Spatial technologies are bringing about a transformational change in how we address problems related to natural resource management, sustainable development, environmental conservation, and disaster management.

Anil Kumar Singh (PhD), our next pathbreaker, GIS Research Lead at Dehaat Pvt Ltd, works on research & development of Remote Sensing and GIS products for use in Agricultural & Climate Advisory Enhancement.

Anil talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about taking up the challenge of pursuing a career in a new but exciting area (GIS) and continuing his journey in research related to different applications of Remote Sensing in the real world.

For students, there is no sector today that isn’t touched by GIS technologies. Information is power and lets use it for the benefit of the world !

Anil, tell us about your background?

I was born in Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh and did my schooling from Gorakhpur and Assam. After that, I completed my B.E in Information Technology from Jaipur, Rajasthan.

I grew up in a middle-class family. We have 2 brothers and 1 sister. Though my father only completed schooling, he always encouraged his children to pursue higher studies. I remember the day when I passed the 10th board exam in 3rd division. I was very sad, but my father always supported me in my studies. I had a computer at home and was very fond of working on a computer, so I took a specialization in IT.

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I did my B.E in IT and went on to do my (Remote Sensing & GIS) from Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS). 

IIRS is similar to a Gurukul or Kumbh for learning Remote Sensing & GIS. All the scientists here are very good and they have a lot of knowledge on this topic. Everybody who wants to make their career in remote sensing must come to this institute. My inclination towards a research career also started from here. I completed my PhD from University of Allahabad in Climate Risk & Agriculture.

What prompted you to choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

After B.E, I worked in Telecom for 1 year. I did not like the job and hence decided to do an in a new subject (Remote Sensing & GIS), though, at that time, several people advised me to do an M.Tech in Computer Science because GIS was a new subject and its applications in agriculture were also completely new. But, I was very eager to take up the challenge and hence accepted it. To be honest, I enjoyed it very much. My eagerness to know this subject better took me to IIRS (Indian Institute of Remote Sensing). Here, I learned a lot of things in the world of remote sensing. 

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Tell us about your career path

My first job was as a Project Scientist in UPRSAC (Remote Sensing Applications Centre – U.P), where I worked in Watershed Management Planning based on remote sensing technologies. Through this role, I got very good experience and learned how satellite based technologies could be applied to plan rainwater harvesting, soil conservation, flood management etc. 

Geographical Information System (GIS) is a computer-based tool that is designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present spatial or Geographic data, usually in a map. We can map satellite data using this tool and we can easily identify the location of the incident after any natural hazard or disaster. Using satellite data, we can easily prepare a real time rainfall map, flood inundation map, water resource map or any other spatial application. The most important use case of satellite data is to trace the impact of climate change on earth and the environment.

My second job was in IMD (Indian Meteorological Department), New Delhi, where I worked as a SRF (Senior Research Fellow).  At IMD, I learnt many things about the Weather and Climate. I also learnt how INSAT 3D satellite data could be used to provide Agricultural Advisory. I worked in the Gramin Krishi Mausam Sewa (GKMS) project where I learned a lot of things like Weather Forecasting, Crop Modelling, Cyclone Tracking using INSAT3D satellite data, primarily for agricultural monitoring and farmer advisory services. 

My PhD Thesis topic is on “CLIMATE RISK MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR AGRICULTURE, BASED ON OPTIMAL RAINWATER IN INDIA”. During my PhD, I studied and covered most of the areas that are associated with climate risk such as Indian Summer Monsoon, Agriculture Drought, Meteorological drought, Hydrological Drought, and understood the importance of Agricultural Insurance. In most of these studies, I used remote sensing data.

In my third project, i was Research Head at FarmGuide, a company focused on research & development on various themes like Farm Level Crop Identification, Crop Acreage Estimation, Soil Moisture Estimation, Crop Growth Monitoring, and Drought Modeling using satellite and climatic data.

