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The Business of Prediction (from Tehelka)

Discussion in 'Business, Lifestyle & Leisure' started by spnadmin, Jun 24, 2010.

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    The Business Of Prediction

    Customised forecasts by a Kolkata-based company finds eager buyers, reports PARTHA DASGUPTA
    ANGSHUJYOTI DAS sells weather for a living. His company, Kolkata-based Express Weather (EW), has a 17,000-strong client list — mainly farmers dependent on how the weather behaves. What EW does is to provide them with advance information on weather through its forecasting technology based on numerical models like the Global Forecasting System (GFS) and Weather Research and Forecast (WRF).

    It's raining cash Das' SMS forecasts are helping farmers to manage their agriculture better Photo: PINTU PRADHAN The raw feed from satellite data, based on geo coordinate inputs, is customised and passed on to its customers. For instance, a farmer in Ludhiana worried about untimely rains, just needs to buy a monthly subscription of Rs 49 to get two SMSes a day detailing the weather. And to make it easier for farmers uncomfortable with the SMS script, EW’s IT team, led by Arindam Baidya, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, is currently working on a ‘vernacular voice SMS’.

    Das, a school dropout, started out early: at 16 he was already selling vacuum cleaners and water purifiers for Eureka Forbes. EW, which was set up in 2007 and currently employs 15 people, suffered a loss of Rs 37 lakh in the first year. In the second, however, it turned around — making a profit of around Rs 30 lakh and generating business worth Rs 4 crore.

    For just Rs 49 a month you can get weather predictions for a 12-km domain “For Rs 49 a month you get predictions for a 12 km domain, but we can make precise predictions for up to a 100-metre domain. The 15-day prediction is usually stable for the first 10 days with 90 percent accuracy for rainfall, humidity and dew point,” claims Das. “Even with this margin of error you are 90 percent smarter, aren’t you?” he quips.

    Saif Ali Khan's production house Illuminati, which enlisted EW’s services for its outdoor shoots of Love Aaj Aur Kal, certainly thinks so: and it has again signed it up for its next production which is to be shot at four European locations.

    EW offered a deal to Lalit Modi about charging weather premium on IPL tickets, which he refused. But weather premium on tickets for large scale entertainment could well become a reality in the days to come.

    EW’s core area is business risk mitigation of agro-based companies. In a highly successful joint venture with the National Research Centre for Grapes in Maharashtra, it delivers location-specific forecasts and simulation through weather stations it has set up in the state. “Almost 70 percent of grape diseases are weather-borne with non-linear stages of infection. Accurate weather prediction greatly reduces the risks, and the amounts insurance companies have to shell out to farmers,” says Das.

    Debasish Lohar of the Atmospheric Science Research Group, Department of Physics, Jadavpur University, is all praise for the venture. “The Indian Meteorology Department (IMD) forecast is made public through the media, but the time lag and lack of updates rob it of its usefulness. Companies like EW can be very handy for people for whom timely information on weather changes matters,” says Lohar. For now, at least, there is no end of takers

    Tehelka - India's Independent Weekly News Magazine

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