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Ashay Prabhu: why Assetic co-founder is so passionate about tackling the problem of infrastructure deficit

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It was Ashay Prabhu’s passion for cricket that led the founder of strategic asset-management software platform Assetic to establish a successful career in engineering.

Prabhu originally from Goa India, moved in 1990 to play club cricket for Tasmania, where he also enrolled in engineering at the university. While his cricket career stalled, he had better luck with engineering.

After a rich experience stint with Hazell Bros in Hobart, Prabhu joined Works Tasmania in 1996, when the department was in the process of outsourcing asset maintenance to private contractors. “To do that, we needed someone trained in lifecycle asset management,” Prabhu says. “I put my hand up and was fortunate to be one of the first to get this unique opportunity and experience in lifecycle asset management.”

In 2001, Prabhu left Tasmania to start his own asset management consulting company in Melbourne to service the growing need in government. In 2006, he founded Assetic with software “genius” Joel Brakey, who had worked previously with Prabhu’s wife Ujwala at Software Engineering Australia.

As luck would have it, Prabhu and Brakey found themselves in the right place at the right time. The Rudd Government’s introduction of the National Asset Management Framework (NAMAF) “gave us enormous momentum to create a niche”, says Prabhu. “We became the first company to have a strategic asset management platform for both engineering modelling and financial accounting. Being the first and swiftest to the market and backed by regulation helps.”

Using data to do more with less

Prabhu and Brakey started Assetic to solve the problem of “optimising government budgets”, Prabhu explains. According to the 2021 National State of Assets (NSoA) report, Australia has over $600 billion in local government infrastructure, $51 billion of which requires repair or replacement. “Most local governments don’t have anywhere near the funding required to fix the backlog and raising taxes was no longer an option.”

Assetic enables organisations to “reduce infrastructure deficit without throwing more money at the problem”, says Prabhu. The Assetic platform analyses asset performance and condition data, modelled over 50 years across millions of competing assets, to determine where spending should be allocated to achieve the most effective outcomes. Their clients are now unlocking millions in hidden efficiencies now each year.

From his earliest exposure to asset management, Prabhu has felt an affinity for the discipline. “Even the smallest local government has a billion dollars in infrastructure value that they own,” he says, which equates to around $20,000 per capita. “Managing that over a lifecycle requires a lot of prudent financial planning, and the financial planning aspect was what drew me into this space. It allowed us to bring engineers and accountants together and come at it from a single pitch.”

Strategic asset management allows engineers to make a solid case to finance managers and decision-makers for funding requests and gives finance managers the ability to create robust, evidence-backed plans for the future, rather than relying on assumptions. “That really attracted me because it was actually putting money back into taxpayers’ pockets,” says Prabhu, adding that it, “shifted the game from the traditional way of maintaining assets, which was reactive – we’ll fix it when it breaks – to a more proactive approach”.

Today, Assetic is Australia’s leading asset management platform with clients including the Australian Antarctic Division, Sydney Trains, V/Line, Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, Department of Education Tasmania, and several ports, in addition to more than 300 local governments.

In 2020, Assetic was acquired by Dude Solutions, a leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider based in the United States. “The good news story for us was an American company backed by private equity, recognised the need for such a niche, which has really given us that fuel and momentum, we needed to have in the US,” says Prabhu

Prabhu’s focus is now on the US, where he is on the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Economic Development and Capital Planning Committee. “My role [at Assetic] is essentially evangelism and thought leadership,” says Prabhu, who also served as an adjunct professor of Strategic Asset Management at Bond University. “Our product is now firmly embedded in the United States in several government organisations and is saving local rate payers millions, just as it is here in Australia.”

He credits the work of IPWEA under CEO David Jenkins’ leadership in making Australia a global leader in strategic asset management. “David’s passion for certification and education… is helping governments build internal capability, rather than relying on consultants,” he says. The result is that “staff have the capacity to take it to the next level, and that is extremely beneficial in owning SAM as a way of life”.

Prabhu believes that AI will play a greater role in the future of asset management as platforms of the future make better use of data gathered by drones, low-flying craft and robots.

“My prediction is, by 2025, most government inspectors won’t even have to leave their control rooms,” he says. “They’ll be getting feeds into their portals of potholes, hazards, damaged equipment and safety issues in almost real time. This reduces human intervention significantly and also provides significantly quicker response times. Imagine only having to respond to assets that need work, as opposed to inspecting 5,000 assets a year to determine which 50 need work. That’s the volume of efficiency we are about to unlock.”

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