So, what's the deal with Indian map data?

So, what's the deal with Indian map data?

I’ve been hammering through my research on the Indian navigation market of late and have had some really interesting conversations with most of the key companies.

I can say this for sure – everyone is salivating at the sheer possibilities of the market. The numbers alone all point to massive profits and are getting people very excited.

And why not? 240 million mobile phone subscribers and 2 million new cars sold every year is not a bad starting point!

Plus there are other drivers and peculiarities that have caught my interest:

  • Unlike the evolution of the US and European navigation markets (which moved from in-car to PND and now towards the mobile phone) the device segments in the Indian market (due to good map data only recently becoming open) are seemingly starting off and competing at the same time.
  • The rise of the middle class has not gone unnoticed. Increased wealth and disposable income has increased demand for luxury products and consumer electronics. People have mentioned to me that India’s transition to a free market economy has fostered a new ‘culture of money’ – making it and spending it. Add in the fact that the government is now coming down on the side of big business and the market is seemingly becoming quite welcoming…

But the overriding issue seems to be that while everyone is so excited by the sheer possibilities of the market, there are still questions on to how to hit it in the right way! The opportunity is huge, but what are the strategies to actually break the market?

So, what’s the number one issue that everyone has been talking to me about? What’s holding everything up? Well, as I’m sure you can guess – it’s digital map data.

I’ll outline a few of the problems very briefly here:

  • The depth of coverage: It currently doesn’t match up to consumer expection. Not all roads are mapped and consumers expect more than what’s actually available.
  • How up to date the map can be: The infrastructure of India is changing all the time! This poses real difficulties for maps. Obviously, the answer is incremental map updates – but as we know from the west there are a few issues there…
  • Different routing principles: A source explained to me that maps are used and viewed in a different way in India. The standard ‘type in a house number’ system is essentially defunct in a country where houses and numbers are all over the place! Culturally, people are used to referencing landmarks when navigating – so POI centric routing is the name of the game. But, quite frankly, how will this work?

Anyway, here’s a controversial nugget that’s come out of my research…

Everyone assumes that map data for India isn’t anywhere near ready yet, but the truth is… it actually is!

Admittedly, it’s not the complete experience yet – but will it do the job? The answer is a definite yes.

The major map vendors I have spoken to have said as much – it’s satisfactory and it can do the job. The PND manufacturers I have spoken to have said the same, but stressed managing consumer expectations of the maps.

Basically, Indian map data is here, it more than does the job and it is improving at a rapid pace!

So, there’s no excuse now I guess?

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