How MapmyIndia is revving up to take on Google Maps

That very day, a lesser-known homegrown company called MapmyIndia launched a competing 360-degree street-view imagery feature called Mappls RealView along with 3D immersive maps and a 3D metaverse maps service. The chief executive officer (CEO) of MapmyIndia, Rohan Verma, called it “a fully indigenous alternative to foreign map apps, one that is more advanced in its capabilities and is more valuable for users.” The entire Mappls RealView maps repository covers hundreds of thousands of kilometres, including more than 40 crore geo-tagged 360-degree panoramas and videos that span cities, tourist spot, city streets and highways, says Verma.

Rohan Verma, CEO MapmyIndia

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Rohan Verma, CEO MapmyIndia

This much was clear: MapmyIndia was going up against Google Maps. Those who wondered who the challenger was didn’t realise that the Indian company was no newbie. C.E. Info Systems, better known as MapmyIndia, was founded in 1995, three years before Google was born and is, by now, a veteran in the mapping space. If you’re an iPhone user in India, and have not downloaded Google Maps on your smartphone, you would in all probability be using Apple’s default map, which it has licensed from MapmyIndia.

Going steady

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Going steady

But why has MapmyIndia not been able to scale up despite the first-mover advantage? “The primary reason we are not very well known in the country is that we are not as pervasive in the consumer space, whereas Google Maps comes pre-loaded on Android smartphones,” says chairman and managing director, and co-founder of MapmyIndia, Rakesh Verma. “But we are strong in the enterprise segment, and we are much more than a maps company,” says Rakesh.

MapmyIndia offers a range of enterprise solutions, including digital maps as a service (MaaS), software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), application programming interfaces (APIs), and internet of things (IoT) solutions to companies, automotive makers, government bodies, and developers and consumers in the Indian and global markets.

Verma believes that Google Maps’ method of crowdsourcing data is less reliable than his company’s. It sometimes leads to places that do not exist or makes one drive down narrow roads on a four-wheeler because much of the data would have been provided by two-wheeler riders. “You won’t see that on MapmyIndia. Our surveyors have walked and driven millions of kilometres using professional survey equipment and moderated (the data) in the office,” he says.

Over the last 25 years, MapmyIndia surveys collected hundreds of attributes about every location including building footprints, doorsteps, floor numbers, flat numbers, photographs, and types of buildings, all of which have helped the company create a data repository. The company now wants to use that resource to win over the Google Maps consumer.

But first, let’s take a look at how it has gone about making its mark.

The story so far

The company has about 5,000 enterprise customers, including Apple, HDFC Bank, Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai, Mahindra, Mercedez-Benz, Coca-Cola, Marico, Hindustan Unilever, Airtel, Uber, PhonePe and even some government institutions like the Central Board of Taxes (CBDT), says Verma. The company’s cloud mapping (SaaS) services, too, are used by many companies like Paytm, PhonePe, Amazon, Alexa voice, Flipkart, Uber, Ola and Grofers (now Blinkit) for planning, operations, and customer experience.

“Whether you’re a PhonePe, a Paytm app, or goods and service tax (GSTN), you can integrate our maps and technology into your consumer-facing app, your IT systems, so that you get all that functionality and deliver it to your users,” says Verma. While announcing an initial public offering (IPO) in December 2021, Verma said MapmyIndia had “crores of addresses exactly geotagged” and “…the platform to take in unstructured addresses and convert that into exact locations”.

For instance, MapmyIndia is working with government bodies like the CBDT and GSTN to map direct and indirect tax sources in the country using “geotags or geocodes”, and analysing the regions which contribute to tax coffers and those which do not. The company also powers the SBI Finder App that helps locate ATMs, cash PoS (point of sale) machines, cash petrol pumps, and the nearest branch. Paytm displays its product prices and offers based on the user’s delivery location. The Union ministry of electronics and information technology has enabled map services on the UMANG app for digital governance by integrating MapmyIndia APIs.

The company now not only builds 2D maps but also 3D ones with landmarks, terrains and city models, 4D maps that update in near real-time, and even 3D metaverse maps. “One leg of the company is about building maps and the other is building the technology to build the maps. We were earlier building 2D Maps because that’s what the technology could support. We started building 3D maps in 2012-13 when BMW became our customer and wanted an enhanced experience,” says Verma.

The company has also beefed up its technology strength with acquisitions. For instance, it enhanced its digital twin mapping capabilities by acquiring Bengaluru-based VIDTEQ, a company that uses VideoMap technology to offer users a video clip of the complete route to any destination within a city. To improve its IoT products and services (aimed at improving fleet productivity, optimizing fuel costs and enhancing fleet lifespan), MapmyIndia acquired 75.98% equity shares of Gtropy Systems, an IoT and logistics SaaS tech startup, in February.

