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Sunday, November 12, 2017
track of it all
American author and
former dot com busi-
ness executive, Seth
Godin once said,
"Don't ind customers
for your products, ind
products for your customers."
This is exactly what the Managing
Director of GISCAD Ltd, Desmond
Dougall and his partner Sudesh
Botha did when they decided to take
a leap of faith and ploughed their
savings into an entity that was being
divested by its parent company
which was undergoing a diversi ica-
A combination of two acronyms -
GIS and CAD - Dougall said the suc-
cessful partnership came into being
14 years ago when he and Botha,
who were both employed by Illumi-
nat at the time, "Decided to divest
this part of technolo y they were in,
so we took it over and started our
A Geographic Information Sys-
tem (GIS) is a system designed to
capture, store, manipulate, analyze,
manage, and present spatial or geo-
It is widely used to optimize main-
tenance schedules and daily fleet
Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is
the use of computer systems to aid
in the creation, modi ication, analy-
sis, or optimization of a design.
CAD is an important industrial
art extensively used in many appli-
cations including automotive, ship-
building, and aerospace industries,
industrial and architectural design,
prosthetics and many more.
A father of three, Dougall said even
though uncertainty surrounded the
move, "We took over some of the
distributorships and clients they had
in this area which was very limited at
the time and we developed it from
The Petit Valley resident who
holds a Masters in GIS from the
University of Holland, laughingly re-
ferred to himself as the "tech geek"
in the partnership.
Dougall, who acts as the main face
of the company explained, "It is a
very specialised ield dealing with
land information systems."
Indicating the many roles he has
had to adopt over the years, Dougall
said it became imperative in order
to ensure the company' s continued
survival and growth.
He said, "From an entrepreneur-
ial side, this is how many compa-
nies fail because everybody is either
technical or administrative, but you
must have a mix as everybody can't
However, Dougall said it hasn't
been quite as smooth as some be-
He admitted, "We got into some
hardship between 2008 and 2010
because we weren't really paying at-
tention to those kinds of issues."
"But we had to buckled down and
put some real structure and disci-
pline in place, inancial-wise."
Having determined the niche mar-
ket they wanted to reach, Dougall
said they started off providing con-
sulting services and advising mainly
government clients before taking on
a larger customer base in the form of
Their client base today now ex-
tends further a ield to several terri-
tories in the Caribbean including the
Barbados Statistical Of ice.
In T&T, Dougall said, "We were
helping the Ministry of Planning,
providing satellite imaging for the
entire country. High resolution and
detailed imaging to help with the
physical planning of the country."
Although they enjoyed the bene-
its of such work, Dougall said, "In
order to provide bread and butter
money at the same time, we took on
a few distributorships for technol-
o y companies."
This resulted in them becoming
the Caribbean agent for AutoCAD.
AutoCAD is a commercial com-
puter-aided design and drafting soft-
Dougall said this meant they, "In-
teract with all engineers, architects,
surveyors, contractors, construction
companies, governments and utility
He said consultancy work was
akin to that of a roller-coaster ride
in that, "Sometimes things are good,
sometimes things are terrible so you
need things to even out the cash
Two years after they formed GIS-
CAD Ltd, Dougall and some friends
hit upon the idea to provide GPS
tracking services in a country where
the ield was relatively new.
Setting up GeoTrac, Dougall said it
now boasted the reputation of being
the leading Fleet Management Sys-
tem in the Caribbean region.
It is a GPS based fleet and asset
management solution designed to
assist business owners, managers,
and supervisors to manage all of
their mobile assets.
With GeoTrac, Dougall said a
company could be provided with
their cars, trucks, trailers and mo-
bile phones at the touch of a button.
