Marketing of maps imagery and other geospatial data in India

Oct 2010 | No Comment

Prof P Misra

Land information technologies

There is no denying of a characteristic that marketing as a concept and priority do not go hand-in-hand with the good departments. Survey of India, National Remote Sensing Centre, Geological Survey of India, Forest Survey of India, National Bureau of Soil Surveys and Land Use Planning (NBSS & LUP) and many other member-organization of NSDI are no exception. As a matter of interest, if you try to know what all is available in India from the portals of NSDI and other organizations, you are hardly rewarded by the desired information.

NRSC is comparatively better organized for marketing but procedures for demand requires prior knowledge and, therefore, needs hand-holding to a large extent.

The organization which deal with the generation of geo-spatial data have not allocated the right priority to the marketing function with regard to their data products and services.

So much so that first stage of marketing – making customers aware of the products and services has been done perfunctorily. There is, naturally, big scope for improvement. All data producing organizations are clubbed as service organization of the Government of India. Surely, they all will improve their image and acceptability markedly, if the supply of data is done with due regards to the marketing principles. NSDI should, in due course, earn the label of ‘professional’ in the marketing function.

Ambit of marketing of data-products

The objective inherent in the title of this paper is not only going to be influenced by all the traditional principles of marketing, namely, 4 Ps (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) (Refer to box1) but also by the additional strategic Ps. These are Preparation, Potential (of technology) and Publications including publicity as part of Promotion. All these marketing functions will greatly help in reaching the super-objectives of NSDI. In fact, the marketing principles as mentioned here have guided the thrust of the ideas/suggestions and pleas mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs.

What is written her in is also applicable to all the member – organizations. These may decide to meaningfully extend their organizations through effective marketing. NSDI is well poised to provide marketing advice and common platform for promotion and publicity.

If is said that ‘marketing’ is the real business the rest is all overhead. If is rather difficult to stretch this definition when data products and services are being undertaken by government and semi-government organizations. Nevertheless, the importance of marketing functions cannot be undervalued or ignored.

P-For product (s) and Market segmentation

In the marketing sense products are evolved and designed continuously keeping the demands of the users in view. In other words, the market-domain of the products is ‘segmented’ into different categories of the users. For example, the type of map required by a tourist is going to be different than, say, an engineer. While a tourist is mostly concerned with the terrain features and ease in their interpretation, an engineer on the other hand requires the finer details and map should be accurate enough for his design and measurement. Extending the example to the satellite imagery, one may have to provide imagery of required specifications to:

• Geography/Land Information based Academic Interest Groups e.g. Universities.

• Professional users e.g. consulting firms, government agencies, NGOs and other enthusiastic users of the imagery.

• Research groups-technology enlightened users – Scientists of NRSC and equivalent in institutions, dealing with modeling and monitoring projects.

Users require different products

In our case of GIS oriented activities, the requirements of the various users can be easily converted to :

• Scale (s)

• Main specification of the product – digital or analogue

• Mode of preparation and dispatch of data

• Other topics e.g. projection, etc.

• Governing policies of Government of India e.g. Restriction Policy

NSDI- Proposed Nodal Agency for Marketing

The chapter “Future episodes” of book “NSDI in India- Through the years” published by Coordinates has suggested some objectives which should be added to the charter of NSDI. One glaring omission appears to be the marketing of data-products and services. It is in this context that the following suggestions are being made.

Strong website / Portal

These days all students and professionals turn to the portal of the organization to get the relevant information about products services. Besides, the portal contains links to the various sources of information. Portals should, therefore, be designed keeping marketing in view. Additionally, a brief description of the technology could be furnished in the form of ‘tutorials’.


Short training courses arranged by NSDI

These short courses – may be of one or two days duration- are extremely effective in generating:

– Awareness of the various Land Information Technologies (LIT). LITs could be demonstrated through completed projects or workshops.

– Show –case capability of the various organizations associated with the NSDI regarding research projects availability and use of the latest equipment and other cutting edge of the technology

– Users-forum for exchange of ideas on the technology.

It is quite natural that NSDI will choose the organization and its premise for the above tasks. What will impress the data and service domain will, of course, be the holistic benefit of the data-products and push the use of GIS in India.

For example, professionals from cadastral discipline and geography will be able to see convincingly the BIG picture of the GIS technology in India. All these activities help in replication of the technology is their setup.

