India is pursuing an ambitious strategy to become one of the world’s great space powers, led by a big push to expand and deepen ties with commercial space companies. Three years ago, the government formed the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), an agency that sits under India’s Department of Space and serves as a link between the country’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the private sector. In April, the government published the Indian Space Policy 2023, which builds on that effort by establishing more formal frameworks and support mechanisms to enable commercial innovation and partnership.

Remote sensing is one of the central focus areas of this strategy, as the government is eager to partner with more commercial data providers to support national priorities. In 2021, the Indian Ministry of Science and Technology deregulated the sector to broaden access to geospatial data and over the past few years, government agencies have accelerated the use of geographic information services (GIS) for a wide range of use cases.

To learn more about the Indian remote sensing industry and Maxar’s presence in the market, we spoke with Shailesh Shankar, a Sales Engineering Manager based in Delhi, India.

Shailesh Shankar, Maxar Sales Engineering Manager, delivers a presentation at an industry conference in India.

Q: What you do at Maxar?

Shailesh: I am a sales engineering manager within the Public Sector Earth Intelligence Sales Engineering team, and I’ve been with the company since 2013. I support both civil government and defense customers, and I’ve also served commercial customers over the years. Essentially, my primary function is to connect with clients, comprehend their technical requirements, and recommend the most suitable product solutions.

Q: What brought you to Maxar? Have you always been in the remote sensing industry?

Shailesh: From my early days, I have been deeply interested in remote sensing and GIS, specifically their applications in the environmental field. After finishing my master’s degree in environmental sciences, I spent nine years working with Rolta India Ltd., a company that specializes in providing GIS services and tools. Later, I spent a couple years working with ESRI India and Tata Consultancy Services. In these positions, I gained invaluable experience witnessing the far-reaching impact of satellite imagery in several domains such as energy, mining and defense. Maxar presented me with an opportunity to be a part of this ongoing transformation.

Q: How established is the remote sensing industry in India and what are the most common use cases?

Shailesh: Remote sensing technologies have already gained significant traction, and this trend is on the rise. Currently in India, remote sensing is predominantly used for mapping, urban planning, change monitoring, land management, infrastructure development projects and defense and intelligence. The government agencies are leveraging remote sensing data to offer services to different departments and support various development and transformative initiatives at the state and national level. With the introduction of the National Geospatial Policy in 2022 and the recent developments in space policy, we expect an even more substantial wave of technology adoption in the public and commercial sector.

Q: How is Maxar engaged with industry locally and what are some of the biggest growth opportunities?

Shailesh: Maxar has been operating in the Indian market for more than two decades. We are possibly the only space company to have a local entity in India. We also have a very strong network of partners that helps us connect directly with customers. We also actively engage in India’s geospatial industry bodies, including the Indian Space Association (ISpA) and the Association of Geospatial Industries (AGI). We actively participate in conferences and workshops organized by these associations, geospatial media companies and government agencies. Last year, we participated in the GeoSmart and GeoIntelligence conferences, for example.

In terms of growth, there is a lot of momentum in the defense and intelligence sectors. I also expect a big jump in interest from commercial customers thanks to the new Indian Space Policy 2023. This will allow companies like Maxar to bring more remote sensing products and services to a broader range of customers. Customers are also keenly interested in developing new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models to automate data capture, analysis and change monitoring. With the launch of WorldView Legion, we see a huge potential in this area, as there will be even more data that can be fed through these automated workflows to allow for more accurate and near real-time decision making.

Q: What project are you most proud of?

Shailesh: One of the most impactful has been our work with customers across the Indian defense sector. We’ve worked closely with these customers to showcase the power of our geospatial intelligence products and services, and today, almost all Indian defense agencies are using our platforms to support a wide range of missions. Our data has had an immense impact to enable their success.

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