Why Sat Nav(s) are not for Indian consumers?

While there is no first hand data available for India, there are survey results by AA (Automobile Association) members for US. The behavioral aspects of the consumers in that region, certainly reveal interesting facts when correlated with the habits of consumers and the geographical challenges in India.

The survey conducted with 7,380 drivers in November 2008 revealed:

1. Approx. 75% of respondent who have Sat Nav still carry a road atlas.

Isn’t it worth noting? This clearly outlines the fact that majority of the drivers fear that there is a possibility to get mislead by the Sat Nav (Personal Navigation Device or PND).

This is even important to note because the navigation and exit signs on road are very well marked in US and the addressing system is extremely systematic compared to the Indian scenario, where even most local residents may look confused in guiding you to your destination location, forget about the navigation device. We all know for one how badly does India suffer with the navigation planning where road names are not marked on the roads at all and the notion of exit signs doesn’t exist accept at a few places.

In essence, the promise of Sat Nav or the manufacturers to take you to your destination without getting lost is an absolute fallacy. In fact PND users have themselves communicated that these devices actually force you to go in a particular direction. They feel that it creates utter confusion  and adds to the indecisiveness on-the-move and leads to higher chances of getting lost on the road.

Satellite Navigation Device

Satellite Navigation Device

2. 30% of respondents confirmed that their Sat Nav has misguided them, 4% strongly agree that they are worried about getting misguided while 47% disagree that they are worried.

More than the majority i.e. 53% confirms to the explanation above i.e. about being misguided by the PNDs in real-time and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this percentage is more than 90% in the Indian scenario. In fact, it would be a surprise to see the actual percentage of people who are being guided greatly by these devices.

3. 22% of respondents agree that their Sat Nav device sometimes distracts them when they are driving. 33% seemed confused about it.

Breaking of traffic rules, poor driving habits and lack of patience among drivers are not new things to any one who has driven on Indian roads.

Add to this the visual noise across cities due to  unregulated/ corrupt adverting policies, the banners and hoarding are one of the major sources of distraction to these drivers.

Not to discount the fact of increasing mobile usage while driving among the drivers again.

Hence driving in India demands utmost focus, it is now very important to understand if there is really any room for additional distraction due to Sat Nav devices for the Indian drivers?

[Soon startups like CashUrDrive and Govt. initiatives allowing the advertising on moving vehicles will increase the reasons for distraction even more on the Indian roads.]

For the reasons above, I think the cost of device is not only in terms of hardware/software but also the cost of updating the maps/ data and the additional helplessness that they contribute to the driver on-the-move.


However, there are other interesting insights about Sat Nav(s) that you might want to have a look at:

44% of the respondents use it very frequently. 54% belive it to tbe the best device for their car, 49% are worried that it might get stolen – Sheer love with their device, isn’t it?

18-24 age group is most likely to have Sat Nav (43%), while 25-34 age group is least likely to have Sat Nav (38%)

Men are more likely to own a Sat Nav (47%) than woman (30%).

And that the SatNav device is the most wanted gift item in the west.


While I do not own a Sat Nav, after hearing the bad stories from the users, I do not even want to have one. It will however be interesting if someone has some good stories after using it in India.



33 responses to “Why Sat Nav(s) are not for Indian consumers?

  1. Nice article, when you get a chance please check the customer testimonials on our website, the trend is catching up for sure in India also!

  2. Nice article, when you get a chance please check the customer testimonials on our website, http://www.satguide.in, the trend is catching up for sure in India also!

  3. Hi Amit,

    The trend generally catches up for mostly two reasons:

    1. Something people never saw happening earlier and see it happening, hence get awed by the service.

    2. They have seen such services elsewhere and carry great impressions from there and tend to believe the same level of services with them as well.

    However, in case of Sat Nav(s), I personally believe the huge gap in the Last-Mile data availability, will make all of them realize very soon about it’s limitations and problems as well. Of course exceptions will exist.

