Esri is clear on the route to take with its Map Tech


Seventy-one-year-old Jack Dangermond, and his wife Laura Dangermond, are often together described as the "king and queen of GIS technology", the software used to create digital maps. In 1969, the duo founded mapping company Esri that has over 40% of the global GIS market share and more than $1billion in annual revenue. In an interview with ETtech, Jack talks about his plans in India. Excerpts:

How did major shifts in the technology shape your company?

We have spent billions of dollars over the past 15 years on re-developing and refactoring the same algorithms for visualisation and spatial analysis so that they work well in a web-services environment. Today, we make about a billion maps on our platform every day and have about 3 million subscribers on that platform. It's kind of like Salesforce for mapping, except that it is not only mapping but also analytics. There are about 8 million datasets that have been shared by our users. We increasingly see our users share their soil, vegetation and topographic maps on the cloud. And other users are able to use those maps and fuse them together. So, this is the fastest growing segment of our business: It still represents less than 20% of our revenue, but its growing like crazy.

How did you compete against Google?

We are a B2B company and are focused on enterprise customers. We don't sell advertising, we sell software. It was never Esri Vs Google. Our software and services are used by 350,000 organisations across the world. One of our customers, Reliance, uses our platform for all its utilities, phones and networks. We spent 27% of our revenue on R&D. We spend between $300 million a year on R&D. We just launched a billion-dollar software platform. It will be more mobile and easy to access.

What are your plans in India?

The big area in India where we work closely with the Forest Ministry is in protection and management of Indian forests. The first map of Indian forests made in part by the Department of Space in India with the remote sensing satellites showed that over a period of years, Indian forests would be declining very rapidly and that told a story all the way to a member of the Gandhi family. She saw what was occurring to the Indian forests and changed policy and said that no, we should stop this destruction of the Indian forests. So, because of GIS, the Forest Law came into the being.

A 14-year old kid along with his team from India used our story-mapping tool and mapped the Ganga to find out how the pollution levels in Delhi are related to the Bay of Bengal and the pollution happening in Mumbai. But in India, we have not been so successful. We have made a number of attempts over the years to provide our software to this environment, but it requires leadership and special interest by the teaches. We have not been able to build a relationship with the education ministry but we are open to the idea of getting our software for schools here.

How do you look at start-ups in India now?

Today there are thousands of start-ups that are dominated by venture capitalists, entailing a kind of artificiality in creating business and not a great formula for success. The cycle of taking a VC is troubling because it robs entrepreneurs of their dignity instead of facing their vision. The idea of monetising that by borrowing money or taking VC route was not something I wanted to do because I didn’t want to sell my soul to stockholders and VC people.

GIS is considered one of the key growth areas in ICT. In Sri Lanka over 150 Organizations trust ArcGIS Platform to deliver their critical GIS related organizational needs, most of it concentrated in the public sector. In fact all of Sri Lanka’s authoritative maps are created on the ArcGIS Platform. Key Public sector Organizations in Sri Lanka like the Survey Department of Sri Lanka, Road Development Authority, National Water Supply and Drainage Board and all the National Universities have been using ArcGIS for years.

ArcGIS Platform has been in Sri Lanka since the late 1980’s and has been continuing to be the most used, preferred and user-friendly platform for GIS. National Universities conduct Varied GIS courses including Masters Programs which means there is a readymade workforce. GIS has been introduced to the Advance Level Geography curriculum recently, which goes to show the importance of this area as a science to a country.

As the country is going through a major digital transformation and automation, ArcGIS will play a key role in this process as GIS is at the heart of any nations digital transformation as it facilitates it. GIS should be part of all key databases with national importance as it can play a crucial role in driving efficient and more informed decision making, Optimizing on resources, providing efficient citizen services and driving economic growth. When adopting GIS technology based system for an organization or an national it is important to consider the sustainability and long-term maintenance of the System its adaptability to the changing ITC environment, bug fixing, changing OS (operations systems) Networks etc., It is important that the GIS system is built on platform that is proven and sustainable and a technical collaboration partnership is built with a reputed long standing proven organization.

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