Comprehensive mailing list

This mailing list should have the addresses of all likely users of the spatial data. The addresses with the Department of Space (National Remote Sensing Centre) user in connection with their magazine INTERFACE will be very useful. Similarly, mailing lists with other professional societies e.g. Remote Sensing Society and others can be incorporated.

It has already been established that regular information on data and services have brought revenue and tangible projects in the real world of business.

Incidentally, quoting one Consulting Firm of Delhi, it says:

“We are prepared to place a permanent order on all the outputs regarding spatial data is case somebody gives timely information. Such statements are eye-openers for marketing strategy. NSDI can easily this challenge and take advantage of the situation.

In simple business/financial terms it means that all your future products are deemed to have been sold thereby earning revenue to the organization.

An extension of the above idea may mean 4 to 5 times production and distribution of maps (and digital data) without much hassle.

Enhancing awareness about data products and services

On the face of it, the above activity seems to be quite simple and easy to implement. Yet in 90% cases, the users, who are not laymen but are professional in their own disciplines do not know about the data. In authors’ experience these professional/consultants are prepared to spend substantial amount if the data/information is already available. Otherwise, they have to generate the data ab-initio. They have money but no time.

In such a scenario, if some agency helps them to procure data, they will be grateful.

The upshot of all what is written is that responsibility of informing and generating awareness should remain with the data generations. NSDI can be very effective in this enormously important but neglected area (awareness)!

May I suggest, that resorting to advertisement in national newspapers, magazines and on the web will be quite in order- and will be appreciated by one and all.

Let us not be miserly in spreading good information.

(4+2) Ps of Marketing

P-Product, includes service etc.

P-Price of the Product or Service

P-Place- Availability of Product or Service timely supply

P-Promotion, including awareness, publicity, etc.

Strategic Ps

P- Planning for Marketing, Total domain of users

P-Post-Marketing feedback from customers and users for newer products.

Concept of NSDI Associate/Partner

Any one, individual or organization, who can enhance the professional and marketing objectives of NSDI and / or its constituents can be termed as NSDI-Associate. Similarly, Partner will be those individual (s) or organization (s) who enhance the objectives of NSDI in a big (measurable in terms of transactions) way can be called NSDI Partners. To explain further, Partners are professional persons/organization who understand the complete working of NSDI, powers and limitations of spatial – data sets, services and should be capable of providing consultancy regarding suitability, availability and checking of data sets and services of/ by NSDI.

(To be taken as guide lines)

The Associate/Partners are expected to act as Facilitators Par Excellence in the domain of NSDI. On the operational side, the following points will gain importance.

All those individuals who attend and qualify for short courses of NSDI will get a Certificate of Associate ship.

All those individuals / organizations who help in marketing of services and spatial data, say, to the extent of Rs 50,000 or more could be named as Partners of NSDI and should be given a certificate.

Extending the concept of enhancement of marketing. More and more recruitment of Partners should be taken to further the objective of effective marketing for NSDI and its members.

A few selected Partners could increase their business / organization turnover by participating in Public Private Participation (PPP) Projects. These may pertain to revision surveys, maintenance of Bench Marks or similar operations of NSDI members.

Timely service / supply- An experience

It is my early experience of 1960s. Survey of India was commissioned to produce large scale irrigation-project maps on a large size, called Quad-Demy.

On my visit to the Project office at Jammu, I enquired out of curiosity for learning, how the maps are being actually used by the engineers.

Hesitatingly, one engineer – supervisor of the draftsmen took me to a big hall. But I didn’t see the maps. On enquiry he told me that the office is using the maps but the reverse-blank-side of the maps! Why?

The maps were delivered 8 months late. The project authorities had finished their project.

Some more points of interest for marketing

Difference between ‘customer’ and the ‘user’

When a father buys chocolate for his son, he is the customer and his son is the user. Therefore, product/ service should primarily be designed/ improved from the point of view of the user.

New Products/Maps

New maps (Paper and digital) which users may like to have.


Users will like to have the satellite imagery printed on the reverse of the line-map.

The line map provides quick interpretation where as the imagery could be used for thematic (geology, forestry/vegetation, soil, etc.) interpretation. For larger scale maps i.e. larger scales than 1:10,000 users will prefer superimposition or separate printing of aerial photograph (if possible!)

Revision of maps

Users should see more frequent cycle of revision of maps as proposed below:

Urban maps- 2 to 5 Years because of frequent changes.

Sami – urban- 5 to 7 years

Rural maps- 5 to 10 years

Cadastral maps

Maps pertaining to highway corridors (national and state highways¬) -2 to 5 years

Tourist areas-2 to 5 years.

