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Enabling the change

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Mark Paraskeva, VP, EMIA, Autodesk Inc, was recently in India. Niranjan Mudholkar met him in New Delhi for his insights on how Autodesk is enabling the global transformation happening due to four key trends.

How is Autodesk enabling design professionals in the construction industry?
Let me tell you about some of the key global trends and how we are addressing them because that’s where the answer lies. Over the past few years we have seen four basic global trends, which we believe will continue. These trends are digitisation, globalisation, infrastructure boom and sustainability.

Today, digitisation has become an integral part of human life. From across various professional fields to music, web networking communities, CAD, telecom, etc., everything is getting digitised. It’s a huge trend that we think will continue.

The second one is of course globalisation. India, particularly, is right in the middle of globalisation. It has been a key driver in India’s rising prosperity and international importance. Globalisation also shows how closely the world is connected as the world population moves from 6 billion to 9 billion, with all the off-shoring happening and the huge amount of trade between countries. For us this has huge implication.

What globalisation means to us is that our products need to enable design in one place and build in another. Gone are the days when someone in Delhi would design something and have it built here itself. Now, you design something here and it could be built somewhere else in the world. And this is possible only with digital tools.

The third big trend is this huge infrastructure boom. Think about 6 billion people becoming 9 billion people – they are all going to need more homes, more workplaces, more cars, more roads and so on. And if you think about it, we are enabling all of it. I have been travelling in India for the last few days and this country really needs good infrastructure. But even where I come from, we need it as well.

We need to replace the old infrastructure. That’s where the government is spending too. The fourth big trend, which is going to be a massive agenda for our children, is sustainability.

We human beings have grown carelessly in the past hundred years. We have just exploited all the raw material; drained all the cheap energy and although we have managed to grow the economy, we have done it without thinking about the future generations. So clearly sustainability is on everybody’s mind. It’s about how do we continue have the lifestyles and luxuries that we all want to have without damaging the planet. So for us, that’s a huge deal.

Agreed. But are you saying that Autodesk has relevance in places across the four trends?
Yes, we do because we enable the design of almost anything. For instance, when you have your shower in the morning, I bet the water system that delivered the water to your house was mapped with an Autodesk product. The shower fittings are probably designed using our manufacturing products.

Then, your breakfast was perhaps packaged by a machine designed by Autodesk. When you drive to work in a vehicle – its body and components were designed by our products and the road or the bridge too was probably designed using our product. As you get to a workplace – good chance that it was designed using another Autodesk product.

You come home in the evening and watch some movie for entertainment – again that has us. So we are kind of involved in the design of almost anything that is built. With  these aspects, you have the first three trends invariably linked.

Also, what we have realised is that when you design something, that’s when you make a decision about what raw material is used, how much is used, how much energy is required to build it, to run it or even to demolish or recycle it. So there’s your sustainability.

Thus, we have the four trends running across these diverse elements with Autodesk enabling the change.

Tell us something about the concept of digital modeling?
When Autodesk started 27 years ago, we took some very complicated technology and made it easy to use for architects, civil engineers and designers. And then we made this technology available to millions of customers. That’s what we continue to do today – we make tough technologies easy to use and make it available as well as affordable to our customers.

So basically we have democratised technology – that has been our strategy. That’s what sets us apart from our competitors. Design has evolved from 2D to 3D and now to digital modelling. The difference between 3D and the digital model is that with the digital model we can truly understand everything we need to understand about what we are going to build.

Digital modelling allows you to visualise, simulate and analyse. So, once you have a digital model, you can do things like simulations, stress analysis and quantity analysis. The digital model gives our customers the ability to experience what they are going to build even before they build it. If you look at our development products or if you look at our acquisitions, they all point in the same direction. Digital modelling is bringing about a big change in the way designing is done.

Would digital modeling allow us to understand how various buildings and infrastructures would interact with each other? For example, the concept of integrated township is fast catching up where we have residential towers, schools, offices, hotels, malls, multiplexes, etc. coming up at the same time within a township connected by roads and other utilities. So can we use digital modeling to analyse their interrelations?
Yes we can and I think that’s a fantastic question because it actually leads us to the concept of digital city. See, you have the building model and you have the infrastructure model. In today’s scenario, you need the ability to combine these two and the concept of digital city does exactly that.

When someone is thinking about building a new town or rebuilding an existing town, they can actually create a digital model to see how it would look like. Importantly, when you think of a project on that scale, several designers, architects, planners, engineers, city officials and so on are involved. The digital model allows them to experience that city before it is built. Digital city allows people to work together in a way they couldn’t before.

Construction companies talk about wastage of materials. If you build a digital model and look at all these things, then you would know exactly how much material would be required and there would be no waste.

Visualisation is probably the biggest advantage with our tools. People want to walk through buildings before they build them. Right now, we give our customers the ability to visualise their buildings with fantastic details. If I can show my client how the building is going to look like then most probably I will win the project. This is one advanced technology that is changing the design profession.

What is your assessment of the Indian market in terms of customers’ awareness of technological advancements?
I think India may be moving just a little bit behind as traditionally it has seen a lot of 2D. However, now there is huge willingness to upgrade and adopt advanced technologies. Then you have two fantastic things working in India’s favour – huge number of educated people and ability to use the English language.

A few years back we started the ‘centers of excellence’ initiative and we are still focussing on it. Through this initiative, we are educating tomorrow’s architects and engineers to use our products.

Currently, students can download our products, particularly the 3D products. We are also looking at other ways so that the students understand state-of-the-art design tools and products.

Overall, India is an important market for us because it clearly is getting into design innovation.

Your thoughts on the current economic scenario?
The problem is very much in the minds. Ninety percent of customers have the cash they had before. In India, you have a very strong banking system and a very fundamentally sound economy. The need is for people to unlock their minds and show confidence.With the market slowdown, people have become more cost conscious and hence the competition is getting tougher.

India has an advantage as a low cost manufacturing base and if this advantage is to be sustained then design innovation has to be implemented. And Autodesk products will help them do that. 

About Mark Paraskeva
He is the VP of EMIA and was formerly VP of Autodesk Northern Europe, covering the company’s operations in UK/Ireland, Benelux, Nordics and Baltics. Paraskeva was tasked with forming a new Northern Europe organisation by consolidating UK, Benelux and Nordic countries.

During his 22 years in the high tech industry, Paraskeva’s career has spanned marketing, sales and all aspects of management. Paraskeva joined Autodesk in May 2004 from Mentor Graphics, an electronic CAD company, where he was responsible for direct sales in Northern Europe.

He was at Mentor Graphics for over eleven years where his various positions included marketing director, Europe, general manager R&D and sales director. Prior to Mentor Graphics, Paraskeva was UK technical manager at Cadence Design Systems covering applications engineering and customer support.

Paraskeva has a first class honors degree in electronic engineering from Southampton University. He holds three patents in ‘self-testing silicon chips’ and has published a number of academic papers. He earned the Platinum award twice in three years in sales at Mentor Graphics and the Diamond Club Award in his first year at Autodesk.

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