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Creaform's hand-held 3D scanner being used to measure surfaces in a factory. (COURTESY OF CREAFORM)
Creaform's hand-held 3D scanner being used to measure surfaces in a factory. (COURTESY OF CREAFORM)

NARAYANAN MADHAVAN

3D product maker has vision in India Add to ...

This coming weekend, Levis, Que.-based Creaform Inc. hopes to raise its profile in India a little higher, by showcasing some of its products at Auto Expo 2012 in New Delhi, one of the world’s biggest auto shows.

Creaform, founded in 2002, is like a one-stop shop for 3D technology solutions, with products covering a gamut of 3D processes that include scanning, reverse engineering, inspection, styling, design, analysis, digital manufacturing and medical applications.

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Its products, specialized gadgets that help in 3D measurements and scanning, would seem like cool things for kids, were it not for their advanced industrial use.

“It is an engineering toy,” jokes Ajeet Kumar Thakur, Creaform's country manager for India, as he discusses one of its hot products, a handheld 3D scanner that is to industrial measurement what a wonder camera can be to an amateur photographer – giving clear pictures even if your hand shakes a bit. The “self-aligning” feature is a unique one that can make complex factory- floor tasks easier, and one that Creaform is betting on.

“Being close to the customer always helps,” said Mr. Thakur, who started up the company's Indian subsidiary in July, 2010, about five years after Creaform started operations in India through partnerships with local distributors.

Creaform, which operates out of a small office in a South Delhi suburb, is optimistic about India for two reasons. First, Indian buyers are willing to pay for value, as the market sheds its old-fashioned, low-cost sentiments.

Second is the opportunity that could emerge from India's new manufacturing policy, unveiled late last year. It aims to raise the share of manufacturing in India's gross domestic product to 25 per cent from the current 16 per cent, a level that has been stagnant since 1980.

“That will be a big booster for companies like us,” Mr. Thakur said.

The creation of state-assisted industrial parks in India modelled on counterparts in China could lead to a mushrooming of capital goods or other manufacturing units that could spur demand for the kind of equipment made by Creaform, which currently counts about 25 customers in India.

The scope seems significant because Creaform’s products, such as a scanner and a body digitizer that generates intricate body measurements based on reverse engineering of three-dimensional figures, have applications in a number of areas, including aerospace, multimedia creation, animation, industrial automation, prototyping, education and fashion.

Creaform works with both direct and indirect distribution to push its products.

For the company, a critical differentiating factor in making its marketing a success is the intensity of knowledge needed to sell its products.

“Those who want to work with us need to have domain expertise,” Mr. Thakur said.

Creaform has a channel partnership program to take care of that. Also, training the end customer is also critical, because high-investment products such as the gear that Creaform makes need to be carefully deployed in order to get the most out of them.

The company, which has systematically grown through acquisitions and much learning since its founding, has a “Creaform University Program” to address this concern. This structured training scheme on how to use its products is a nice way to build customer confidence and loyalty.

“Yes, we are a commercial organization but training is our responsibility. It is an integral part of our product work,” Mr. Thakur said.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Narayanan Madhavan is associate editor of the business news pages of Hindustan Times, a leading Indian daily newspaper. He has previously worked for Reuters, the international news agency, as well as The Economic Times and Business Standard, India's leading business dailies. Though focused mainly on business and economic journalism with a strong focus on information technology and the Internet, he has also covered or written about issues including politics, diplomacy, cinema, culture, cricket and social issues. He has an honours degree in economics and a master's degree in political science from the University of Delhi.

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