Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Cheap Indian GIS

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) markets have not grown as fast as it should have in India but is picking up as private companies and government start recognizing the importance of geography embedded information. The main reason has been the slow response of government agencies to the potential of GIS. Add to that are restrictions on data availability which are now being removed through the development of government supported data warehouses like the Environment Information Centre (site is down as I write this). Additionally the National Spatial Data Infrastructure is being built and that eventually will be a gateway to various national spatial data repositories.

That's great news but there is good news on the capital costs side too. The second major reason for the slow adoption of GIS in India has been the exorbitant cost of software. Software from the main GIS players like ESRI and Intergraph costs a bundle and makes it difficult for smaller organizations, NGO's, individual consultants to afford it. That's changing too. There are now in the market some excellent affordable GIS. The one I use a lot - Manifold - costs a few hundred dollars, an easier investment for small companies.

Now the latest of these low cost GIS is the one developed by the Centre of Studies in Resource Engineering IIT Bombay and distributed through Bhugol GIS Pvt Ltd, a front company (Bhugol means geography in Hindi). Its called GRAM++ and it includes a full range of GIS capabilities. Its costs about Rs 30,000 ($ 625/-) for a commercial licence and Rs 10,000/- ($ 200) for an academic licence. They have also released a web based application called the Web Gram Server. GRAM ++ also includes an image processing module, a utility most standard GIS packages lack.

At $ 625/- the commercial licence is more expensive than Manifold GIS (range $295 -$575) but still much less than the thousands of dollars you would spend on ESRI or Intergraph or MapInfo. I haven't had a chance to use and assess this software but the pricing and the advertised capabilities will be attractive to small companies and consultants.


  1. Hi Suvrat,

    Am an on and off reader of your blog ( through desipundit). I really like the posts on GIS and had a possibly related question. Are there reliable sources (free and online preferably) of info for areas within cities in India-including info on population of areas, list of important landmarks etc. ?


  2. Nikhil- thanks for reading. Currently Cenusus data is available online in a map format aggregated up to district ( http://www.censusindiamaps.net/Start.htm ) and tahsil level ( http://www.indiabiodiversity.org/layer_info.php?layer_name=lyr_106_india_tahsils_census01) but not city level. Individual city governments will have ward wise aggregation for various demographic parameters but as far as i know there is no easy centralized access to such data. For example pune municipal corporation www.punecorporation.org (site is down a lot) may have this data online.

    regarding list of landmarks for cities have your tried google maps maps.google.com :).

  3. Thanks Suvrat. Those were helpful. I was able to get most of the info I needed from the Chennai corp website. Googlemaps worked fine for me as well although I wish there were more consistency applied to Indian street addresses.