. Autodesk senior vice-president of worldwide sales and services Steven Blum stresses that the company actually has a much broader portfolio with industry specific suites. Prior to this position, Blum was senior vice-president of Americas sales at Autodesk. Under his leadership, revenue in the Americas more than doubled to over $700 million. Bullish on India, the Autodesk sales and services head tells Heena Jhingan that the introduction of mobile devices into the construction industry is transforming the way that projects are built and managed. Excerpts:

What are your efforts to re-create a brand beyond the CAD image

We actually have a much broader portfolio with industry specific suites. I dont think that is well understood by a lot of people in the industry. Autodesk is much more than AutoCAD, the core design, drafting and modelling software application. We focus on manufacturing, architecture, engineering and construction space. Most of the people know us for the architecture part, however we have been building our portfolio around engineering and construction bit as well.

Construction has become a very important part of our over all portfolio. Our solution is addressing the needs that construction industry globally has had for many years, but did not take the advantage of technology because it wasnt being presented to solve their problems and we are changing that. We also service the manufacturing and automotive industry. Media and entertainment is another part of the business that a lot of people dont know us for. However, that is changing. For example, our product Revit is now an industry standard for building information modelling (BIM). In fact BIM is the centre of all our AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) business efforts. We see BIM key to discussions with our customers in most markets, including India.

Do you think the construction market in India is mature enough for BIM adoption

Globally, construction is a significant contributor to GDP, and is one of biggest areas of spend. Interestingly, it is being driven by the governments across markets. Construction in turn drives the commercial space, in fact a lot of the manufacturing is happening for construction. Construction also happens to be an area where there has been a significant amount of waste. Most of the construction companies budget a significant amount of their spend to a category called waste.

Our value proposition to the construction industry is that we will shrink the waste, by providing efficiencies for construction firms to get the project done in a more timely and organised fashion, and with higher safety. Small incremental reduction in waste can save billions of dollars. In the old style, the 3D models when printed would be converted to 2D and analog and if multiple people and firms working on project did not have the information aligned properly, there could be construction interferences. Such errors could not be detected earlier and could be fixed only on the site.

So how has the scenario changed now

Now technology allows taking all the information, stitching it together and helps in interference analysis. The new construction contracts are being written keeping penalty for rework in account. This is forcing firms to invest in technologies like BIM.

People can now go to sites, match physical structures with the BIM details and mark out errors. In India too, large projects of the size of IT parks are beginning to adopt BIM. Some of the recent projects like Navi Mumbai Airport Terminal and Khed City developed by Kalyani Group have leveraged BIM. Kalyani Group saved 7% of their construction cost by using BIM in construction business; this is huge. In developed markets, like the US, BIM adoption rate is nearly 70%. India, though a big construction market, has low BIM penetration.

How important is India to Autodesk business

The revenues have been flat. India has been a challenging market. The fluctuation of rupee has certainly not helped us. But we are still bullish about the market due to the potential of the infrastructure market here. We see India as one of largest growth opportunity markets. We are also intrigued by opportunities in the country as the manufacturing market is large, automotive has excellent presence here, which is a sweet spot for us overall. There is a vibrant growing opportunity in India for media and entertainment solution. Bollywood is a very ripe opportunity for some of our offerings and broadcast continues to expand. We understand there is a need to support games development industry in India.

For us, most of the investment is happening in the form of R&D, a large part of which is based in India. During FY2013, Autodesk spent 25.4% of net sales on research and development, the largest percentage among US software or internet companies that have a market value above $5 billion and an annual R&D budget of at least $300 million.

What is Autodesk Indias R&Ds contribution for the parent company

Autodesk has two R&D centres in India at Pune and Hyderabad. The base platform for our cloud-based offering is Autodesk 360, which was created by the team in India. We also have a manufacturing solution called the Fusion 360, cloud-based design solution, a significant development which happened in India, so the country is playing a very interesting role in building Autodesk solutions.

There is a tremendous innovative technical R&D talent in India. Three of our product divisions have teams in India. We acquired Qontext technology in 2012 that brought in a significant amount of R&D capability to the company. We are committed to making further investments in R&D.

Keeping flat revenues in mind, do you plan to rework your strategy for India

The best thing about India is that it is aligned with our corporate strategy for each of the industries. If we needed something different for India, it would have been a matter of concern. Going forward, the strategy is going to be industry specific. In construction, we see movement to BIM. We also see an opportunity in industry machinery segment. We will be working on building high-end capabilities in visual effects.

Cloud, mobility and collaboration are the key words around any solution today. How does Autodesk weave these into its solutions

From the industry point of view, we have already done that. We began developing consumer app that run on consumer devices and we are now extending the same to our commercial offerings as well.

We have released several cloud based offerings that are work flow specific. In fact, India is among top five users of Autodesk consumer products in the cloud through mobile and smart devices.