Location-based mapping technologies have become deal-breaker for small and medium companies(SMEs) and retail stores. Because the phenomena of word of mouth actually show tangible results by passing through the phase of getting bigger footfall of customers and potential customers. Unleashing the power of location-based mapping technologies for business, we have this interview for you.
In an exclusive interaction with Faiz Askari of SMEStreet – Nikhil Kumar, Country Head, India, HERE Technologies emphasized on cutting edge trends in the navigation and destination search segment. Mapping technologies have evolved a lot in the last decade, this technology trend has become a decisive game-changer for several industries. Moving forward, it is important to understand how this technology segment is evolving.
Here are the edited excerpts:
Faiz Askari: Could you give us an overview of HERE and how it is leading the geospatial industry?
Nikhil Kumar: Founded in 1985, HERE, a location data and technology platform company, enables people, businesses and cities to harness the power of location. By making sense of the world through the lens of location, we empower our customers to achieve better outcomes – from helping a city manage its infrastructure or a business optimize its assets, to guiding drivers to their destination safely. We are a leading, a Business-to-Business (B2B) mapping technology company that has created some of the most advanced digital solutions for companies across sectors like transport & logistics, manufacturing, fleet management, supply chain management and automotive among several others.
Over the last three decades, we have steadily built on our legacy in mapping technology, across the world and today have the distinction of creating dynamic, three-dimensional maps breathing with layers of information and insights. Our robust and cutting edge, deep-tech product portfolio includes:
- End-to-end solutions for connected vehicles, in-vehicle infotainment, and autonomous driving
- Location services products such as geofencing, custom routing
- Industry-leading maps sporting over 900 attributes, powered by millions of data sources
- Fast and accurate global tracking and positioning
- Traffic products to map, analyze and predict real-time road traffic
- Smart mobility marketplace for fleet and transportation services.
In 2019, investors like Mitsubishi Corporation (MC), Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) of Japan, joined our investor repertoire. Some of the marquee brands we work with include names such as Audi, BMW, Daimler, Hyundai MnSoft, Tech Mahindra, Verizon, Esri, Alibaba, Baidu and Toyota. We also actively work with central governments and public sector clients across the world.
Faiz: Role of location intelligence to ensure business continuity in a post COVID world. Could you give us a sense of what is the scope for the sector in APAC and how India fits into HERE’s global strategy?
Nikhil: Location intelligence is increasingly becoming an integral part of our lives. Whether it’s individuals looking for smart navigation services, organizations looking to accelerate digital transformation of their business functions or governments looking to deliver optimum citizen services and smart governance, the insight into the “where” of all things has become essential. Since the pandemic, geospatial data, and technologies, have played an important role in managing its outbreak; and its role will be paramount as the world reopens to a new ‘normal’. With our new investors NTT and Mitsubishi, we are now strategically poised in the Asia Pacific region to grow at a faster rate, with India being a key market, both in terms of innovation and business opportunities. With already a strong India presence, which drives a substantial part of our global R&D initiatives, we are confident of creating products for a global audience locally.
The adoption of cloud analytics and location-based services is picking up pace, across following sectors. We intend on keeping up this momentum and maintain a steady growth curve:
- Fleet management, Transport & Logistics: Location intelligence will help T&L companies manage their fleets, streamline last mile deliveries, optimize first mile deliveries, and provide transport management systems / tools to help drivers and fleet managers associate exact location of a shipment.
- Public Sector: Digital mapping, location-based data, and technologies, help governments public sector organizations and healthcare providers information that would help them with better and smarter governance.
- Manufacturing and Supply chain: Right from sourcing of raw materials, floor management, manufacturing cycles, to transportation of the finished goods, supply chain optimization, and workforce welfare, location intelligence plays a vital role in providing valuable insights to manufacturers, to take informed decisions about demand forecasts and production.
- Healthcare and citizen services: Among the new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and Internet of Things, location intelligence and spatial technologies have tremendous potential to revolutionize the current state of government delivery of healthcare and citizen services. With data-rich stories and visual maps, location intelligence could help in creating healthy, resilient societies and communities.
Faiz : What has been the impact of COVID-19 on the location intelligence sector and how has been HERE’s business has been impacted?
Nikhil: Although location intelligence and technologies have existed for years now, COVID-19 has enhanced the importance of location. The COVID-19 response across the world has been built on the underlying premise of location intelligence, which assumes that if something happens somewhere, the insight from ‘where’, is what could make all the difference in access to care, the quality of care and the possibility of achieving positive health outcomes. The significant uptick in the demand for location-based services and solutions have meant, that fortunately for us at HERE, we have had the opportunity to share the solutions and products that are not just meant for auto navigation but new use cases across different sectors and industry verticals. Besides auto, we are currently focusing on a few major industries — transport & logistics, fleet management, supply chains, and public sector, where location-based services promise to help companies and governments carve out an effective post COVID-19 world.
Faiz : How crucial will location intelligence be in a post COVID era? What are some of the key sectors driving the growth of the location intelligence space in India?
