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By Mayur Sharma

Q. How critical is emerging tech like GIS for the start-up ecosystem? How does an acceleration program like GeoInnovation encourage innovation in water resource management?

Agendra Kumar: As per the Geospatial “Artha” Report, India’s geospatial economy is expected to grow to ₹63,100 crores ($8.5 billion) by 2025 with a CAGR of 12.8%. This new geo-enabled era is opening up huge opportunities for start-ups.

As of today, out of about 60,000 start-ups in India, around 10,000 are technology-led start-ups. These start-ups are adding significant value to India’s growth story, and thus it is imperative to further empower them with new-age technologies like GIS. Aided by GIS technology and data, start-ups can aim to develop innovative solutions that can solve critical problems. The GIS market is driven by the adoption of cloud, AI/ML, AR, and VR, as well as other emerging technologies, and this is exactly where the focus of Esri India is.

Keeping in mind the immense potential of location intelligence and other emerging technologies to help businesses mitigate challenges, unlock opportunities and drive desired business outcomes, Esri India has curated the GeoInnovation program. The focus of the program is to aid start-ups to become spatially intelligent.

Today, GIS is at the forefront of the ongoing digital transformation, leading to the use of innovative information and decision support systems. The ubiquitous nature of GIS has enabled it to blend and be used across various industries and run some of the critical government and business operations, including water resource management. Smart water management solutions are built on two key technologies – IoT and digital maps. Taking this forward through GeoInnovation, we expect to solve water resource management issues by making GIS maps, apps, and data accessible anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

GeoInnovation 2022 aspires to help the brightest talents in the start-up community of India to build specialized businesses, leveraging the power of mapping and location intelligence to address real-world problems promptly.

Q. Role of Esri India and AGNIi in this initiative? What kind of support will the start-ups get?

Agendra Kumar: Recent reports indicate that India has emerged as the 3rd largest ecosystem for start-ups globally with over 62,200 DPIIT-recognized start-ups across 636 districts. Under these circumstances, building an acceleration platform for start-ups, seemed like a step in the right direction to fuel the growth of the Indian economy.

GeoInnovation is an acceleration platform for startupreneurs. Esri India and AGNIi (Invest India) through their partnership intend to help start-ups to leverage the power of location analytics as they build new solutions for today’s problems. The program aims to facilitate start-ups who want to create their own IP to geo-enable their offerings. DronaMaps, Saartha Labs, Genesis Ray, and iSpatial Techno Solutions are some of the successful start-ups that have been part of the GeoInnovation program. We encourage start-ups that are inclined to integrate GIS in their software solutions/ products to connect and explore various engagement opportunities with Esri India.

Q. How can a start-up in the water sector approach you to join this program? And what will be the criteria or requirements for their selection?

Agendra Kumar: GeoInnovation is designed especially for entrepreneurs who are building technology-enabled start-ups with GIS as an integral part of the product architecture. This platform serves the multi-fold purpose of empowering start-ups to bring their GIS-based business ideas to market and build a strong network with industry experts, investors, and peer groups. It is also an opportunity for selected start-ups to pitch their software products to Esri’s customers. For instance, by proceeding through three simple stages – the application stage, technical guidance stage, and finally the business pitch phase, start-ups in the water management sector can bring grand ideas in water management to life through the GeoInnovation 2022 platform.

B2B or B2G Indian start-ups who are building their own software products with GIS at its core or a key USP of the product, start-ups with unique and innovative GIS-based business ideas and an MVP already in place or incubating start-ups who have a viable product idea and basic architecture ready, meet the eligibility requirements for joining this program.

Q. What is the role of GIS in digital water transformation?

Agendra Kumar: As the population booms, it has never been more important to produce more with less. As the Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) sector continues to face increasing pressure, especially due to the impacts of climate change, we need to increase the sector’s resilience and sustainability. In doing so, technologies like GIS have a vital role to play in managing the scarcity and safety of water, utility operations, monitoring, and treatment. GIS, when coupled with promising emerging technologies like IoT, enables remote sensing of water, which brings excellent outcomes in water accounting, non-revenue water remediation, and more. GIS enables decision-making in real-time pertaining to smart irrigation, water quality control, timely and orderly use, and movement of water. GIS aids in monitoring water pipes on a real-time basis. Accordingly, leaking water system components can be identified and fixed on a real-time basis, much before any large-scale damage occurs.

Geographic Information Systems allow us to have updated data on varied water sources and play an important part in keeping track of the changing water conditions. This information helps hydrologists to efficiently understand groundwater behavior and characteristics. GIS also helps in creating models and designs that aid in utilizing underground water responsibly.

Additionally, by facilitating studies on slopes, drainage features, and land utilization patterns, GIS can be used to predict whether the water in a given area is safe for human consumption or not. Thus, as these points illustrate, GIS is a critical element for strengthening water management in India, both now and in the future.

Q. How can maps help meet utility challenges, especially in critical areas like water management (clean water, wastewater, stormwater)?

Agendra Kumar: Today, mapping technologies are being used across sectors. To name a few, GIS technology is being used by defense departments to assess threats and minimize their impact; by healthcare professionals to track immunizations, and by meteorological departments to monitor and analyze weather patterns. Going by this, it should come as no surprise that utility infrastructure networks are massive and complex, often laced with significant challenges in the process of building, inspecting, maintaining, and delivering services. Utility management essentially involves a cycle of network planning, operations, asset management, and maintenance. Fortunately, the easy access and availability of mapping technology curbs these challenges to a great extent. For instance, GIS plays an incredible role in sewer system management. Along with enabling real-time management of sewer lines, the information provided by GIS helps in preventing damage to waste pipes during the construction of structures like roads, railways, buildings, etc.

GIS digitizes the inspection and maintenance process of utilities: minimizing opportunities for error, eliminating manual data transfer, and reducing rework. It also enables utilities to automatically organize information by location and store all network data in a single platform. GIS technology also helps utilities to track asset health proactively: extending an asset’s lifecycle and reducing operating costs.

With GIS visualization tools, stakeholders can view and analyze remote monitoring data for a single site as well as aggregated data from multiple sites. The infusion of such capabilities allows water utilities to achieve exemplary outcomes in asset performance and customer response. They are also able to collect timely data from the field which invariably leads to better decision-making and regulatory compliance. Thus, it would be right to say that mapping technologies aid utilities in delivering more reliable and efficient services.

Location Intelligence brings numerous benefits to a business, helping it to solve real-life challenges in a more efficient way. As a leader in the domain of GIS and Geospatial technologies, we encourage start-ups to integrate GIS into their software solutions/ products. At Esri India, we have a dedicated team that provides start-ups with the required guidance and mentoring. Interested start-ups can just write to us at startups@esri.in and Esri India Start-up team will connect with various engagement opportunities that can help them scale their offering and business.

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