The market for product design software is undergoing some major shifts as more and more companies use this software to conceive, design, model, simulate and manufacture products ranging from aircraft to auto parts, plastic bottles to smartphones.

One such provider of design software, France-based €3-billion Dassault Systemes SE, has been repositioning itself in the market and expanding its reach to non-traditional industry segments.

“We announced a major repositioning of Dassault Systemes in the year 2012," said Monica Menghini, executive vice president and chief strategy officer. That is when the company repositioned itself from “primarily a computer-aided design (CAD) company" to what she calls a “3D experience" company. According to her, a key change was how the company looked at “material science," and not just other information technology (IT) advancements in simulation and design. “We don’t just want to provide our customers with software but with a platform for the entire design-to-manufacture-to-support process," she said.

The company also began to extend reach from its traditional mainstay of aerospace and defence (A&D) and automotive to other industry segments such as high-tech, life sciences and consumer goods products. “We are now present in 20 industry segments and 30% of our revenue comes from sectors other than aerospace and defence," Menghini said.

“We also looked at how the needs of the market were changing, and there was demand beyond the Boeings and Toyotas of the world, including in the ‘downstream’ of their business," she said.

The company also worked towards making all its software available online: today, around 80% of its software—which includes Catia, 3DExcite, DraftSight, Enovia and SolidWorks, among others—can be accessed via the cloud.

Dassault Systemes is building an online marketplace for its ecosystem of partners which will bring down wait time for parts that are needed at assembly lines in manufacturing. For industries such as aircraft manufacturing, according to Menghini, such delays could cause millions of dollars in potential revenue loss.

On the question of cloud computing impacting how companies use design software, she said that “cloud is a very convenient way to collaborate and work." If a company is on the cloud, it does not need to “engage in a sales cycle of several weeks" but just add things as and when required. For Dassault, the growth of cloud-based subscriptions is “very fast," especially in industries where “the complexity is higher."

She cited the example of companies in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) segment that are beginning to use cloud-based solutions not just for engineering and architectural design but also to manage their ecosystem of partners more easily on the cloud.

While ruling out setting up its own full-fledged data centre in India, Menghini said the company was looking at its global cloud partner Amazon Web Services for hosting its servers in the country. Dassault has its own cloud computing brand for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) called Outscale (the company acquired a majority stake in it in June this year), but nothing has been finalized as yet on whether Outscale will also set up an India centre. “It will be a matter of economics and multiple, different reasons," Menghini said.

Dassault Systemes is also working with the Indian government on a couple of smart cities to provide its platform to enable what Menghini called “a smart cockpit" for the entire city.

Dhirender Mishra, manager of business research and advisory at Aranca, a global research and advisory firm, said “very good potential" exists for advanced product design software in the Indian market as usage has been very low until now. According to him, the CAD market is relatively mature and likely to grow from $450 million currently to about $700 million by 2021. Mishra said the government’s smart cities and Digital India initiatives might add one or two percentage points to the growth of the market. While Autodesk Inc. is the biggest company in the space, other prominent players include SolidWorks Corp. (owned by Dassault Systemes), PTC Inc. and Siemens AG, besides a few smaller companies.

One of the trends Mishra sees in the Indian market is the increasing usage of these solutions by companies in the AEC segment and even by some in the pharma industry. There have been some government-led initiatives too, to increase the penetration of CAD solutions among micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). A case in point, he said, is the tie-up between Autodesk and the Maharashtra government to provide free design tools to MSMEs with revenue of less than Rs1 crore.

“Among large enterprises, the growing trend has been to move from 2D to 3D software," he said. On the impact of cloud computing, he said that while smaller companies are more likely to adopt it more widely, the next five years could see some major shifts in how design software is used.

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