    Currently it’s a fascinating change for all of them.

  4. Interesting perspective Piyush. So let’s set some parameters of what would define whether it has taken up here or not, how many consumers should go for it??

    • The point is not whether it has taken off or not (I already support that it is a fascinating thing for Indian consumers and they’re currently awed by it) but the question, where is it headed to?

      Last-Mile problem in India is a visible problem to all of us. No structured efforts can solve this problem in even next 5 years to come. Can a structured controlled effort solve it at all is still a question.

      Hence, as a consumer, I’m mostly investing to ease my commute between locality to locality and not point to point, which even a simple SMS solution can solve. I’m being promised to be taken to my destination though.

      Therefore, I feel they are not for Indian consumers. Of course just my thought and none else.

  5. I was so big a fan of gps and such and seeing ur post kind of lessened the fun a bit.

  6. Dear Piyush,

    The above post from Kumar is exactly the reason why we spend a lot of time trying to convince well wishers like you on what GPS is doing, can do and why it is not having too many drawbacks.

    At SatNav – SatGuide we are making a sincere effort to solve the last mile problem too, we have invested crores this year and will continue to do so next year, in building maps. Major regions like NCR, Greater Mumbai and Bangalore are now being mapped door to door, giving a never before experience in the country. Other cities will also be taken up.

    So let me make 2 specific efforts to try and convince you on this account, not just for my company but for the GPS industry in general. (a) At what price point would you be willing to try out a GPS device and see the benefits yourself. (b) Do you have a GPS Windows or Symbian phone where we can give you the software for free? (c) Check out our Lost? Call Us! service by dialing 1-800-103-5656, they will ask your source and destination, then send you an SMS with the directions, see if that serves your purpose? Right now service is free but will be paid shortly. (d) We can send you a complimentary laptop / desktop software so that you can try out the features and get confidence of the potential of this product.

    If you would like to take this discussion offline then mail me at amit@satnavtech.com


  7. Its not that I have given up. Now I keep catching up with a few guys around me working with OpenStreetMap every now and then to find out what a user is doing with the tech[and are doing pretty good], not withstanding all the enthusiasm around us.
    No doubt implementing satellite navigation is a task in India, but I also do believe that any tech sophisticated enough has the appearance of magic, so one day, one day GPS too will work, without exceptions. So this post does capture the problem in India, but navigation isn’t something that can be solved with a satellite alone[am i right?], and I am waiting to see where it goes.
    So Amit, you keep up the good work and I will buy one sometime soon :).

  8. I have tried Satguide and my friends have tried MapMyIndia’s Navigator. As a dedicated and paid user I really was proud to own this gadget and adopt it early but let me confess that I have stopped using it like earlier as I find it difficult to follow it’s instructions.

    I also think that the cost of this device is also a big pain point which you have forgot to highlight in your post. At least for majority middle class people, it is not worth spending so much of the money.

    I feel, it is still a long time for India to have a robust and reliable gps device for the common people like us.

  9. Thanks Mayank and Kumar for sharing your views on the same and validating my points as well. I have even stronger examples to prove what I say. The post is still very generic and mild.

    Amit, let us take the rest case offline.

  10. Nice article Piyush

    +1 with Mayank on price factor. Its the cost of device that will limit GPS in India to spread like wildfire.

    whereas any such solution that is available on mobile phones and is reliable, does have chances of reaching out to the masses.

  11. Since the topic is of my interest, so I can’t stop myself to jump in the hot discussion, I have been in the industry for couple of years, GPS may be a standard technology globally but the expectation of its users certainly differ from country to country based on its structuring ,as the users of this gadget are generally rational people (Tech savvy) .It is not viable to compare the maps of a well structured geography like US and Germany with India ,as we all know India is still not well planned ,any road will get blocked any day for any silly reason like wedding ,rally etc. Coming to the point of “last mile direction”, my experience with users is that they want to reach that locality where they can happily go manual to look for the particular property in the desired locality, however what is most awaited by Indian GPS users current traffic information when they are on the move, so that they could detour route thru alternate route with less traffic conjunction

  12. Pingback: Daily Links 12/01/09 « /home/jasdeep

  13. What I think Piyush, first we should not compare anything’s sucess driven by masses with US, as we have completely diff pople,dynamics,economics etc.
    My perception is it is not the direction that is required most to the Indian people but instead it is the beast feasible way avail;able to reach to the destination that matters here.