Nikhil: Location intelligence, especially in a post COVID world, will be crucial for business continuity and disaster recovery. This pandemic is changing the way we think, operate, and live our lives. Companies will need to adopt more sustainable solutions allow social distancing norms to be followed, along with other security measures. Location data can provide companies with business insights like- layouts of factories and other indoor facilities, while enabling shipment tracking, raw material and finished goods, fleet management and end-to-end supply chain management, that can help companies to manage business operations, efficiently & cost-effectively. Keeping this mind, going forward, our focus areas in India will be- public sector & governance, manufacturing, T&L, fleet management, and supply chain, among others.
Faiz: How has the general adoption of location intelligence by SME sector grown over the years and how has COVID-19 impacted the same?
Nikhil: The location intelligence market has steadily grown in terms of offering new use cases across industries, business processes and SMEs are no different. SMEs have till now focused on adopting location-based technologies to enhance user experiences, right from scheduling of deliveries to helping consumers track packages.
Then came COVID-19 and the sector has been forced to grapple multiple changes such as disrupted supply chains, travel restrictions, and remote factory management, among several others. Location technology, in this case, has been a deal-breaker for small and medium-sized companies. The lack of economic activity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has particularly hurt retailers and restaurants that rely on foot traffic. At the same time, demand for delivery services has skyrocketed while small businesses face the challenges of keeping their employees working and access to limited digital infrastructure. On the other hand, they must deal with challenges around manually organizing and sequencing multiple delivery stops, and drivers posed significant time restraints and increased the margin for human error significantly. The SME sector, therefore, has had to fall back on location embedded mobile solutions and platforms, allowing them to plan and dispatch delivery services without additional software development or implementation costs.
Faiz: Please highlight HERE’s go-to-market strategy in India
Nikhil: From a business perspective, strategic partnerships are extremely crucial for us. We will be looking to engage with strategic partners who will enable us to expand our global and regional footprint. We are focusing on supporting businesses in their digital transformation, that are also key to adapting to the COVID-19 world. This includes supporting:
- Trucking and logistics
- The tracking of goods through complex supply chains
- Resource planning for emergency responders (For e.g.- the work we have done with Uttar Pradesh Police, India)
- Waste management collection
- Network infrastructure rollouts
- Urban transportation systems and road traffic flows
Faiz : What importance does India carry in HERE’s global business?
Nikhil: COVID-19 has also reinforced the role of technology in India’s response to and recovering from the pandemic, especially with the geospatial technologies, which have played a critical role to curb the spread of infection, identify risk zones and facilitate quick emergency response. For companies as well, leveraging spatial data and analytics, combined with other emerging ICT tools such as cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, is helping them to get back to their normal operations, rebuild their businesses while reducing human health risks and enabling cost-effective supply chains, real-time identification of new market opportunities and improving customer/citizen delivery services. With the COVID induced digital leap, there is an opportunity for the Indian geospatial players such as HERE to drive a sustained partnership/collaboration between organizations, governments and communities to drive innovation and pave the way for accelerated digital transformation in areas of governance, manufacturing, supply chains, transport & logistics, healthcare delivery, smart cities and urban planning. Moreover, the country, also has one of the most competitive technology ecosystems in India, with young, bright and thriving entrepreneurial and student talent that can leverage fresh ideas, innovations and future technologies to create smart, diverse and sustainable society. This reflects well in HERE’s operations, which has a vast footprint in India, with over 4000 employees and has a breadth of strong, technically skilled software professionals, operating out of the engineering teams in Mumbai, leading the automation efforts and creating products for a global audience locally. Our own experience has shown that if one can crack the code in India, one can do it anywhere, creating world class products and solutions. Therefore, India continues to be key market for HERE in APAC and in driving our success story globally.
- What are some of the key challenges for Indian SMEs across manufacturing, food delivery, supply chains, transport & logistics, etc. now?
Nikhil: The lockdowns have disrupted supply chains across the globe. As a result, SME manufacturers across verticals, have found it difficult to source raw materials, delivery of goods to their customers and issues with labour. The mass exodus of the migrant labourers and the strict restrictions on traffic and movement of people, made it difficult for manufacturers to get production back to its original capacity. As a result, business continuity for several SME manufacturers has been rather challenging.
HERE collaborated with UNL to provide a solution- Human Care App which provides an infrastructure for a tech—driven shift to a new normal by accelerating the information flow and collaboration between people, governments, NGOs, and businesses to co-create safer public environments powered by location and data.
Faiz: What are some of the key products and solutions HERE Technologies has rolled out to combat COVID-19?
Nikhil: During the initial phase of the lockdown, governments and organizations were looking for solutions to track people and their movements, to keep a check on the spread of COVID-19. HERE collaborated with UNL to provide a solution- Human Care App which provides an infrastructure for a tech—driven shift to a new normal by accelerating the information flow and collaboration between people, governments, NGOs, and businesses to co-create safer public environments powered by location and data. This was put together under the #tech4good foundation, where in users could self-monitor and communicate their symptoms with local governments and businesses, to bring transparency to new and developing cases based on geolocation. It would help provide information about important hubs like hospitals, pop-clinics, and relief-centres to receive help within proximity of their location.