Expansions:

Two for Training: Janus and ERP

ERP Advantage

Corrections or additions?

These stories by Teena S. Chandy, Barbara Fox, and Melinda Sherwood were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 19,

1999.

All rights reserved.

Life in the Fast Lane: Maptext

The mapmaking trade erupted into controversy not once

but twice in the past year — first when a Marine pilot severed

the cable of a ski lift in Italy, killing 20 people, and then again

in the Kosovo conflict when NATO bombs mistakenly hit the Chinese

embassy in Belgrade, killing three people. In both cases the pilots

were apparently using outdated maps. The National Imagery and Mapping

Agency (NIMA), providers of maps to the defense department, is taking

criticism because of these incidents, and the controversy serves to

highlight the significance of accurate maps.

Herbert Freeman, founder and president of Maptext at the Princeton

Meadows Office Center, aims to improve mapmaking by providing software

for automatic name placement, the labeling of features such as roads,

rivers, mountains, parks, and villages on a map. Founded in 1997,

the Maptext operated from the homes of its employees, but it now has

its own 1,600-square-foot office with eight technical staff members.

"Mapping is a very important business, and our software will help

speed up the creation of maps," says Freeman.

Over the centuries cartographers have refined the art of manual name

placement and achieved a high level of quality to which the map-reading

public has become accustomed, says Freeman. "Until recently name

placement was regarded as something that computers just would not

be able to do," he says. While a computer could generate the graphics

— the points and lines that represent the features — name

placement required the manual efforts of a skilled cartographer.

Maptext is one of the two companies in the world seriously

working on name placement, says Freeman, and his new software system

can reduce weeks of manual name placement to a matter of minutes.

The software developed by Maptext will be used to label more than

2 million different maps for the federal census bureau for the Census

2000. This contract is worth approximately half a million dollars

for the first year.

The son of a German physician, Freeman immigrated to the United States

in 1938 at the age of 12. He received his electrical engineering degree

from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and his doctorate in

electrical engineering from Columbia University. He joined the department

of electrical engineering at New York University in 1960 and was chairman

of the department in 1968. Since 1985 he has been professor of computer

engineering at Rutgers, where he also served as director of the Center

for Computer Aids for Industrial Productivity until 1990.

Freeman says he developed an interest in mapmaking when a geographer

approached him at a conference in 1979. Computers were being used

in cartography for everything except two tasks — name placement

and generalization, the process of adjusting the scale of a map when

going from a larger to a smaller size. The geographer asked Freeman,

who was then working in computer graphics and image processing in

a university environment, if he could help.

"I took that as a challenge," says Freeman. He suggested this

problem to a doctoral student, John Ahn. Four years later they achieved

a measure of success, says Freeman. "Ahn got his doctorate and

at a technical geographers’ conference the audience applauded when

he made his presentation." Freeman and Ahn continued working on

map name placement and, in 1984, were successful in developing a software

system that could handle the complete problem.

"Generalization" still remains a challenge for cartographers.

For example, if you wanted a wall map of New Jersey to be reduced

to fit into your glove compartment, a simple reduction of the map

might obliterate important features such as the New Jersey Turnpike

or Route 1. Maintaining proper representation of important features

must still be accomplished, for the most part, by hand, says Freeman.

Researchers are working on this problem.

"Maps are based on data from nature," says Freeman. "There

are inherent ambiguities that nature presents that we have to overcome.

As a medium of communication, a map must quickly and effectively communicate

spatial relationships to its viewer, whether he or she is an expert

skilled in the art of map reading or a layperson."

Name placement requires that there should be no ambiguity

between the name and its corresponding feature, names should not overlap,

cartographic conventions have to be obeyed, and a high level of esthetic

quality should be maintained. Automatic name placement had to match

the quality of manual name placement, says Freeman. "A map cannot

be labeled like an engineering drawing."

Maptext is presently working very intensively with the census bureau

to assure that everything will be ready when the census officially

begins in April of next year, says Freeman. "At this moment they

are making test maps, preparing for the 2000 census. They are sending

them out to the municipalities to verify that the data is correct.

The final maps will be made beginning in the fall." Most commercial

users get maps from the census bureau or the U.S. Geological Survey.

Maptext is also developing a commercial version of its map labeling

software called Label-EZ, which can be customized to fit a particular

user’s mapping requirements and standards. Though it is presently

at the beta stage, the software could be available for sale in the

next few months. Freeman is also negotiating to sell his software

to NIMA. "We have a big proposal to work with them that is currently

under review," says Freeman.

No stranger to innovation, Freeman has the distinction of having designed

SPEEDAC, Sperry Corporation’s first digital computer in 1953. Next

to the laptop he uses now, Freeman says, "it would be like comparing

the Wright brothers’ model of the airplane to the 747 of today."

