GPS navigation is now primarily driven by the automotive sector

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Jun 29 2013, 09:06am hrs
Among the oldest companies providing digital maps, data, GPS, location-based services and location-based business intelligence solutions, MapmyIndia has been experimenting with digital mapping in India as far back as 1995. Today famous primarily for providing in-car GPS services, the companys maps are approved and cleared by the government, and follow the governments norms and regulations. Recently, Tata chose the companys navigation services for its cars. Rakesh Verma, managing director, MapmyIndia, in an interaction with Vikram Chaudhary, talks about the GPS navigation market in India and more. Excerpts:

What kind of growth is the GPS navigation market seeing right now

GPS navigation is fast becoming an integral part of in-car offerings and is provided by almost all automobile companies in India now. Although initially you used to get GPS only in high-end cars, the trend is now being driven by the sub-R10 lakh segment, and especially SUVs in that segment. Indians are travelling more, inter-city travel is increasing, and many Indians who own SUVs are now increasingly using these for off-roading. Thats where the use of GPS navigation becomes all the more important. In fact, we have seen that SUV buyers today expect in-dash GPS navigation as a standard feature. This is percolating down to mid-sized and even compact cars. Apart from that, personal navigation devices (PNDs) are also seeing rising sales. In fact, most GPS navigation is driven by the automotive sector. Currently, 5% of Indian cars have navigation available in them and we expect that number to increase to 10-12% in the coming 2-3 years.

But in this age of the smartphones, which have in-build GPS technology, does going in for a standalone GPS device makes sense

Smartphones are becoming smarter and more powerful. They offer a host of benefits including built-in GPS. But then they have some limitations too. For instance, your smartphone battery will drain out much faster when continuously on a GPS more. Then, while outside your circle, roaming charges are generally applied while using navigation. The demands on a smartphone processor increase when using maps. Remember, the aim of a smartphone is to provide voice communication, so if a call comes then navigation goes off. Imagine taking a long call when you also need navigation supportthis cannot happen in a smartphone.

You recently got the Tata contract to provide GPS navigation in the new Vista D90 and Manza cars. Where does the future for GPS navigation companies lie, selling standalone devices or tying up with auto companies for in-build GPS devices

The future is somewhere in between. Each of the devicesPNDs, in-car systems, CarPadshave a role to play. I agree that smartphones or shall I say smartened-up phones (even low-end phones are quite smart these days!) will garner the largest chunk of the market. Having said that, other devices will also have their market as they are utility-specific. In-dash devices have a value offering as they come with the car. They are a part of the navigation kit. Apart from Tata, at the dealer level, we have tie-ups with automakers such as BMW, Ford, M&M, Mitsubishi, GM, Renault, Jaguar, etc.

What sort of technology-sharing automobile companies have with GPS navigation companies

Each automotive company has a unique requirement. As far as MapmyIndia is concerned, for some we have integrated the CAN-BUS computer (which allows microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other within a vehicle without a host computer) of the car with our navigation software to provide navigation based on the car gyroscope, for others we have built special customised data-sets that integrate with the theme of the vehicle. Automotive companies allow access to their protocols on which navigation software is made to run.

India is a very dynamic country. New roads, highways and landmarks are built regularly and older roads get additional roundabouts, lanes and one-ways. How do you cope with such changes

We have been making maps since 1995. For 18 years, our surveyors travelled the length and breadth of the country to develop accurate maps. Then, we keep our maps updated by releasing newer versions and upgrades regularly. We understood early that in map-making business the only thing constant is changing landscape.