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Today, the World is not About Competition but Collaboration: Dr Sukanta Kumar Jena 

Delve into Dr. Sukanta Kumar Jena’s insights as he unveils Inovaantage’s digital transformation journey and shares perspective on the alignment between Inovaantage’s business aspirations and WGIC’s mission.
WGIC Member Inovaantage CEO Interview

Inovaantage started partnering with such customers and identified a few priority areas, such as software development, data analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI), intending to be unique from the rest of the vendors in the market.  

So, early into our discussions with (prospective) customers, we began strategizing the digital transformation approach to align with customer thinking. By the time the customer’s thought process matures on their digital transformation, we already have a product ready for them.  

We have done several such rapid digital transformation product developments for customers. They were impressed with our initiative and implementation. This approach was successful on almost all occasions.  

We then realized that our large customers, like Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), the state-owned electric utility company in Malaysia, or Southern California Edison (SCE), the primary electric utility company in California, US, manage millions of electric consumers. They needed multiple systems, not just one, to support such a large customer base. These systems are complex, so when we did the digital transformation, we integrated that transformation program into all the remaining systems. That is when we saw the programs becoming more successful even as we continued to successfully support the maintenance of these digital transformation projects. 

When we began taking up digital transformation projects, we decided, at the outset, to plough back 20% of the revenue into research and development. That created a significant impact on the follow on digital transformation engagements.  

It helped our quality teams take corrective actions throughout the customer journey. Whether it is a data model, a source code or documentation, the quality team is present throughout the journey.  

WGIC Associate Member Inovaantage team
WGIC Associate Member Inovaantage team

As a result, none of our projects have gone beyond the timeline nor exceeded the budgets so far. We have always been 20-30% ahead of time and 20 – 30% below the budget compared to similar projects happening in the world. 

Take the case of smart meter implementation by TNB Malaysia. In Southeast Asia, smart metering knowledge was limited at the time, and Malaysia had no local resources. We brought specialists with smart metering knowledge and similar large project experience from the US to Malaysia to do system integration, project management and program management. 

Malaysia’s smart meter implementation had to cater to their nine million customers, and since the project’s launch, it has been going on smoothly. TNB’s customers now have complete clarity on the electricity used down to the last minute and down to each device/appliance. The system integrates multiple power distributors and opens up all channels of modernization or digital transformation for the citizens. 

Dr Sukanta Jena: In the last few years, we have diversified significantly in the business verticals and services we cater to. But speaking about the three service offerings, I would say our first offering is geospatial services. Geospatial is very vast and involves a number of technologies and solutions. Data is complex and comes from various technologies. At Inovaantage, we have all the market talents from different technologies that have been part of multiple projects for the last seven to eight years. We do GIS, remote sensing, geospatial modelling, and other geospatial work necessary for planning and network optimization. 

One service line in high demand right now, and Inovaantage is well recognized worldwide, is transferring the geometric network data to utility network data. Esri’s ArcMap is coming to its end of life. For this reason, most utilities are migrating from geometric network to utility network. Inovaantage is one of the few companies in the world with the knowledge, expertise and proven track record of migrating geometric network of electric, water, and gas utilities to the utility network.  

On top of that, we have the state-of-the-art rUNr platform that automates 100% of this data migration process with zero manual intervention. This is a popular product, and various utilities have successfully migrated their data using this platform. Inovaantage has a strong presence in the utility and telecommunication sectors and is in the banking and insurance sectors. 

Our second service segment is engineering software solutions. For telecoms, we implement operations support system and billing support system. Some telecom companies are using our tower management solutions, where we manage 7,000 to 10,000 towers with our solutions. Similarly, for electric companies or other utilities, we facilitate the implementation of advanced data management (ADMS), outage management and meter data management systems. These are some of our engineering solutions for the electric utilities. We also provide workforce management, project and portfolio management systems, various peripheral systems, and cybersecurity monitoring of the entire ecosystem of electric or telecommunication. We implement these with multiple products from our technology partners. We have a strong partnership network; we implement their solutions and integrate them into the remaining ecosystem. 

The third category is the custom/bespoke services. When customers find gaps and problems in these products and solutions, they come to us seeking resolution. We develop custom software using latest technology. We bring best practices in design, implement and deliver them to the customers and provide product support maintenance. 

