Picking the shortest route

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Nov 26 2012, 08:51am hrs
Recently, while reviewing the new Audi A4, I volunteered to drop my teenage cousins to the New Delhi Railway station. Lost in the maze of the Connaught Place area in central Delhi, I tried using the cars navigation system. Test car as it was, the system just didnt work. To my surprise, in a few seconds, these two guys were navigating me with the help of their smartphones, and quite effectively. The point I am making is that the use of navigationbe it via smartphones, in-built car navigation devices or portable navigation devices (PNDs)is becoming very popular, and across all age groups. Add the fact that we are getting ever-more detailed maps on these devices.

But if I am the only person in the car, I wont, shouldnt actually, rely on my smartphone for navigation. Therefore, my choice gets reduced to in-built devices or PNDs. But, remember, only the premium cars come with in-built devices, so if I drive, say, a sub-R10 lakh car, the only option I have is PNDsa market that is booming of late.

The need for a PND becomes all the more important in a country like India where new roads, highways and landmarks are built regularly and older roads get additional roundabouts, lanes and one-ways. Sanu Vasudevan, country sales manager, consumer business, TomTom India, says, We have observed that Indian land routes undergo upto 30% change annually. He adds that the although the popularity and awareness of PNDs has increased significantly over the last few years, the industry is still to achieve the required momentum. Industry experts expect this segment as one of the key influencing denominators for the automobile companies in the years to come. And the automobile companies, realising the value of navigation devices, are promoting these in their marketing campaigns as well, he says.

Rohan Verma, director of MapmyIndia, which has been in the navigation business since 2007 and which offers customers regular map updates with value-adds like house-level search, 3D navigation, city guides, etc, says that navigation has picked as a sector, be it cars, phones & tablets (navigation apps) or PNDs. MapmyIndia recently launched, what it claims, Indias first connected in-car Android-based navigation tablet CarPad, which has been received well by the market.

On the penetration of PNDs in the country, TomToms Vasudevan says that although the major penetration of PNDs is currently confined to Tier-I and Tier-II cities, it is only a matter of time that people from smaller towns will also start using it in a major way. But such a growth requires more involvement from industry associations, governments and other stakeholders of the ecosystem, Vasudevan adds.

Verma of MapmyIndia says that the company enjoys around 80% share in the overall GPS navigation space in India. Our products mix includes PNDs, navigation applications, in-dash navigation (after market and OEMs) and connected Android based CarPads. Navigation devices like the MapmyIndia Navigator are gaining wide acceptability in urban markets as people are fast seeing the benefits like safety, accuracy and time saving due to availability of high quality map data, Verma says.

Additionally, it is not just plain-vanilla navigation but value-added services like city guides, house level search, points of interest and local language voice guidance that are attracting many to GPS navigation devices. Verma says that with smartphone prices coming down and wide acceptability, GPS navigation is making inroads into markets that were earlier thought as not mature enough.

Another big factor is that Indias leading auto manufacturers are now offering GPS navigation in their top-selling cars. Leading car models such as Honda City, Tata Manza, Mahindra XUV 500, Mahindra Ssangyong Rexton, Ford Endeavour, BMW 7, 5 & 3 series, Jaguar-Land Rover Freelander 2, Fiat Linea and Renault Scala are being powered by MapmyIndia, Verma adds.

Vasudevan says that within a year of TomToms entering India (2011), the company has established favourable rapport with almost all the automobile companies and is in talks with them for some of their upcoming models. Recently, we partnered with Skoda for a Diwali campaign and received positive responses from the market. We are in advanced talks with all the major automobile brands, and we will share the news as and when the tie-ups are finalised, he adds.

On the current size of the Indian navigation market, Vasudevan tells us that, going by the data of 2011, the market is developing very rapidly. Moreover, with the automotive market gradually graduating to a volume of more than two million new cars sold in India every year, the car accessories market is expected to create a new wave of demand, he says, adding, With the automobile industry expected to grow at 15% year-on-year, it can be expected that navigation industry will start showing similar trends. The industry would achieve a great momentum by 2014. Even IE Market Research has predicted that by 2014 the navigation industry in India would be worth $158.4 million.

Verma tells us that MapmyIndia has sold 1,40,000 navigation devices so far. To give a perspective on the automotive pre-install market, next year more than 2,00,000 cars will come built-in with navigation systems offered by car manufacturers, he says.

Smartphone versus PND

While looking for navigation devices, consumers always get a second thought that, in this age of smartphones, do they really need a PND

Vasudevan says that many people do opt for high-end smartphones to avoid spending on a PND, which is not quite the right thing to do. There is a lack of education in the market and people get misled with various marketing promotions, he says, adding, though most smartphones and tablets can help in navigation, but remember that they are designed primarily for communication, not for navigation. Navigation can be disturbed by incoming calls and GPRS connectivity, etc. Moreover, the speaker system and the display on a handset may not be meant for navigation. He says that with GPS running on the device, the battery drains out much faster, bringing a challenge to ones communication needs. If someone is using the device for long hours (considering the fact he puts the phone on a continuous charging mode), the data roaming charges might add more worries to the user.

Verma tells us that as is the case with cameraseven though your phone has a decent camera, you will need a Canon or a Nikon for good photographythe navigator will always hold an edge over smartphones. The demands on the memory and processor are already high in the case of smartphones and they have a limited battery life. Also, navigation goes off once you receive a phone call, he says. Another advantage is that a navigator can be shared with friends and family, which is not the case with a smartphone. And best mapping experience is available only on the navigators as compared to mobile applications as the mapping company has complete control over the software and hardware, he adds.

Google Maps

Thanks to Google search, it is Google Maps that are probably the most popular among the masses. So how different are, say, MapmyIndia maps from Google Maps Verma says that MapmyIndias data is far more comprehensive and exhaustive across the length and breadth of India, covering 5,000-plus cities at street level and connecting all 6 lakh towns and villages through over 1.8 million road kilometres across India. MapmyIndias data is much more detailed offering 7.1 million destinations across 60-plus categories of places (ATMs, hotels, offices) and includes house-address level data (building level) in 40-plus cities, making the maps detailed to last metre, not just last mile. This data comprehensiveness and detail makes MapmyIndias maps different and better than Google maps, Verma says.

Vasudevan says that given TomToms years of global expertise in map making, the company is positioned to understand and tackle the emerging navigation market in India by offering a breadth of solutions for in-car navigation devices, mobile platforms and in-dash solution. Our automotive-grade quality maps of India cover the entire country with street-level details. Moreover, TomTom map content runs effectively on GPS and does not require any GPRS connectivity, he adds. He also tells us that as a global map maker, when TomTom develop maps for, say, Pune or New Delhi, the process is exactly the same as developing maps for, say, New York or London. The company also offers free lifetime map update service for its in-car GPS device users.