Currently, I work at Dehaat Pvt Ltd. My work here is entirely on R&D for Remote Sensing and GIS products that are being used for Agriculture Advisory Enhancement.

How did you get your first break? 

If you are a good researcher then the industry is always ready to take you with full respect.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

I got married during my PhD and at that time my SRF fellowship was not sufficient for my daily expenses. At that time, most of my friends who were working in IT companies were earning a very good salary. I sometimes thought of leaving my PhD and taking up a private job for good money, but my wife always supported me during my PhD Journey by boosting my morale. Without her support it would not have been possible to complete my PhD. 

Where do you work now? Tell us about your role

Currently, I work as GIS Research Lead at Dehaat Pvt Ltd. My work here is entirely on R&D of Remote Sensing and GIS products that for use in Agricultural Advisory Enhancement.

What do you like about this career?

Pursuing a career in Remote Sensing and GIS is a very good option in today’s era. It is needed in every sector in the current times. When I used satellite data for the first time, I realised how easily we could get information about what is happening all over the world through satellite images with reference to climate, agricultural changes, disasters etc. I liked it because it is a very good technique that gives us accurate information and can be mapped for further planning based on the data. Remote sensing is most commonly used today for agricultural insurance and yield forecasting.

How does your work benefit society? 

Remote sensing technology is becoming more and more important in the modern world due to attention being paid to the latest information in order to support planning and management for public and private interests. It is most useful for natural resource management, sustainable development, environmental conservation, and disaster management. GIS Satellite data are used as basic inputs for managing the inventory of natural resources and development processes linked to agriculture, soil, forestry, and geology. There are other important technologies that are available to geographers as well, such as Maps, Aerial Photography/ Photogrammetry/ Pictometry, SAR, LiDAR, SONAR, and GIS.

The assessment of agricultural crop canopies has provided valuable insights into agronomic parameters. Remote sensing plays a significant role in crop classification, crop monitoring and yield assessment. The use of remote sensing is necessary in the field of agronomical research because crops are highly vulnerable to variations in soil and climate. The monitoring of agricultural production systems follows strong seasonal patterns in relation to the biological life cycle of crops. All these factors are highly variable in space and time dimensions. Moreover, agricultural productivity can change within short time periods, due to unfavorable growing conditions. Monitoring of agricultural systems should be followed in a timely manner. Remote sensing provides important tools for timely monitoring and also gives an accurate picture of the agricultural sector with higher revisit frequency and higher accuracy. These technologies have many applications in the field of agriculture such as crop acreage estimation, crop growth monitoring, soil moisture estimation, soil fertility evaluation, crop stress detection, detection of diseases and pest infestation, drought and flood condition monitoring, yield estimation, weather forecasting, precision agriculture for maintaining the sustainability of the agricultural systems and improving the economic growth of the country

Your advice to students based on your experience?

I would advise students not to think about earning money during your studies. You should always keep yourself busy in conducting innovative research work and learning new technologies. All this will give you confidence in making your career successful.  

1.You live the school/college life only once; so enjoy each and every moment that you spend there…. Make them eternal!

2.Study because that is one thing which will surely help you achieve success; I am not denying the fact that talent can take you places, but the success ratio for academics is more 🙂

3. Don’t compare yourself with others. Your shoe sizes don’t match, forget about your lives! It’s important not to compare yourself with anyone. Though this has been said by many people, you still will end up doing the same, it’s normal to compare to a certain extent but if it crosses that limit it will harm you on a personal level.

4. Do not overthink, do what you feel and love what you do because as they say, those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

5. Remember these statements:

“You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.”

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”

“Accept life like a pair of walking legs…the foot in front has no pride, the foot behind has no shame because they both know the situation will change”

Future Plans?

I want to learn new technologies related to remote sensing.

I would like to keep updating myself according to the times as it is very crucial because there is a lot of competition in today’s time. I am now learning Data Science and Machine Learning which are the areas in most demand in the world today.

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