Navigation in India: smooth sail or a bumpy ride

Nov 2008 | No Comment

Amit Prasad, Shivalik Prasad, Ashutosh Pande, Raghvendra rishnamurthy Shashank N Dhaneshwar, Alok Shankar

Perspectives on key factors aiding and affecting in-car navigation in India.

Ashutosh Pande

MD Indian Operations,
Sirf Technologies

The last mile is still a challenge

Bhai-sahab – a familiar salutation as one tries to find his or her way around towns in India. Can an In-car navigator replace this living breathing direction finder?

As one observes the entry of in car navigation systems into the Indian market one has to look at the next best alternative and try to differentiate their product offering against that alternative. In India this alternative is the proverbial ‘Bhai Sahab’ – the last mile navigator. Some will even hitch a ride with you to your destination and you don’t have to worry about leaving the charger at home! The last mile is still a challenge – I can navigate myself to Nainital from Delhi – having to still stop at a few places to get onto the right road segment. However, once in Nainital, how do I get to House # 4 in Joy Villa or to 15 Vernon Cottage Annex? Alas, I do have to resort to the neighborhood ‘Bhai Sahab’ for directions. This will change over time as content is created. With widespread infrastructure projects coming in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, navigable roads in India are changing weekly if not daily. How does a Portable Navigations Device (PND) navigate one through this mess? Isn’t a navigation system designed to accord this convenience to its owner?

Kudos to the pioneers like SatNav and MapmyIndia for introducing Indians to PNDs and in-car navigation. Technoenthusiasts have gobbled up these products and early adopters are experimenting with them. But is India ready for these products? I have to say that PNDs in India will have a bumpy ride. India is not ready for PNDs. The chasm between early adopters and mass adoption is huge – PNDs as single function device will have to compete with MP3 players and In-car video players. In India, when it comes to choices ‘Bollywood’ wins over others and in portable music and video players will win over PNDs.

Not all is doom and gloom and efforts to date are not lost. New classes of PNDs, with media playing capability, are being launched. These devices can play music, video, pictures as well as offer navigation capability. Navigation is a ‘secondary’ function as opposed to a ‘primary’ function. The channel for sales of these devices is also different. These devices, if positioned properly, have the potential to catch tailwind and ride smoothly blaring ‘Suhana safar aau yeh mausam hasin, hamen dar hai ham kno na jayen kahin’ while the navigator stops one from getting lost on country roads.

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