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India’s Met dept looks to launch firms for sector-specific services

India’s Met dept looks to launch firms for sector-specific services
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First Published: Wed, Feb 04 2009. 11 02 PM IST

Ambitious plans: Ajit Tyagi, director general, IMD. A proposal to launch private companies is at a preliminary stage, he says.
Ambitious plans: Ajit Tyagi, director general, IMD. A proposal to launch private companies is at a preliminary stage, he says.
Updated: Wed, Feb 04 2009. 11 02 PM IST
New Delhi: India’s nodal weather agency plans to create some 15 professionally managed companies that will offer customized meteorological services to various sectors including aviation and tourism.
“We (India Meteorological Department) will possibly launch 15 private companies that will offer customized services to sectors...this may also involve dedicated satellites for each company,” Kapil Sibal, Union minister for science, technology and earth sciences, told reporters. Sibal didn’t give details.
Ambitious plans: Ajit Tyagi, director general, IMD. A proposal to launch private companies is at a preliminary stage, he says.
A Rs1,000 crore modernization drive is already on at India Meteorological Department, or IMD, which is often criticized for inefficiently using and sharing its voluminous, 150-year-old trove of Indian weather data.
“There is certainly a proposal to launch private companies, but the plan is at a preliminary stage. Though it’s something we would like...the current regulations don’t allow IMD to float companies of its own,” Ajit Tyagi, director general, IMD, said.
“We are looking at amending some of this and that could take a long time,” he added.
Since 1992, when the Indian Space Research Organization, or Isro, launched its commercial arm, Antrix Corp. Ltd, to send satellites into orbit and provide satellite-related services, other major research and development bodies have also been looking at creating subsidiary companies.
Recently, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research India’s largest publicly funded industrial research organization, said it plans to launch subsidiary companies to monetize its dormant intellectual capital, as reported in Mint on 6 October.
However, modernization hasn’t been smooth at IMD. One of the organization’s most ambitious plans announced nearly two years ago—a television channel that would be managed by a private channel—has been stalled.
The key point of difference that IMD had with companies over setting up the channel was sharing revenues.
“Though IMD has some good data that could be used for great content...there are a thousand bureaucratic rules that you have to get around,” said a private television channel executive who is involved in the weather channel negotiations with IMD. “I think it’s going to be hard to spin off companies from IMD.” The executive spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Of late, IMD has begun to provide daily weather forecasts down to the district level which according to it, is extremely useful for farmers.
“There is a fair amount of data available but there’s a lot of scope for improvement,” said Pranav Prashad, head, rural and agri business, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Co. Ltd.
“As of now, the data are not really customized to our needs and we have to do a lot of work to tune it to our needs,” said Prashad, who works on developing weather-related insurance products. “Since IMD is the only agency that has access to extensive historical data, we could use that to make our own risk assessments more accurate.”
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First Published: Wed, Feb 04 2009. 11 02 PM IST