Bangalore: When Google Inc executives in India found that the country was largely “terra incognita” when it came to digital maps, they saw the makings of a new product.
The fruit of their labor was Google Map Maker, a wiki of maps to which users in some 160 countries can now contribute, mapping out their local roads, schools and businesses.
Research and development work in India by global technology giants is helping create products that not only use Indian expertise but also have originated in the country.
As they design products and services, technology companies are tapping India’s unique characteristics, drawing inspiration from the country for product ideas and looking to take advantage of the attractive market that India offers.
“We have a concept: locally inspired innovation for global products,” said Rick Steffens, who heads Hewlett-Packard’s systems technology and software division, which focuses on storage and server product development in Bangalore.
Products created wholly or in part in India include Intel’s Xeon server chip, Google’s Map Maker and SAP’s Business ByDesign software suite.
“Now in the product development side, what you’re starting to see is the entire life cycle of a product — from concept to completion — actually being done out a single hub in a remote location like India,” said Noshir Kaka, director at global advisory firm McKinsey & Co.
“A lot of the companies have used the logistic part of using India as a services hub to develop a whole suite of new products and applications out of India.”
Companies are involved with more noteworthy products and are playing a bigger and more complex role in the development of each product. “It’s not about going up the value chain,” said Prasad Ram Bharat, head of Google India’s R&D. “It’s about the engineer doing everything from start to finish. And the team does it all here.”
Google Map Maker “was ideated and inspired by India,” Bharat said. “And the technology was developed here.”
Another Google India innovation was its News Archive Search, which helps users search historical archives for events, people or ideas to see how they have been described over time.
“Our ability to take a scan of a newspaper, understand that image, fully index that content and make the whole thing searchable requires extraordinary levels of technology,” Bharat said.
Intel’s corporate technology group developed the world’s first programmable processor delivering teraflops performance from its Bangalore center.
Teraflops is a measure of a computer’s speed equaling 1 trillion floating point operations per second. Floating point engines are used for accurate calculations, such as for graphics as well as financial and scientific modeling.
Half of the global development of SAP’s latest customer relationship management software such as CRM 7.0 has been done in India.
The need for HP’s successful all-in-one storage product was realized and conceptualized in India, since the country’s small and medium-sized businesses could not afford several storage products, and it was developed globally.
Made in India, Sold to the World
While India is a source for R&D work, its growing economic power makes it a destination too.
IBM piloted the Spoken Web project to take advantage of the world’s fastest-growing wireless market. Spoken Web, with its speech interface, allows people who have never used a PC but own mobile phones to surf the Web effectively.
“We pick the products that are very strategic to India,” said Google’s Bharat.
The Map Maker product has resulted in the mapping of millions of kilometers of roads in India. Google stitches together the collaborative content generated by users.
“Everything we do in India gets distributed around the world,” said HP’s Steffens. “We have an impact on every customer in the world that runs our systems.”