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.

Raghavendra Krishnamurthy

Group Manager, Bosch

Those who survive the initial bumpy ride would be there to reap the benefits later

Indian consumers have always been very open in adapting to affordable new technology products. Be it Walkman in 80’s, Radio Pagers in 90’s or Cell Phone in this decade – the gadgets have always adorned the life style like never before. The latter half of this decade saw the prices of products like Blue tooth, Mobile Camera, GPRS, Wireless etc plummeting and eventually they reaching the commodity status.

With improved lifestyles in India, automotive market has witnessed a big boom in the recent years. The recent trend has been that of incorporating cutting edge technologies in the areas of Safety (ABS, ESP, Airbags etc), Engine Management (Common Rail, Hybrid, Exhaust etc) and Multimedia (Audio, Video, Bluetooth) in the cars. Increased convergence with Consumer Electronics and corresponding decrease in the prices has resulted in car multimedia devices forcing their way into entry- & mid-car segments. Entry of Navigation systems is one such recent development in India.

From the outset, being one of the fastest growing automotive markets in the world, the market opportunities appear very attractive for Navigation systems in India. Also, relatively few players in this space offer unparallel advantages to the early entrants. However, vendors may not find it very easy to sustain the opportunities.

This is primarily due to the combination of infrastructure & technological reasons. Essential requirements, for a Navigation unit to calculate route properly, such as comprehensive road network data, reliable street information (one ways, parking areas, speed limits, signals etc), structured address format, rule-compliant traffic behavior etc, are not default parameters in India. This poses a huge challenge to the technical community and calls for creating innovative solutions. From an entrepreneurial angle, ironically, these very challenges and unique business opportunities in the areas of LBS (Location Based Services), Remote Assistance, Telematics, Toll Collection etc, offer enough reasons to conduct business in India.

Finally, adopting out-of-the box business models to keep the volumes high and at the same time cost of ownership to the customer low would be another critical success factor. For example, cost/mode of the map updates will be one of those decisive factors. Other factors such as Licensing & Government Policies, Forums & Bodies influencing the policies, would also play a significant role in determining the journey next.

In summary, Indian context offers enough challenges early-on. Those who survive the initial bumpy ride would be there to reap the benefits later, for it is hard to ignore India! It is even more interesting that Blaupunkt, the Inventor of Car Navigation has entered the market at this stage in India.

It gives me a feeling that we can expect very interesting developments for the Indian consumer in the near future.

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