Channeling their efforts into pro-
viding this service for commercial
clients, Dougall explained, "We
wanted to provide a higher-end ser-
vice that provided a lot of informa-
tion and reporting for commercial
clients so it would help them under-
stand, not just where things are but
how their drivers are driving, where
they are visiting, what their day
looks like and general intelligence
about the use of their assets and
He added, "It helps them with
their HR management, stock and
inventory management and helps
them ensure their drivers are rep-
resenting the company in a positive
Pressed to say if the service was
used by employers to "spy" on their
employees, Dougall said it could be
interpreted in this manner.
With over 300 clients utilising
their services to date, Dougall said
their fleets ranged from 275 vehicles
for one company down to a one/two-
car fleet for a smaller organisation.
Asked how they were able to man-
age the thousands of commercial ve-
hicles currently out itted with GPS
traversing the nation's roads, Dou-
gall stressed, "We don't manage it.
We allow the client to do that."
He said GISCAD only installed the
device following which the client is
provided with the appropriate soft-
ware to continue the process, thus
ensuring they maintain control of
He added, "We train you on how
to use the system and it's all online,
so you can access the information
from anywhere in the world, even
off your phone."
Dougall said while many compa-
nies go this route mainly for security
purposes, they irmly believe clients
should receive the full range of ser-
vices to suit their needs.
As such, he said, "We are pro-
viding a continuous service to our
clients. We are not just giving them
a one-time facility. We are helping
them with ef iciency and improving
Going one step further for their
clients "who have clients of their
own," Dougall said they had un-
dertaken two "mapping" exercises
across T&T in 2008 and 2013 respec-
tively, moving from 8,000 points to
He said, "Every single road in the
country was mapped, except where
was considered dangerous."
The 2013 exercise took nine
two-member teams a period of nine
months to complete.
Dougall said, "We are providing a
lot more information to our clients
to help the ef iciency of their sys-
tems and that was why we stayed
with commercial clients."
He said the rationale behind it
was, "If we are not providing some-
thing of value, then we are of no use
to our client."
Declaring this to be their mantra,
Dougall said it had been reinforced
even more so in these trying eco-
nomic times as, "You can't be a nice-
to-have in these times, you have to
be absolutely integral to the opera-
tions of your client's business."
He went on, "If you are not inte-
gral to your client's business and
not providing value on a daily basis,
then you are of no use to them."
Dougall said while many compa-
nies had experienced a contraction,
GISCAD continued to record growth
as their clients valued their opera-
He said, "While business in T&T
has not dropped, it is not growing
fast either. It has stabilised and there
has been minimal growth which is
more than most companies can say
now. However, our growth outside
of T&T is growing rapidly."
He said although they experi-
enced a "dip" in their inancials
during 2015/2016, they have since
recovered due largely in part to
sound business structures.
Elaborating about their operations
abroad, Dougall said they decided to
expand the services sector into Guy-
ana where they were now ranked
as the number one provider of GPS
tracking services in the territory.
Similarly, they also enjoy the same
status in Grenada and St. Lucia - with
fledgling operations in Antigua, Haiti
With so much commercial growth
outside T&T, Dougall said they had
not been adversely affected by the
local foreign exchange shortage.
He said, "Anybody who only has
a business that their income is in TT
and their expenses are in US, they
Dougall urged companies to ex-
plore opportunities further abroad
in order to survive these tough eco-
He said, "Find something that
people need and want to buy."
Dougall credited his wife as being
a pillar of support and an invaluable
resource during the time it took to
establish the business and ensure its
He admitted to missing birthdays,
holidays and special occasions but
he said the love of his spouse was
the "glue" that kept him sane and
also ensured his kids turned out to
be normal, happy and healthy indi-
Dougall concluded that establish-
ing and maintaining the lifetime
value of a customer was a carefully
blended concoction of targeted en-
gagement and relationship building
- all drawn from meaningful data
He said it was only when business
owners understand their customers
needs and provide a solution to ef-
fectively alleviate those pains, would
it create interactions mutually bene-
icial to the company and user.
His big take away is, "When cus-
tomers are put irst, revenue fol-
of GISCAD Ltd,
PICTURE ANISTO ALVES
GISCAD maps out their terrain
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