Maptext, 666 Plainsboro Road, Suite 1025, Plainsboro

08536. Herbert Freeman, president. 609-716-7552; fax, 609-716-7553.

— Teena Chandy

Top Of Page
Expansions:

NovaSoft

Intellectual capital is of prime importance, says Neil

Bhaskar, founder of NovaSoft Information Technology, a computer company

that has grown like topsy every year for six years. Bhaskar says he

is making an investment in intellectual capital when he divulges the

firm’s financial situation to every worker on whatever level: "The

intangible assets reside between the ears of my people," says

Bhaskar. "If they do not have access to the same information that

the CEO has, their decisions will be suboptimal. As opposed to me

holding the numbers to my chest, they are part of the decision-making

process. That is how we keep our costs down."

Another reason to keep company information out in the open is that

NovaSoft plans to go public by the end of next year. By having a board

of directors, quarterly meetings, and reports, the firm is learning

how to be a public company.

NovaSoft Information Technology Corp. has expanded into a new office

building on Quakerbridge Road and has a new phone and fax. The 18,000

feet square-foot brick one-story building was developed by an investment

group headed by Joe Pintinalli. One of the conference rooms seats

25 people for board meetings, another adjoins the president’s office,

and a third conference room at the front of the building is available

for members of the sales team to meet with visiting clients. The building

also has a gym/workout room and a lounge with sleep sofas for catnaps.

Fifty people work in the building now, which has room for 100 more;

the firm is looking for 15 people right now. Last year NovaSoft grossed

about $14 million, and this year it projects $42 million.

Founder Bhaskar grew up in Delhi, where his grandmother ran a large

trucking business, his father was a mechanical engineer, and his mother

did social work. He was inspired by Neil Armstrong’s historic flight,

and his boyhood dream was to be an aeronautical engineer. He did get

that degree from the Indian equivalent to MIT, the Institute of Technology

in 1981, followed by a master’s degree from the Indian Institute of

Management. After working for the largest bank in Australia and meeting

his future wife (a New Zealand native), he immigrated to Florida,

where he helped to found a company called IMR that grew from 5 to

500 people in three years.

In 1993 Bhaskar opened his own firm, Novasoft, as a company for computer

language and database conversion with six employees. The following

year he followed his largest client, Saks Fifth Avenue, to Princeton.

He helped expand the retailer’s systems so it could handle, not just

99 stores, but 100 or more accounts.

Among the current offerings are Enterprise Resource

Planning (ERP), global consulting services, outsourcing (managing

the data center for a New Jersey hospital) and professional services.

NovaSoft gave high-end computer training to 1,100 people in major

corporations from January to March this year, and it expects to ramp

up these efforts in its new 4,000 square foot education center. NovaSoft

is moving away from Year 2000 applications and toward its newest focus,

E-commerce; it will migrate its products toward more web-based design

and offer web-based training for both clients and consultants.

In its fifth year the company began to rack up awards: it was in the

New Jersey Technology Fast 50, one of New Jersey’s Finest 25, and

was ranked in the Inc. 500. It has nearly 300 employees worldwide

with offices in Singapore, India, and the United Kingdom.

This year Bhaskar made the biggest splash by giving away Mercedes

Benz sedans to outstanding performers — nine of them in the past

16 months. "People like to work for companies that are going places

and having fun," he says. This year’s slogan is "People Matter,"

and the workforce is divided the workforce into eight-person teams

for planning such activities as bowling and picnics.

One of the newest departments, headed by a recent MBA graduate, is

capturing accumulated company knowledge and putting it on a corporate

database so that, as Bhaskar says, "people can look at it, share

it, and use it."

"I strongly believe that my biggest asset is my people. I learned

from my grandmother how to respect people and how to motivate them

and bring out the best of them," says Bhaskar. From his grandfather

he learned the importance of reputation: "Reputation travels faster

than anything else. Part of our intellectual capital branding is for

people to hear that `you are from that company that gives out Mercedes.’"

— Barbara Fox

NovaSoft Information Technology Corp., 4014 Quakerbridge

Road, Lawrenceville 08648. Neil Bhaskar, CEO. 609-588-5500; fax, 609-588-5577.

Home page: http://www.novasoftinfo.com.

Top Of Page
Two for Training: Janus and ERP

From factory engineering to factoring to computer schools

— as he prepares to celebrate his 50th birthday, Haresh Sheth

has begun a new career. Janus Computer Training firm had its grand

opening on Scotch Road in early May. It is a Microsoft-certified solution

provider and has 45 current students, and soon Sheth expects to expand

into consulting.

A native of Bombay, his family has been in business for 80 years as

distributors and marketers in India for such pharmaceutical giants

as Parke-Davis, Squibb, and Glaxo. Sheth studied mechanical engineering

at West Virginia University in Morgantown and did factory design in

Denver and Philadelphia before moving to Hong Kong, where he rose

in a firm that manufactured modules for digital electronic watches

and became president.

