Could you tell us a bit about the history of AGI; how your organisation started, what is your mission and how does it fit with other entities in India taking care of the industry sector which delivers commercial services based on Earth Observation (EO) data?
The Association of Geospatial Industries, or AGI, was founded through a series of consultation amongst leaders of select group of companies operating in the Indian geospatial market in 2008. The process of consultation was facilitated by Geospatial Media leveraging its relationship with major industry players. It took about two years to set up a formal mechanism, wherein a group of 10 companies, with presence across more than seven provinces of India, came forward to establish AGI as Non-for-Profit industry association. The primary purpose of AGI has been to pursue the common business objectives of geospatial industry in India. It began with creating awareness, building business development platforms, and undertaking policy advocacy. Right from its inception, AGI considered Earth Observation as an important component of larger geospatial information and technology, and satellite data and processing companies have been associated as partner in its journey right through.
Can you describe briefly the main activities of AGI its involvement with the Indian EO industry? What has been the greatest challenge encountered by your organisation?
As stated above, Earth Observation companies have been an integral part of AGI since its inception. In fact, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) invested significantly in scaling up EO applications, and several geospatial service companies found initial incubation through ISRO’s industry outreach program for data processing. Penetration and proliferation of remote sensing data and its societal applications offered the much-needed broader base for geospatial companies to move up the value chain. A major challenge encountered by AGI has been working around the regulated remote satellite data policy in the country. Though the policy has been evolving over the years, it is still more responsive in nature than enabling through open data network.
Contrasting India and Europe probably there are different approaches shaped by the different market conditions. How do the Indian EO data suppliers invest in new opportunities?
It would be difficult and inappropriate to draw a parallel between the European and Indian approaches towards developing EO market opportunities. However, I would like to emphasise that Indian entrepreneurs have been very innovative and agile in shaping vibrant EO and geospatial capabilities, serving not only Indian market but also offering its services and solutions to the world. In the absence of industrial incubation environment and lack of accessibility to quality data for decades, Indian entrepreneurs took very constructive and positive approaches in integrating geospatial and EO data, and developed locally relevant applications. In fact, I have no hesitation in saying that, Indian geospatial market integrated EO in its offerings much earlier than probably Europe. That’s why founding members of AGI had significant representation of EO companies.
In January 2018, AGI and EARSC signed a memorandum of understanding to develop synergies and strengthen cooperation in business, research and technology between India and Europe in the utilisation of EO technology. What are your expectations and how do you judge the first steps which have been taken?
I would like to congratulate the leadership of AGI and EARSC, who came together for developing institutional partnership between Europe and India. It is a very natural alliance, wherein members of AGI and EARSC could benefit from the expertise and market outreach of respective networks. Since AGI and EARSC both represent commercial companies associated with the EO industry, the first and foremost step could be to develop a network of engagement amongst its members. It would be worthwhile to put together a white paper outlining EO data infrastructure of Europe and India; cataloguing of expertise and capabilities available with members of AGI and EARSC; and identification of areas of collaboration.
In your opinion, what will be the best mechanism to build a strong partnership?
I believe the way forward would be developing Business to Business Platform between the members of EARSC and AGI, as well as facilitating Government to Government collaboration through the exchange of knowledge, practices and experience especially in the field of policy development and commercialisation.
At the end of the interview, here is the opportunity for your final thoughts and how your activities could contribute to the future development of the EO geo-information service sector?
Democratisation, commercialisation and monetisation of EO industry is a very critical aspect of the new digital world. AGI And EARSC through their respective member networks could play a vital role in expanding value and impact of satellite data in larger geospatial market through integrated solutions and services.
As a social entrepreneur and Chief Executive at Geospatial Media and Communications, Sanjay Kumar has been working towards facilitating and accelerating growth of the geospatial industry worldwide and raising awareness of the industry’s value proposition and contribution to world’s economy and society.
Having co-founded Geospatial Media and Communications, Sanjay has been responsible for its transformation and evolution to be a leading geospatial media organisation making difference through geospatial knowledge and advocacy. Sanjay also co-founded Association of Geospatial Industries of India in 2008 and is on Board of Directors of Open Geospatial Consortium since 2011. He is the Chairman of United Nations GGIM – Private Sector Network, and Board Member of Radiant Earth Imagery for Impact.
Sanjay holds a Masters in Political Science and M. Phil. in International Studies from the University of Delhi.