Dassault Systèmes, the French 3D design company, recently hosted the 13th edition of its annual 3D Experience Forum in Bengaluru. On the sidelines of the event, Bernard Charles, Vice Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of the company discussed among others, the company’s vision and strategy for India and the latest technologies it is working on. Edited excerpts:
Assuming that most of your operations is in your headquarters in France, give us a sense of how big is the India operations and the work that’s done out of here?
First of all, Dassault Systèmes is truly a global company. So while we are headquartered in France, we have significant labs across Europe, America, and also in Asia which for us is mainly India; and the centre for most Asian activities is in Pune. We basically have three big campuses – in France near Paris, in Boston, and in Pune in India. And then we have satellite labs which are smaller and very specific in science and technology. So that is the global infrastructure. Related to the activities here, of course it’s about sales, it’s about customer relationship. But in Pune, it is an R&D development lab. So everything that’s done in our Pune centre is not only for India but for the world. And it is working very well. I am pleased to have started as a joint venture with Geometric until we were so successful that we bought it back to continue to expand it. So it’s a very successful program here from a development standpoint.
Can you give me a sense of what percentage of your global revenue do you spend on R&D?
We probably have one of the highest R&D spends; it would be somewhere above 30%. And in terms of resources, it would be even more. And if you add to that the acquisitions we do, most of them are in R&D and science more than sales. So I think if you were to take this into account, it would be more than 40% of our total revenue.
Your main focus in India so far has been on aerospace and auto. But are you focusing on newer verticals these days as part of your growth strategy?
It’s true that in India we have a strong position in aerospace & space and also in transportation & mobility. We also focus on industrial equipment and machines, what we call general mechanics. This is probably the biggest segment of all because it cuts across all types of industries. Now if you look at the expansion, we are focussing a lot in energy and materials which includes mining software solutions. In India, we are also working with the state governments, starting with Jaipur which includes the digital representation of Jaipur in 3D for urban planning and simulation. I think the Jaipur showcase is a world example. So we are doing world-first things now in India which was not the case 10 years ago.
Which are the latest technologies you are currently working on – artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), etc.?
Well, first of all, we have been using AI for 25 years now. We started with highly-sensitive military programs around the globe in America and Europe. For example in new material science or new generative design of system, smart observation system, there is a lot of AI technology. The reason why it was not mentioned as AI was because they were specific to a certain usage. The reason why AI has become more visible now is our generic engines with which you can apply it to different types of problems. So yes, we use it massively. On the IoT side too, we are the world leader in manufacturing operation, what we call MES or manufacturing execution system. When you have sensors or robots or machine, there is IoT everywhere. So I think our solution called DELMIA Apriso is probably the world’s biggest data collection machine for manufacturing.
What is your motivation to work with the startup ecosystem in India? For example in this forum, you have announced two startups you will be mentoring.
There are multiple motivations. The first thing I would say from the last two years’ observation is the ambition of some of these entrepreneurs to do breakthrough innovations. My motivation is I want to make sure we work with the best entrepreneurs. There is a certain effect of that, which is why we did this centre in Pune what we call the 3D Experience Lab, which creates an incredible goodwill from young generation to say I want to have this platform to develop my business. So the fact that entrepreneurs will be successful with our platform, I think it is the best marketing for all the companies. Lucid Implants and Log9Material has won the pitch at our 3D Experience Forum in Bengaluru this year.