Then Sheth went into the financing business, doing export commodity

financing in Hong Kong, and opening a factoring company, Janus Finance

Corp. in Chicago. But he missed the frenetic atmosphere of Hong Kong,

and, yearning for New York, moved with his wife and teenage daughter

to New Jersey in 1995. "I thought I could `have New York’ whenever

I wanted," he says. "I wanted a faster pace."

Sheth took his time figuring out what business to open here and concluded

that computer training was a growth industry; his school joins nearly

two dozen other Princeton area schools. "But we don’t do things

like other schools," says Sheth. He says his students will range

from those with no computer skills to those who are looking for advanced

computer training to be a network systems engineer, administrator,

or a programmer.

His courses include Systems Engineer/Microsoft Certified System Engineer

Preparation (MCSE), Help Desk Engineer and Microsoft Certified Professional

Preparation (MCP), Client Server/Database Professional, Client Server

and Internet Programming, and Microsoft Office 97 Professional course.

The average cost of a fulltime or part-time course is $7,000.

Janus Computer Training is self-financed because Sheth is unwilling

to commit to a personally guaranteed loan that would jeopardize his

family’s future. "I can only do so much with the money I have

and must be careful that I do not jeopardize my family’s wealth. I

have to leave something aside. I could retire," says Sheth, "but

one does not retire at the age of 49."

Janus Computer Training, 25 Scotch Road, Suite

5, Ewing 08628. Haresh Sheth, president and financial officer. 609-637-0900;

fax, 609-637-9400.

Top Of Page
ERP Advantage

When more and more American companies are depending

on overseas recruits to work on their software projects, Uma Pandey,

chairman and president of ERP Advantage, a computer consulting company,

believes in scouting for talent within the United States. "Our

philosophy is to hire guys locally and mold them as per our business

needs and put them to work for us."

There is a lot of high tech software out there but not enough people

are familiar with it, says Pandey. "We used to go to India and

recruit people to work here. But a majority of the people who are

coming from India and other countries have just taken a three-months

or six-months computer course. Some of them were incompetent and we

were losing money. We realized that there is no sense in going to

India for people. Our goal is to build expertise in the ERP related

fields within the United States."

ERP refers to Enterprise Resource Planning and includes complex management,

industrial, and financial software packages such as BAAN, SAP, PeopleSoft,

SEIBEL, and Oracle applications used widely by leaders of the industry,

says Pandey. "We also focus on high tech areas like Internet,

Intranet, and E-commerce." Pandey has about 25 consultants working

across the U.S. and is opening a training division on June 1.

Students graduating from colleges with management, engineering, and

computer degrees are not familiar with the latest software packages

that companies use, says Pandey. "When they graduate they don’t

have the skills required, but these guys from India with no technical

knowledge are familiar with these packages and have an edge over the

guys here."

Pandey’s courses are designed for students who are currently in undergraduate

and graduate schools and also for those already in the workforce.

By taking these courses on a part-time basis, students can come to

the job — not only with a management background — but also

with knowledge about the latest software packages. For instance, the

administrator of a telephone bank must know both how to manage people

and how to understand the telephone bank software.

Pandey hopes to hire some of the ERP graduates. "That way, as

a company, we have good expertise we can brag about, and students

can get hold of the latest technology by the time they graduate,"

says Pandey. "Some of the students we will employ and train to

work for us. Others will start as students and if they are good we

will employ them after they have completed the course."

Courses include an introduction to ERP, ERM (Enterprise Relationship

Management), Web Development, and E-Commerce. "We will also offer

Windows and MTE certification courses but our focus will be on ERP-related

courses," says Pandey. He recommends that those with no computer

knowledge at all should go to a community college and take a few courses.

It would be less expensive, he says.

Pandey’s courses are offered part time, both on weekdays and on weekends.

Their duration varies from four weeks to 24 weeks, and their cost

from $5,000 to $10,000.

The son of an Indian air force officer, Pandey is a native of Lucknow,

India. He came to the United States in 1985 with a masters degree

in physics and earned a degree in computer science from the City University

of New York in 1987. Pandey started his career working for AT&T Bell

Labs in the language development department and then for IBM. In 1997

he founded his own consulting business in Iselin.

"There are too many training institutes in Iselin," Pandey

says of his decision to shift to Princeton, "and Iselin was too

expensive for us. Being in Princeton, we can also attract students

from Trenton and Philadelphia as well." Pandey, 37, lives with

his wife and 10-month-old baby in Edison.

ERP Advantage Inc., 410 Wall Street, Research Park,

Princeton 08540. Uma S. Pandey, chairman and president. 609-683-4474;

fax, 609-683-4474.


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