The efforts seem to be bearing fruit. As on date, the company is sitting on about 400 crore of cash and has a market capitalization of around 7,446 crore (as on 14 September), with revenue from operations as on 31 March 2022 at 200 crore and net profit at 87 crore.

“We currently get 99.5% of our revenue from the India market. But over the last few years, we have been building maps for Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, the UAE and Egypt. We have integrated maps from 200 countries and territories into our platforms. We have a global solution in case a customer asks for it,” says Rohan Verma.

Mapping covid

On 1 March 2021, when the pandemic was peaking, MapmyIndia pitched in by helping users find testing, treatment, vaccination, isolation and even containment zones. The efforts of this digital mapping company got a boost when the government integrated these features in the official Co-WIN portal, where the search for vaccination centres continues to be powered by MapmyIndia.

“The government asked us if we could map 50,000 vaccine centres. They had to go live (on Co-Win). We set up a team of about 40 people, who began mapping testing, treatment, isolation centres and containment zones. Within five hours, we completed the mapping. We gave them (the government) a widget with one line of code with which they could integrate this nearby vaccine centre finder—that’s the power of our platform,” he added.

MapmyIndia also has a partnership with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to use the latter’s satellite imagery and earth observation data and provide map-based analytics and insights about weather, pollution, agricultural output, land-use changes, flood and landslide disasters, etc.

David vs Goliath

While MapmyIndia is strong in the enterprise space, it has a long way to go to capture consumers’ mindspace. For one, Android phones have nearly 95% marketshare in India and most users seldom change apps unless they are very discontent. Further, Google has developed its mapping functionality for 15 years now and collected more than 220 billion Street View images from over 100 countries and territories. Google also says it is testing a new and upgraded camera system for street-view images that will roll out globally in 2023.

In Europe, the US and Canada, Google offers “eco-friendly routing”, which allows drivers to select their engine type — petrol or gas, diesel, hybrid or electric vehicle (EV)—in order to get the best route and most accurate fuel or energy efficiency estimates. The technology uses insights from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the European Environment Agency. Google Maps also offers turn-by-turn directions for pedestrians. To ensure you’re not walking the wrong way, Live View uses augmented reality to display arrows and directions clearly overlaid on the map. Plus, you can preview your walking route with Street View. Some of these features, however, are yet to be introduced in India. Advanced algorithms built into Google Maps can account for changes in traffic flows to alert the user and adjust arrival times and routes. Google has crowd-sourced features such as warnings about speed traps or roadway hazards from hundreds of thousands of users.

Google is working with local traffic authorities to help India improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion—for example, it shows information on speed limits shared by traffic authorities, starting with Bengaluru and Chandigarh.

In a September report, brokerage Anand Rathi said: “We all know Google Maps because of its reach through Android phones. MapMyIndia is just as big but, unfortunately, still unknown. MapmyIndia is a B2B (business to business) and B2B2C (business to business to consumer) market leader in India. It was an early mover in India’s digital mapping. It pioneered digital-mapping technologies such as an AI-powered 4D high-definition digital map of the real world, and an N-CASE mobility suite for digital vehicles, etc.” The report, however, pointed out that “competition from large global operators such as Google” and “high client concentration (80% of MapmyIndia’s revenue arises from 35 clients)” could impact its fortunes.

“MaymyIndia has come a very long way in the past few years. While it already had an excellent product, its efforts to establish new partnerships, take a platform approach, engage the developer ecosystem and increase outreach to various stakeholders have helped cement its presence. Moreover, given its Indian roots, the company has a definite advantage in terms of its ability to map remote areas of the country and participate in sensitive government projects where foreign players cannot be used,” says Sanchit Gogia, chief analyst and CEO at Greyhound Research. However, he added that MapmyIndia “needs to do more work on the consumer-facing end since consumers are exceptionally well-versed with Google Maps and continue using it as their mainstay”.

MapmyIndia’s strategy for the consumer space is two-fold. “First, we want to build the Mappls app into a far more compelling product compared to the default maps app which is force pre-loaded on phones. Second, we will promote it through marketing campaigns and partnerships so that consumers end up finding more features and benefits,” CEO Verma says. Mapp1s app can help doorstep-level navigation and offer a more immersive experience, he claims. “In the Indian context, where road safety is critical, Mappls app alerts users while driving as to current road speed limits and over-speeding, speed cameras, speed breakers, sharp curves, accident-prone zones and also gives photo-realistic junction views to help users navigate safely and prevent accidents,” Verma says.

Going ahead, MapmyIndia has identified drones as a potentially large business area. “About nine months ago, we got big time into the drone space. Now, we are creating metaverse maps and you will see a lot more of our drone-based solutions,” Verma says. And even as Rohan Verma acknowledges that MapmyIndia has its work cut out in the consumer space, he asserts, “We genuinely believe we are building a deep-tech products platform out of India, which helps separate us from the rest of the consumer service-oriented players.”

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