In India, it is not uncommon to see someone stop and ask for directions. But what’s more common is the person who is lost gets multiple instructions which are contradictory, leaving them even more confused. However, these days, with the information super highway serving as a constant companion, all the directions one needs is just a click away. But, that job isn’t all too easy in India. There are certain challenges such as acquiring information on India’s ever changing roads – and that is exactly the process New Delhi-based MapmyIndia.com looks to simplify. Providing accurate and updated maps and directions is only a component of what the company has to offer. They also make and sell navigational devices and provide mapping services for several verticals.
Surveying the scene
In the early 90s’, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was still in the nascent stages when husband-wife duo Rakesh and Rashmi Verma decided to delve into it. Their company CE Info Systems was the first in India to enter this space and they took on the mammoth task of mapping the whole nation. From 1994, surveyors have covered the length and breadth of the nation digitalising all the information collected. CE Info Systems thrived in the business-to-business (B2B) segment, providing precise geographical information to major companies such as Coca Cola Co. and Hutch (now Vodafone). The Vermas knew that there was much more scope for all the data they had collected over ten years and decided that it was time to make this knowledge available to the public at large.
At the turn of the 21st century, the Verma heir and current director, Roshan Verma, took over the reigns following a stint abroad. As he completed his first year at Stanford in 2004, he observed how U.S. citizens used navigational tools, most often choosing to print out a map of the route they needed to take. “My father spoke of all the data we already had and he wanted to make people more aware and give them access to all the accurate data we had. The best way to do it was to set up a website. And that is what we did,” says Verma. The website was established in 2004 and aimed to make travel in India simpler and thus, came the change of name. Yahoo and MapQuest launched their websites shortly after, with MapmyIndia.com providing them the data. Till date, MapmyIndia.com provides data to Yahoo and is responsible for its updates in this segment. The company’s foray into navigation ushered in other big players as it proved that India could be correctly mapped and was indeed a viable market for navigational tools.
MapmyIndia.com enjoyed its initial success as a B2B service provider and still reigns as the company of choice for GI systems in India. From helping Coca Cola Co. chart out the best routes of delivery from factory to consumer to helping customers of banks such as HDFC locate the nearest ATM, its geographic data has been helping Indians for years. However, a direct connection to end consumers was lacking.
Founder: Rakesh and Rashmi Verma
Year Founded: 1992
Location: New Delhi
USP: Data collection process has ensured maps are accurate. Their current focus is to deliver this data through various mediums – online, mobile phone and GPS navigators.
Company size : 150+ employees and 200+ field surveyors
Investors : Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Sherpalo Ventures, Nexus India Capital
MapmyIndia.com already provided maps online to anyone who needed reliable navigational information, but they took it one step further. Unlike other navigational websites, MapmyIndia.com chose to provide customers with an offline device that would perform the tasks of an in-car navigator. From hand held navigators to tacking systems for vehicles, the company realised the true potential of the data at hand leading to a shift in focus over the last four years. All these systems are essentially audio-video navigation systems with a voice assistance directly linked to a satellite. Verma adds, “These devices are extremely multifunctional. They provide in car entertainment too, music, movies, camera and even Bluetooth options are available.”
Another area in which MapmyIndia.com has seen considerable development is that of mobile phones. The company’s Sygic Mobile Maps can turn a mobile phone into a Global Positioning System (GPS) navigator and by loading this solution onto the mobile device, one gets voice assisted guidance to the destination. This application comes with an all-India map with street level detailing of 401 cities. MapmyIndia.com’s navigable maps are driving Airtel’s GPS Navigation systems and is also available on Motorola’s Moto Ming & Sony Ericsson’s GPS phones. The importance of this vertical is evident as Verma feels that consumer led adoption of GPS systems will directly lead to an increase in demand. He says, “GPS is an accessory these days and with navigation features available on mobile phones, this is usually the first way in which individuals experiment with navigational tools.”
Today, MapmyIndia.com stores extensive layouts of more than 620 Indian cities and adds new locations and updates to their maps every six months. While a user can add information to the maps provided by the website, the company ensures that the data is factual before an official addition to its maps is made. This is done via 400 field surveyors who provide day-to-day updates, thus, ensuring a higher accuracy rate. MapymyIndia.com’s latest service addition is based on door-to-door navigation. The user needs to enter the address of a destination and he/she will be led right to the doorstep, thus, solving constant last minute navigation problems.
The constant need to innovate is what sets this company apart – and this was recognised as an asset by its investors as well. MapmyIndia.com procured its first round of investments from venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, Sherpalo Ventures and Nexus India Capital. In its second round, it received U.S.$ 9 million from a consortium lead by Qualcomm Ventures.
MapmyIndia.com continues to scale success in the B2B segment and Verma and his team are eager to crack the business-to-consumer segment. There are significant plans to advertise and the website has already undergone a renovation intended to make for a more complete consumer experience. With the lessons learnt over the last decade, MapmyIndia.com is on the brink of coming into its own. With some smart marketing and innovative strategies already in play, only time will tell what direction this company will finally take.
Examples of MapamyIndia’s B2B clients across various verticals:
- Automotive: Ford India, Tata Motors
- FMCG: Coca Cola India
- Government: Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi Tourism, MCD
- Telecom: Motorola
- Banking: ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank
- Internet: Makemytrip.com
- Social sector: Janagraha