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BW Businessworld

"Cloud And Mobility Are The Keys"

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A pioneer in aviation and engineering, the Dassault family founded Dassault Systemes in 1981. In 1988, this small company shot to fame when it designed, in a pathbreaking effort, the Boeing 777 in a 3D environment, prompting many original equipment makers to move from physical prototypes to 3D. Now a $2  billion enterprise, Dassault wants to use the cloud and collaborative technologies to double revenues, and plans to create a global network of engineers through its platform. Its CEO Bernard Charles says India will play a major role in the company's growth. He spoke to BW's Vishal Krishna in Bangalore. Excerpts of the interview:

You have bought many firms in the past year. How do they fit into your DNA?
We always seek out talent and technology; we do not really look at market share as it is not relevant in the product lifecycle management (PLM) business. We bought 10 companies in 2011. They offer powerful collaborations in organisation, analytics search, cloud and technical skills for us to enter new areas such as life sciences. We have perfected 3D modelling in manufacturing and consumer industries. Imagine doing 3D designs and PLM for the life sciences industry. Imagine studying the impact of a formulation on the skin in a virtual 3D and colloborative world. That is the future for all pharma and healthcare firms. It was for performing such complex PLM that we bought Enginuity.

Cloud, collaboration and social networks are the key themes now. How does a PLM company cater to that?
We are on a major transformation path leading up to 2021 and we want to double our revenues. There are three steps. First, you must learn from firms that are 10 times faster than yours to speed up the innovation cycle. The consumer goods industry is teaching us a lot about product lifecycle and connecting with the customer on a real-time basis. Where are we going? The 3D experience is moving towards an augmented reality. The consumer should be the centre of the thought process. If she can experience a product in a virtual world, her precise insight and feedback can help create great products.

The cloud and mobility are the keys here. There is no need for cloud if you do not have mobility. It reduces your time to market too. For instance, we have something called V6 Architecture, which is engineered to provide public, private or hybrid cloud. It is consistent access and pay-as-you-go. It will create a network of designers and engineers across the globe where they share design. Their drawings will be on the cloud. We as a company can collaborate with them as our customers. If Google is the final word in search, we want to be the last word in collaborative 3D modelling.


3D and product lifecycle management software

Velizy-Villacoublay in France

9,552 (as on 31 December 2011)

Revenues of €1.78 billion in 2011

How will your tools help in collaboration? Give us a few examples.
Many governments are our clients. They use our tools to index and secure Web searches, and answer queries. Our product indexes 30 billion webpages and moves them to a secure environment. The cloud is not about software stacks anymore; it is about securing information and making sense of it. For instance, we have a platform called SwYm (see what you mean). It helps, say, a group of firms to connect to each other to know what their employees are saying. Teams can exchange knowledge and processes online. We want to create a social organisation. The whole process of ideation among engineering firms will bring out mind-boggling products.

Will the cloud help you reduce partners to distribute and service products?
We need partners as customers need help, and to understand how our products work. The cloud can be engaged after the product is leased. We have 4,000 partners globally, and we will double this in two years. Our business is suited to the cloud model as 65 per cent of our revenues are recurring revenues and we do not sell licences.

How does India fit into the Dassault Systemes global strategy?
India is a dynamic market, we had a slow start here. IBM was selling our services earlier and our business was so large that we decided to go out on our own. This transition happened over the past five years. In less than a year, all large Indian firms in oil and gas and construction came to us, and our business has been extremely successful. If India needs to create 100 million engineering jobs over the next decade, it will have to be practical in its education system. We can provide PLM tools to the industry. India should not be a low-cost manufacturing destination. It should create excellence in skills. It has a lot of small companies that think global. We provide products to many mid-size firms. Many small and medium businesses (SMB) buy more modules of our product to build business.

Now with the cloud and the social revolution, SMBs want to connect with the rest of the world. The good thing about cloud is that the original equipment maker can track what vendors are doing and guide them wherever they are. India has the level of education and there is openness to new technology. There is no doubt it is getting there, but rigorous industrial processes and a design culture should emerge.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 16-07-2012)