Integrated thematic information on 1:50,000 scale (geology, soil, vegetation, ground water, etc)

Some laudable attempts have been made by the Department of Space in their NRIS(National) (Natural) Resources information system (NRIS). Thematic information: for 22 layers of spatial information and 8 layers of non-spatial attributes. (Reference- Publication of Department of Space).

NRSI is a GIS based national level asset to have thematic digital information suitable for the density required for 1:50,000.

The research oriented specifications of NRIS (and other equivalent information systems of Department of Science & Technology, Department of Space NRSC, etc) should be so massaged so as to bring a user friendly digital or paper product is the domain of marketing / sales to the public at large.

National Remote Sensing Centre has produced excellent 1:50,000 maps on the various themes along with Action Report. Many districts of India have already been covered.

Similar reports and maps are available under NRDMS project.

All such reports and maps should be offered for sale offer carrying due publicity and promotion.

Town maps on 1:25000 scale – compiled map

The whole of India is covered by 1:25000 Survey of India maps. These maps could be collated to form a composite town map of a city. These will be useful to the public as height information and other topographical features will be depicted on the town map.

Highway corridor maps on scale of 1:25000

These maps will be quite popular with car-travelers. Here again, these maps could be generated from existing 1:25000 maps. Naturally, revision of these maps will form an important activity by the production organization.

Thematic maps on 1:50,000-from L.I.T organization

Presently maps/data are being produced by Geological Survey of India, National Bureau of Soil Surveys and Land Use Planning, Central Ground Water Board and Forest Survey of India.

These organization could be advised to produce digital version of spatial data suitable for publishing paper copy on 1:50,000 scale.

GIS activities in India will increasingly demand 1:50,000 and larger scale maps.

Revision surveys as public-private participation (PPP) mode

The revision surveys (see separate paper by the author) should be under taken as PPP project ministry of rural development (Reference appendix 2.)

PURA should be fully involved in rural areas, highway corridors and semi-urban areas for revision of map-data.

Presently, the revision of surveys/map is one survey function which is woefully out of date for all types of the maps in India. Unless, we adopt some innovative methods, maps will perpetually be out of date.

Concluding thoughts on marketing

Marketing is not a difficult operation. It only needs priority in scheme of management and simple operating procedures. The moment, we think of service, we should think of ‘users’ ( as a group of satisfied persons).

It will immediately lead to the design of new products (maps and digital data) and of course ‘delivery system’.

As mentioned, make a beginning (with the existing products) on the awareness front. Organizations, I am sure will be overwhelmed by the joy of satisfying people on a large scale.

Society will legitimize the existence of data producing agencies, only if it gets serviced well.

Appendix A

Government of India

Ministry of Rural Development

Notice inviting ‘Expression of Interest’

Implementation of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas)

Scheme in PPP Framework

The objectives of the PURA scheme are provision of livelihood opportunities and urban amenities in rural areas to bridge the rural-urban divide. The scheme envisages holistic and accelerated development of areas around a potential growth centre in a Gram Panchayat (or group of Gram Panchayats )in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) framework. Ministry of Rural Development (with support from Department of Economic Affairs and technical assistance of Asian Development Bank) intends to implement the PURA scheme on a pilot basis under a PPP framework.


The scope of the scheme would be to develop livelihood opportunities, urban amenities and infrastructure facilities to prescribed service levels and to be responsible for maintenance of the same for a period of ten years. The selected private partner would be required to provide amenities like water supply and sewerage, roads, drainage, solid waste management, street lighting telecom electricity development in a panchayat/ or a cluster of panchayats as part of the PURA project. The selected private partner may also provide ‘add-on’ revenue-earning facilities such as village linked tourism, integrated rural hub, rural markets, agri-common services centre and warehousing any other rural-economy based project etc in addition to the above mentioned amenities.

Financing model

The leveraging of public funds with private capital and management expertise for creation and maintenance of rural infrastructure is the essence of the PURA scheme. The scheme envisages convergence of funding from various ongoing schemes of Central Government, private financing and capital grant wherever required.

Bidding process

Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) invites expressions of interest (eois) in sealed envelope from private sector entities having experience in development / construction and management of community – oriented infrastructure projects either as a single entity or as a consortium who meet following qualification criteria.

(i) A minimum net worth of Rs.25 crore

(ii) Experience of developing infrastructure projects having a cumulative value of at least Rs.50 crore

Guidelines of the PURA scheme may be downloaded from

My Coordinates
His Coordinates
Charles Branch, Subba Rao

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