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Start-ups propel growth in Geospatial Economy

India’s geospatial economy is all set to touch USD 8 billion by 2025 at a growth rate of 12.8 per cent. By then, this sector will generate jobs for more than 1 million people.

Defence and intelligence, water resources and irrigation, construction, and utilities have been fuelling the geospatial market growth in the country. At present, there are around 250 geospatial start-ups in the country providing employment to 470,000 people with nearly a fourth engaged in export-related services. The segment is currently valued at USD 4.7 billion.

Geospatial economy is estimated to grow at a much faster rate post-2025, on the backbone of strategic public policy reforms, industry acceleration strategies, and innovations in the digital twin and metaverse paradigm.

Geography at the centre of it all

Geospatial data has seeped into our daily life in the past decade through various apps such as Swiggy or Zomato (food delivery), Amazon (e-commerce), Ola and Uber (cab hailing), many weather apps, among others.

Following the COVID pandemic, there has also been acceleration in the uptake of geospatial data while recognising the advantages of using location for data integration and analysis. While linking people, objects or behaviours with the “when and where”, the data has been critical in managing resources, responding to disaster response and addressing food scarcity.

Geospatial technologies, which include Global  Positioning System (GPS) and other Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) devices to measure angles and distances, Light  Detection and  Ranging  (LIDAR)  for remote sensing and aerial photography, Location Based Services (LBS), Computer-Aided Design (CAD), and GIS, impact the economies of almost every industry segment while addressing all types of planning, decision‐making, and operational needs of the government and the private sector, besides individuals.

The economy encompasses the domestic market for geospatial products and services; export value of geospatial hardware, software, data, and services; and government expenditure on national geospatial organisations and infrastructure.

India Geospatial Stack

Government departments in India use a variety of geospatial technologies like GIS, Remote Sensing, LIDAR, GNSS, Surveying and Mapping. In fact, geospatial components are interspersed in all flagship programmes of the government – Smart Cities,  Skill Development, Digital India, Start‐up India, Make in India and the Clean Ganga Project.

The NITI Aayog in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has developed the Geospatial Energy Map of India to provide a comprehensive view of energy production and distribution in the country. It will come in handy for planning and making investment decisions while aiding disaster management using available energy assets.

The government is also supporting the use of Kisan drones for land assessment, digitization of land records and spraying insecticides and nutrients. The Ministry of Rural Development has also launched a new geospatial planning portal named ‘Yuktdhara’, which will serve as a repository of assets (geotags) created under the various National Rural Development Programmes, such as MGNREGA.

Under the Digital India Programme, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has implemented several advanced enterprise platforms like Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT) and Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

The Kargil war prompted heavy investment in geospatial technologies since it brought to the fore the adverse effects of dependence on geospatial data sourced from foreign countries.

The Road Ahead

The government has been interested in measures connecting space and location technologies with development and governance. Policymakers are also planning to solve major humanitarian and sustainability problems through the growth of the geospatial sector and making it competitive on the global stage.

No wonder, India hosted the very second United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress (UN-WGIC) in Hyderabad, between October 10 and 14, 2022. 

While India is still lagging in the use of geospatial technologies in commercial enterprises – manufacturing, retail, banking, financial services and insurance sector, travel and logistics, the Geospatial Data Guidelines 2021 could lead to increased adoption of GIS through significant investments in data creation.

The government has removed prerequisites such as getting licences or prior approvals as part of the liberalisation of geospatial data to promote Make-in-India solutions and achieve the vision of the USD 5 trillion economy by adopting emerging technologies across national mission-mode projects.

In line with it, the draft National Geospatial Policy (NGP) 2021 seeks to embolden geospatial data, workforce and ecosystem through PPP while liberalising the mapping industry to spur domestic innovation and enable Indian companies to compete in the global mapping ecosystem.

“The deregulation of geospatial data for Indians gives the native IT industry huge leverage over international players with a virtual monopoly on data-driven services across the world. Today, there is a chance to create a Google in India,” Rajit Bhattacharya, CEO of location intelligence services startup Data Sutram, reportedly told Inc42.

Since deregulation, which can be regarded as a watershed moment, the geospatial sector, which was earlier elicited lukewarm interests from the investors, is seeing new interest. In 2021, the initial public offering (IPO) of CE Indo System Ltd, the parent of digital mapping company MapmyIndia got oversubscribed (154 times) and listed with a premium of 53 per cent against its issue price of Rs 1,033.

A panel discussion at UN-WGIC also highlighted how Trimble and Bentley are getting bigger by acquiring the very companies that venture capitalists are funding, and geospatial data and services are at the core of them all. 

What the government needs to do now is establish a geospatial infrastructure to host content, solution templates, applications and open APIs in order to accelerate technology adoption. Besides investment in data creation, application and solution template development, it also needs to support universities in the development of high-calibre manpower.

The Global Picture

The impact of geospatial technologies on the global economy is currently estimated to be in the range of USD 2.2 trillion to 5.4 trillion and it is expected to expand in the range of USD 5.4 trillion to USD 10.2 trillion in 2025. The market is worth approximately USD 395 billion in 2021, compared to USD 365 billion in 2020.

The GNSS and Positioning is forecasted to be the largest and growing geospatial technology segment with approximately 45 per cent of the total market share, followed by GIS and Spatial Analytics at 25 per cent and earth observation at 17 per cent, according to World’s GeoBuiz-22: Global Geospatial Industry Outlook Report.

In the future, geospatial data will, therefore, hold greater significance than ever before with dynamic GIS at the core of everything, combining base maps with sensor information in real-time.

That’s what the next-generation digital economy will run on.


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