“It takes a lot of courage and tremendous financial risk to succeed”

—Amrit
Das,

President and CEO, Rsearch Engineers
Inc.

ceo-1.jpg (14234 bytes)The President and
CEO of $ 26-million Research Engineers Inc. (REI) conceived of the venture due to his
grievances against the expensive design calculation software. Amrit Das started this
venture with a meager investment of $ 2,000 in New Jersey, in 1978. Today, REI is among
the leaders in the engineering software companies. Recently, REI acquired AXA Software-and
in the process gained clientele like Disney, Warner Bros, Universal Studio, Fox TV, et al.
In an interview with DATAQUEST, Das talked about REI’s Indian operations and his global
business. Excerpts:

Research Engineers is one of the
leading engineering software companies in the world. How has it been received…you being
an Indian….

Indians in the US are always respected for their technical know-how. All it takes is
aggressive marketing of their talents. It takes a lot of courage and, of course,
tremendous financial risk to succeed. I was one of them who did not give up despite facing
adverse results in the beginning.

Tell us something about your
organizational structure and research activities….
Research Engineers is one of
the leading engineering and entertainment (animation and graphics) software developers in
the world having 150,000 customers worldwide. Our products are distributed in 10 different
languages and have adhered to 16 different country-specific codes and practises. Our
flagship products in engineering, Staad-III, and in entertainment, AXA Team2D, have a
large clientele.

Why are your software products on
PC platform?
You see, in the early
eighties, our products were available only on IBM mainframes. In 1986, we decided to
shift. The idea was to make our products available to all engineers who cannot afford
mainframes. In 1987, due to enormous success, we decided to concentrate our efforts only
in PC and exploited the Windows technology for graphics etc. Today, I feel it was a good
decision to go in for PC since other platforms do not offer as much development utilities
as the PC does.

What led you to animation and
special effects business?
Well! Research Engineers have
always dealt with graphic designs. As we have expertise in the field we are trying to
utilize these skills in the field of animation. In the business of animation we can bring
in a huge amount of revenue to our country. It is stated that in the entire world $ 1.2
billion is spent on animation, out of which $ 0.8 billion of work comes from Korea. As the
language stands as a barrier in Korea, it becomes an obstacle in the progress of the work.
We have, therefore, tried to bring it to our country where language is not a barrier and
we will be able to utilize the huge pool of human resource, which has remained unutilized
till now. The choice and interest of diversifying to animation and graphics was very
simple-doing something for the betterment of the company.

Can you tell me something about the
two new products that you have recently introduced-Win Civil COGO and Win Civil Contour?

Win Civil COGO and Win Civil Contour are a set of integrated coordinate geometry and
contouring modules. WinCivil addresses the complete range of COGO/Surveying and
Contouring/DTM functions without the additional expense of third-party CAD software. A
fully-featured COGO program can be used for the design of simple sites to complex
subdivisions. Contour assumes most design properties and draws a contour map with only one
menu selection. Property sheets allow to change any of the contour map properties and
redraw the map instantly.

What do you think of the
engineering software market in India?
In India, the engineering
software market is developing slowly but steadily. With the hardware prices coming down in
recent years, more and more people are able to buy software products, which was a dream
till a few years back. Since the market is developing slowly, it takes some time for the
customers to decide over their necessity and choice. Hence we are hopeful that our sales
figure will also rise steadily. We have got a few local companies as our competitors. But
we have not come across any global competitor yet. As the rate of growth is very high, it
will justify any MNC to be active in India. We are very proud to be in the forefront of
Indian market and hopefully we will continue to enjoy the growth.

You have been operational in the
country for past eight years. How fruitful has it been so far?

Our real operations in terms of
country-wide marketing is very new. We are investing a lot of our profit back into the
marketing effort in India. Despite all this, Research Engineers India has maintained a
healthy profit of Rs 75 lakh. And I believe, next few years will be crucial for us.

What is your objective behind
opening Asian headquarters at Calcutta?
First of all, we have set up a
software service center at Salt Lake, Calcutta, which will serve two purposes. First, it
will be a service center for our engineering software products, development of special
effects and R&D activities in the field of 3D graphics and animation software. Second,
another half a billion will be spent on our entertainment software unit which will do
offshore productions in the entertainment field of animation, special effects, and
graphics for Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, and Universal Studios. We have also
made a contractual arrangement with Webel Mediatronics to take over its multimedia
division. This will give us a quick entry into the software services for the entertainment
business. We will be providing a complete digital production services for big studios, in
the US, like Disney and others, from this facility. We have already received a contract
from Animation Production, of Los Angles, to produce eight parts of Rocky Rabbit series.
The complete post production will be done from this facility.

Why did you choose Calcutta instead
of Bangalore, Chennai, or Mumbai?
There was nothing specific in
choosing Calcutta. I preferred it to Bangalore, Mumbai or Chennai, because the city and
people are much more familiar to me than other cities. But it is not that we are confining
our business to this city only. We have branch offices at Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai and,
in future, wish to expand to other states too.

Are you happy with the IT
environment of Calcutta?

Calcutta is certainly a good
place for IT industry to flourish. But there are few hindrances which perhaps discourage
people and foreign investors. Though the Government promises one-window system for people
associated with IT industry, but unfortunately, we have to go through many windows, which,
in turn, results into delaying the work. Hence a loss of time, energy, and money.

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