    What I mean is, We in India dont travel that much (new places) as people do in other western countries. Why we need here such a map search device is to know the feasible route depending upon – the time of search/ type of vehicle and moreover something like web2.0 where user may have put up any known current issues with the route like …a proposed rally on the route or a traffic jam .. that way I think .. user will reallly use the device in home country …

  14. Ranjeet,

    You suggest an interesting dimension to the conversation. Agreed 100% with you on the need for Live traffic information on-the-move.

    I certainly understand the needs vary from geography to geography and never intend to compare the two. It is just the correlation between two entities which is widely visible to all of us without any ambiguity.

    In your opinion, what do you think is the best means to deliver such information to the mass consumer base?

  15. Sheik,

    I’ll point you to read the article and the above comments to Amit again. I’ve only tried to highlight the limitations of Sat Nav(s) in India and why are they not a good value proposition for Indian consumers. Not questioning their success or failure at all.

    I myself am trying to question what is it that is the most feasible means to deliver such an information i.e. PND, SMS, Web, GPRS or Voice?

    An interesting aspect that you hint is that it is not the directions but directions based on prediction parameters like traffic or say time of travel. That’s a good point though.

    The question on PND still remains. Does it solves the mass needs?

  16. Wow!!! NICE BLOG… and Thanks for reference of CASHurDRIVE.. Wonderful Idea of putting ads on the car and getting paid for that 🙂 …
    Thanks Piyush for such informative things Please keep up the good work.

  17. Regarding the point on phones, fortunately most phone companies like i-mate, HP, HTC, ASUS are all using our SatGuide software and offering them to their customers. This is helping immensely in growing the GPS market and awareness in India. We believe that phones will help create market size and then PNDs will be the way to go in the future.

    Other points related to traffic info etc are wishlists which need a much stronger information and infrastructure backbone in place for that to happen. So it will still be some time before we are able to see those at work in India.


  18. Hi Amit, I know SatNav is one of the few players in this domain and indeed the strongest one.

    I have to agree to the fact that mobiles will create the market for GPS based navigation but will that be equally proportional to the need for PNDs? I doubt.

    How about this: I call a number for directions from A to B. I receive an MMS that gives directions + voice. Pay per use. No hassle of data upgradation. I still think SaaS model holds the key to it. Why do I invest heavily in the PND?

    I think, the way people will consume directions in India is yet to see some disruption and some startup will soon do that. The existing ways don’t really help much on the ground and will become obsolete before their complete life-cycle.

    Even on traffic information I think some interesting developments have happened. May be, it just needs a fresh approach and of course the much needed investment for the initial R&D.

  19. Save this page! Let’s get back to it 24 months down the line, to know whether PNDs / Dedicated devices took off or did they become obsolete!

  20. I usually don’t post in Blogs but i found this interesting thanks

  21. Well Guys, its been a year now since earlier posts, every single consumer electronics store is storing and selling SatGuide GPS Devices. Nokia and Google offer maps for free, we also have a free version for different OS formats. Location based services are the next game coming up soon. Only gets more interesting all the time! 🙂

  22. Quality post Amit, I’d like know how things have developed since this post was published? Do you have any more statistics? In the UK the distraction % continues to fall as the software has become far more user friendly, we hardly interact with the unit once its set.

