How many times have you been absolutely sure of an answer to that question? Not many times, right? But maybe things will now change. Skymet Technologies’ new Skymet weather app, that recently debuted on Google Play, could help you get a correct answer to the question. Or you could alternately log on to their website and check out the weather forecast. The app has already received over 1000 downloads, since its launch in late April this year.While Indian weather is not as unpredictable as the West, anything told by our weathermen has always been taken with a pinch of salt. It’s not because they can’t do their jobs well, but the poor infrastructure that they rely on for decision making. Outdated technology and poor forecasting tools has made it difficult to get weather forecasting right. However over the last decade, Skymet Technologies has been helping a large number news channels, newspapers, insurance companies and government agencies make better sense of the unpredictable beast, called weather.
Founded by Jatin Singh in 2003, Skymet Technologies helps companies and now individual users – through the app -- understand weather in their region. Jatin was a former “byte-hunting journalist” as he puts it, with a well-known TV channel, before he turned entrepreneur with Skymet. The initial years were spent in putting together the right team and getting the right tools to understand weather better. Jatin’s father had been long associated with the Indian Metrological Department (IMD) and when Jatin decided to startup, he decided to make weather forecasting his area of expertise.
Today 10 years later, Skymet is the only company in the country, besides IMD that can tell you how the weather will be in your city tomorrow. Skymet works with 15 media channels including Aaj Tak, Times Now, Zee Business and ABP News. It works with four crop insurance companies like ICICI Lombard, HDFC Ergo and IFFCO-TOKIO. It works with many energy providers like Reliance Energy and Powergrid as well as companies involved in the agricultural sector like fertilizer companies BASF, Rallis and Bayer.
However, for the company to reach here has taken a lot of hard work. For the first five years from 2003-2005 Jatin worked with few retired Indian Air Force(IAF) personnel to develop modeling and analytical techniques that could be relied upon to forecast the weather. When we ask him about his choice of people, Jatin says, “The Indian Air Force is perhaps the best kept secret when it comes to metrology in India. They are constantly monitoring the weather through their own weather models because it is necessary for them in their line of work.” In 2008, Skymet formally put in place its first computing team – which in turn developed algorithms and systems to predict weather. Lately in 2011, a full fledged computing and statistics team was setup – and now the company has three full time weather modelers, who are constantly looking at data to come up a proper analysis of the weather. August 2011 was also the time, when Omnivore Partners made an investment in Skymet.
Talking about the journey so far, Jatin says it has not been without its share of ups and downs, but now he thinks the necessary ingredients are in place for the company to move ahead full steam. Today the Skymet team comprises of people who have joined them from IIT, retirees from IAF, crop modelers, agriculture experts and their CTO recently joined them from Bharti Airtel. A majority of the 100-member staff at Skymet are responsible for their instrumentation side of the business. This vertical is used by insurance companies who work with banks to provide agricultural loan to farmers. Every loan has an insurance component included in the loan amount, which kicks in when a claim is made on the basis of weather being the reason for inability to pay back a loan. The insurance part is now a mandatory component, as prescribed by the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme of the Indian government.
Apart from helping insurance companies’ sense weather, Skymet also provides remote sensing, forecasting, agriculture information services to banks, insurance companies, fertilizer firms and any organization who would like to use the information to plan yield/crop rotation better. The company is also consulting the state government of Maharashtra to plan their resources better to deal with the drought that has affected large parts of Maharashtra this year.
Skymet provides weather and other related information for 7,500 tehsils in India in eight regional languages besides English. The company grew a scorching 100% rate last year, and Jatin says he is optimistic to close the year 2012-13 also at a 100% growth rate. When asked, what was the best weather predication Skymet has made to date, Jatin says they were bang on when they predicted drought in India in year 2009.
As a leader in the space, Skymet doesn’t see any immediate threat from competition, because the entry barriers into their business are very high. “It took us 10 years to get it right and there is still a lot of things we want to do, so for any company to enter the space and become big overnight is a difficult task,” explains Jatin.
Talking about the next level of growth, Jatin says Skymet is talking to fertilizers companies, insurance companies and state governments for partnership in the coming years. “There are still many areas where Skymet can make a difference. Food industry and clean energy are some of the areas we would eventually get into,” says Jatin.
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