Mapping India the right way: Global positioning system

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Feb 11 2013, 17:32pm hrs
Mapping India: Global positioning system - earlier, India lacked the culture of using maps, but it is changing now. Today, we use maps every day on our mobile phones and laptops to find a variety of information, whether its a nearby hospital or a good cup of coffee. Even businesses rely on maps to create new efficiencies in their operations - especially radio taxi service providers.

There is no doubt that radio taxi providers have brought better service for customers in Indian metropolitan cities, not to mention freedom from frequent quarrels with auto/taxi drivers on fares or refusal to travel to certain parts. They offer good quality service and are available round the clock, but have you ever wondered how these taxi operators are able to have quicker pick up and faster response time to a call for a cab

Its not rocket science but technology is coming to the aid of the traveller; not mobile phones or age-old walky talky but global positioning system (GPS) to be precise. An avid user is Meru Cab, Indias largest cab provider and the third largest taxi operator globally. Meru Cab oversee over 20,000 trips a day across the four massive metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangaloreusing geospatial services (electronic maps), they have pioneered the concept of GPS-enabled taxis in India.

Each cab is fitted with GPS-based tracking device that helps to identify the nearest cab from a customers pick up location. The customers address and other details are communicated back to the driver on the display screen. The printed receipt for the fare is a boon to the customer as each cab is fitted with a tamper-proof digital fare meter. Whats more the location information and fare details are continuously sent by each cab back to the control room for tracking purposes.

Radio taxi operators are not alone in the use of geospatial technology. Today, we use maps every day on our mobile phones, laptops and tablets to find a variety of information, whether its a nearby hospital or a good cup of coffee. Businesses rely on geospatial services (electronic maps as well as satellite imagery) to create new efficiencies in their core operations, find ways to better target their customers, create leaner operations, and make smarter strategic decisions. Yet have you ever stopped to think about the industry behind the maps we use every day, the contributions it makes to our economy, and the benefits it provides to both consumers and businesses

Put simply, geospatial technology is driving economic growth and job opportunities in India. This is evidenced by a Boston Consulting Group report, commissioned by Google. The report reveals that the Indian geospatial services industry generated $3 billion in revenue in 2011 alone while accounting for approximately 1,35,000 jobs. The industry is composed of geo-data providers, location-enabled device manufacturers, geo-app developers, and a growing network of geospatial experts and educators.

According to the BCG report, geospatial services help Indian businesses drive $40-45 billion in revenue, save $70-75 billion in costs and affect 8-9 million jobs in India. The report also found that Indian consumers are also willing to pay $1.5-2 billion more than they currently do for geospatial services such as online maps, navigation systems and local searches.

Geospatial services allow consumers, businesses, governments, and other organisations to make decisions based on geographic data. The primary ingredients of geospatial services are electronic maps and satellite imagery describing our physical and human environment.

Commenting on the report, Lalitesh Katragadda, country headIndia Product, Google says, Geo services helped generate $2 billion in revenue within the Indian accommodation and food services industry alone. In the report, restaurants reported benefitting from new customers finding them through local searches. Users benefit as it makes it easier for them to find the information on local offerings and creating valuable efficiencies in their day-to-day lives.

Currently, geo services represent 0.2% of Indias GDP and affect 2% of the national workforce; however there is tremendous room to grow this industry and create a lasting source of competitive advantage for India. The Indian geo services industry is comprised of companies that process the location data, companies that produce geo-enabled software, and expert industries that use geospatial data to generate insights. Beyond the industry itself, a wide variety of other industries in India also use geo services to make their businesses more efficient and productive.

Geo services such as the Google Maps APIs are helping to grow the Indian economy by enabling job opportunities, and paving the way towards future innovation. To enable continued growth, governments, companies, researchers and consumers all need to encourage mapping innovations and investments in India, Lalitesh adds.

Indeed, geospatial services industry in India is still at a nascent stage. Google Maps, Google Map Maker and the Google Maps APIs are revolutionising the geospatial industry and making maps more widely available, but theres a long way to go. To ensure that these mapping services continue to be a valuable driver of the Indian economy, there is a need to invest in itthrough support of open data policies, product innovation, better satellite technology, and pushing for more geography education programmes in schools.

Most important, a consumer is a distracted user and expects a map to respond instantly to a mouse click or a swipe across a tablets screen. Therefore, a map must be responsive, easy to use and should offer a compelling user experience.