One would have seen various initiatives across multiple sectors where associations are formed with the intent of contributing to the industry as a whole. Somehow due to the nature of roads and highways – this has not been successful so far. As a result – there is widespread belief that something must be done so that leadership of service and solution providers contributes more to the technologies and the standards and specifications which drive the tolls and highways of India.
I have been noticing the lack of a forward-thinking forum for the entire set of solution providers for this industry in India. There must be at least 80-100 Solution Providers (if not more) that power the technologies on highways and plazas in the country. There must be at least 300-400 OEMs who support the eco system. And then there are the 400-500 clients who buy these solutions and fund/ operate/manage the roads and highways. Not to forget the very large NHAI (National Highways Authority of India) that steers the highway development program in India. Roads, State & National Highways will always play an important part in the economy of the country. The big question has been – do our solution providers understand the impact that they make? And is it fair that the companies continue to work in silos without taking stock of the eco system that they provide for?
We organised the first ever meeting of the “Solution Providers for Infrastructure in India” in August in Delhi. The group consisted of 30+ CXOs who were hopeful of making a huge difference in TMS, ETC, WIM and other technologies that run Indian roads & highways. I am pretty sure we will take along the others as we progress in this journey. The group discussed the “Current State” and “Future Possibilities” for these technologies in India.
Current State: Interestingly – it did not take time for the group to discuss and agree that challenges do exist in the industry today. We discussed thread-bare – the issues such as lack of specifications & standards, improper pricing conditions and terms, the shortsightedness in implementing some large programs and the need to have quality solutions deployed by the clients. Indeed an interesting insight was that while we enjoy blaming solution providers/OEMs for the decreasing costs (and hence quality) of solutions – the fact is that a very important role is played by the clients and somewhere – even the authorities. But the discussion thankfully was not just critical of the situation. It was heartening to see a positive mood to find a solution to common challenges and issues. This may be small considering the large size of the country – but is inspirational as the group agreed to work together to list down the challenges, propose possible solutions and make a joint representation to the clients or authorities as the need may be.
For that is what the group has come out with. With some of the most important players agreeing to jointly address issues and represent them to the authorities I think we are looking at a very positive outcome in the days to come!
Future State: The second part of the discussion revolved around future possibilities. It was interesting to note that many leaders see the need to evolve innovative concepts such as freeflow tolling, automations, use of smart technologies. What came out perhaps for the first time were futuristic concepts such as AI, ML and Big Data and Analytics playing an important role in the future. If one thought that these fancy terms were only for the big players to think of – give way! The future software and hardware are going to be very different and there is a dynamic set of industry leaders working within their companies to get India there. R&D and Innovation has not so far been a trend that the governments in India have seriously invested in – specific to this sector. Perhaps with the collective efforts of the group – we are likely to see at least some focus on this also.
While the focus area of this initiative is toll systems, highway traffic management system and weigh in motion systems – these companies provide a whole lot of other solutions in varied areas. One can see the hope and desire to make a positive impact to the industry and community – at least from most players in the system!