  23. Hi Ash, things have improved in India on almost every possible front. Competition now has hardware that is much better than before, Mio ofcourse was always the best and is continuing to be the leader with almost NIL returns post sale for any kind of issues. The software and maps are constantly being upgraded for Indian scenarios and the interaction here too is minimal after the unit is set. We are slowly but surely getting to global levels of GPS Navigation. Though am sure that like dozens of people got lost in the US this Christmas even with almost perfect maps, the GPS device will have challenges everywhere, but there is more positive than negative. And the trend is definitely here to stay!

  24. Hey All,

    Nice blog to me as I am still contemplating to buy a GPS device … MapMyIndia or SatGuide … so any advice here …
    Well, Amit … one of your colleague was in touch with me for various reasons … one such he wanted me to plot some locations on maps and send them back to him and later, he sent a laptop version of you Satnav map to be I lost the mail and now would like to check since I planning to buy one … and 1 more thing in the electronic or car accessories stores I find more of MapMyIndia devices than your Company’s … any reason behind !!!
    I wanna have a demo with the device before going in for it.
    Will your device show where I am exactly … like the location on a map? like the Google maps on iPhone. How different is it compare to iPhone maps and your device? As I am presently using a iPhone.

    • Hi Krishna,

      My colleague would be contacting you as part of our Citizen Mapper program wherein we take support of enthusiasts and tech savvy people like yourselves to improve the maps for all users.

      We would be happy to send you another software for phone or laptop, please send an email to satguide@satnavtech.com with cc to me at amit@satnavtech.com so that we can do the needful. You can then see the software and maps before you decide whether to purchase.

      Also, our products are available at over 150+ Large Format Retail (LFR) stores across the country like EZone, Croma, Digital, Autozone, Landmark, Jumbo etc. In over 85% of them we are the only brand right now so in consumer electronics stores we have the best penetration and maximum sales. You can visit any of these stores and see a demo, if you need assistance while checking the unit and store staff dont satisfy you then have him call the regional head on phone or you can call our helpdesk who will be happy to guide you.

      Other consumer electronics and Car Accessories stores are being pitched to and we have over 200+ stores in India right now, growing rapidly. Overall we will not be having a lower network than any competition for sure. Also, we could have had several times higher if we offered goods on consignment (without payment) or as an empty box placement strategy. But as a policy we only do buy & sell type of business, where required with lenient credit periods, which increases the seriousness at both ends and ensures they learn better about how to sell the product and explain properly to customers.

      The device shows exactly where an individual is, and when directions are fed you will get turn by turn guidance. I have not seen the iPhone google maps so maybe others can clarify about it. You could also see a demo on the website http://www.satguide.in to get a feel for the screen and interfaces that our application has.


  25. Hey Amit,

    I have just gone thru an article or review on the net and I am providing the link also and pls do comment …

  26. Hi Krishna,

    I really dont know how to react to web reviews and comments, most of which come from anonymous people. Recently an online literal war has begun where some bloggers and some anonymous people started bad mouthing our products, all of a sudden. So unless we get into more fairplay on the web we still need to focus on asking people around us whom we trust and take their word for it, more than online reviews.


  27. Hi Amit, I am interested in buying a PND, and i checked out your company’s devices at Croma. Unfortunately your website is not updated with the latest products and prices, for e.g. where is the 4.3″ PND.

  28. Hi Suketu,

    Thanks for your mail, if you can share your email ID our response team will send you a list of current products on offer. Else you can mail us at satguide@satnavtech.com and they will get back to you immediately.

    The reason you would not see some models on website is that they are often exclusive to a channel. So Moov300 is available only in certain stores right now, not off the website.

    Also, I notice a comment on 31st Jan 2009 from Piyush talking about directions on phone. Well, we have now been offering that service since a year. Anyone can just call our helpdesk premium numbers, give current location and destination, get a simple SMS with directions and distances, turn by turn, to destination. Lets see if more people start using these applications in the coming months.


  29. Many of the points you pointed out in this post are precise, and i agree with them. Concurrently you will find just a few that i have to argue with you on. Either way, I do appreciate you writing this article.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s