The unique thing we bring to the table is that in every product or software development project, we ensure that a subject matter expert with over 15 years of experience in the domain is involved and connected with the customer either directly or indirectly who can sit with the software team and develop the product/service end-to-end, go to the customer site and do the entire user acceptance testing and deliver it. 

Dr. Sukanta Jena: Conduit Pro is a sophisticated, high-precision GIS system for duct space management. Managing underground assets is difficult as the space is limited, the visibility is poor, and one cannot easily reach all the underground assets. So, we create a digital twin of the underground assets in the GIS system and show the 3D visualization of the system in real-time or real-life situations underground in the system. We manage this conduit space, share this conduit space with others, and facilitate cable placement inside the conduits, as optimization is critical in these places. 

On top of that, these conduits are shared by many service providers. This brings dependency between various service providers to lay the cable. ConduitPro automates the workflow among different service providers to minimize downtime and maximize the efficiency and coordination among the stakeholders.  

The platform integrates all the other systems external to the GIS system. It brings all the data from the external systems to the ConduitPro system so that people in the field doing the daily maintenance support of the conduits or ducts have all the information related to every object underground. 

Dr. Sukanta Jena: Inovaantage is an eight-year-old company; I have been part of it for the last four years. Inovaantage was launched in Southeast Asia but has diversified its business and today has a presence in nine countries, including Australia, the UK and the US.  

Whenever we stepped into a new geography and met potential customers, they already knew about us and our work in Singapore or Australia. That inspired us to focus more on global expansion, exploring new territories, and meeting potential customers. Over eleven electric and water companies worldwide are talking to us to bring similar solutions and services we have deployed in other utilities, electric, water or gas. The pipeline for Inovaantage’s future is robust. 

Dr Sukanta Jena: I have been following WGIC since its inception while working with Inovaantage and before. I have always been interested in associating with this team. Inovaantage has also been interested in being part of this community for the last few years. We probably did not have enough time to focus on such partnerships earlier, but we are glad to be part of this network now. 

I completed my doctorate in GIS in the 1990s and spent my 30-year career in the geospatial industry. I understand the technology, its scope, and the industry’s challenges. I have seen WGIC doing many good things, facilitating partnerships with technology providers, governments, academia, and end users. Since we are serious players in this domain, we felt it would be good to work with the larger industry group and get to know other members, especially the veterans in the industry and the board members. I have known and worked with many of the WGIC board members in the past, and I respect all of them at both personal and professional levels.  

WGIC has also contributed to the knowledge, which, in my opinion, is phenomenal. Inovaantage continues to follow the knowledge and guidance shared by WGIC and would like to contribute back to the community, especially the good practices we are learning as a business, working with utility and telecom customers worldwide.  

It is in our DNA that whatever good practices we develop in Singapore, we transfer that knowledge to our projects in the US or Australia, and we have seen these projects benefit tremendously. We wish to do the same in larger platforms such as WGIC.   

With respect to policy advocacy, we believe WGIC is playing an important role, taking all geospatial vendors and partners’ interests to a global scale and facilitating conversations with government agencies in the US, Europe and other parts of the world. WGIC has been phenomenal in policy advocacy, and we can help it whenever required.  

We would use WGIC’s platforms, events, and networking opportunities to help us build the business. At the same time, we intend to give back to the community as much as possible to the next generation of geospatial professionals by mentoring and sharing knowledge and best practices.  

Dr Sukanta Jena: Thank you. 

Dr Sukanta Jena: This is an important question. All these years, I have felt many times that the geospatial industry needs more collaboration. Collaboration is happening at some level, but my observation is that, please don’t take me wrong, a lot of similar or same activity is happening in parallel in many companies. 

For instance, Inovaantage invests in developing a product, and another company creates a similar product. We can probably come together and see whether it is worth developing two individual products or joining hands and developing one product, which will be quicker to the market. Today, the world is not about competition but about collaboration. Such collaborations are still missing in the world and can be improved.  

WGIC can bring like-minded people and partners or create a forum to discuss and devise innovative ways of doing projects. 

Some members may be operating exclusively in the US and others in Europe, working on the same problem. By collaborating, both partners can leverage benefits out of it with half of the effort. 

Dr. Sukanta Jena: I am very excited to meet all WGIC members. I look forward to meeting many of them at GEO Business in London in the first week of June.