Can You Guess Where This Market Is?


Let’s watch this video, first.

At first glance, it will look like any market in rural India. But a close look will reveal tall apartment buildings. This is where the market was located. It’s active for half-a-day, twice a week.

The market is located just opposite to a property developed by ATS in Sector 109, Gurgaon. It is approximately 5 kms from the Delhi airport, as the crow flies.

These are some of my observations:

Approximately 100-125 people were in the market when the video was taken (around 6.30 PM).

  • The total number of people who will visit this market from past one year is around 700-800 people, spending on average Rs 75-100.
  • There are between 40-50 vendors selling vegetables, fruits, sweets, toys, clothes, dry fruits, utensils, meat (usually chicken and fish), fruit juice, ice cream, food and everyday use items like comb, hair brush etc.,
  • Majority of people buy from vegetable vendors. They seem like anchor clients in the market.
  • Majority of customers are neighbouring villages (which were there before the place was urbanised) and construction workers. In another post, we will discuss about purchase patterns of construction workers and what they reveal.
  • Rain or storm, the markets function with great regularity.
  • The quality of vegetables are far superior compared to what Big Basket supplies, and prices are much cheaper.
  • The vendors move as a pack, with their own transport vehicles.
  • The market opens post-lunch, and ends by around 9.30 PM. Hardly seen them functioning beyond 10 PM.
  • Most customers walk to the market, hardly anyone come by vehicles.

What you won’t see here:

Near absence of any branded goods. It’s a challenge to find a single brand.

Think of this: This is a market in one of the most urbanised cities (Gurgaon) and located very close to Delhi. Yet, brands have no presence in the market – which is catering to the people in the bottom of the pyramid. A back of the envelope calculation shows the market makes a turnover of Rs 80,000 – Rs 100,000 in a day. A small economy of 800 consumers, 40 vendors and turnover of Rs80,000.

If I am a policy maker, I will look at ways to promote these markets which creates employment.

And, if you’re an executive looking to expand your brand’s presence, this is a market waiting to be studied and understood, so that next range of products targetting the bottom of the pyramid can be launched.

For more reading on ‘bottom of the pyramid’, read C K Prahlad’s essays on this topic.

(How India Lives has the most granular data about India. Name any village in a rural area or a ward in an urban location, we have 550 metrics ranging from demographics to asset ownership to how they live. Contact us, if you think we can help you.)

Read More


Profiling: Hindi Vs Non Hindi Markets

One way to understand the market is through the language spoken by consumers. And in India, it can be broadly divided into Hindi and non-Hindi speaking population. The data can be further sliced to look at differences between Hindi speaking states.

For example, Chandigarh is vastly different from Patna in all aspects – demographics to economic affluence. This article is an attempt to understand the major differences between the Hindi and non-Hindi speaking markets through three parameters – urbanisation, education and female population. In the next article, we’ll look at what people own in these two markets.

We have considered 14 states as Hindi speaking states, mainly based on percentage of people who can talk in Hindi as per 2001 Census data (Yes, that’s the last time Census released data on languages spoken). Marathi is the mother tongue for Maharashtra, but they would come under Hindi speaking state because a large proportion of the population can talk in Hindi. A detailed table can be seen at the end of this article.

What can these indicators speak of:
Urbanisation – more non-farm employment opportunities, higher share of service sector jobs, more opportunities to move ahead economically
Literacy – ability to read and understand issues and take an informed decision.
Share of female population – how are women treated in the society.

In terms of population, Hindi speaking states account for nearly two-thirds of India’s population. But in other parameters – urbanisation, literacy and share of female population – they lag behind.

State-wise data on the parameters used in the analysis, see the map below.

In the second-part of the series in understanding Hindi vs Non-Hindi speaking markets, we will look at affluence as measured by ownership of assets like two or four wheelers etc. For more data, please check, India’s most granular database covering all the 715,000 geographical locations.

(John is co-founder of How India Lives)

Read More

Why We Built ‘How India Lives’


It will be three years in December this year since we started How India Lives, and the question I often get asked is, “why did you decide to work on public data?”

I’d say it all started when I joined Mint in November 2006. The deal was that I’d stay in Chennai for one-year and then move to Delhi after that. Till the time the paper was launched on February 1, 2007, we were taught how to write stories (I benefited hugely as my writing skills are not great) and scout for stories.

Chennai was not the most happening place in terms of corporate actions and to top that, local business groups were media shy. Call it need of the hour or something, but it was at that time I came across Draft Red Herring Prospectus (DRHP), a document filed by companies that were going public (selling shares for the first time). These documents were bulky (some are in excess of 1,000 pages) and hardly anyone would read it, especially in the newsrooms. But I needed stories, so I would pick one of them and read.

I was amazed at the amount of information that these documents contained. By regulation, companies have to disclose everything about their business. So, there was a lot in there that was worth publishing.

This is a huge treasure trove of information. What I would do is to read the documents for three -five days (depending on how much I know the business) and put together main points (usually ran for 3-5 pages). Then I will start my reporting, talking to the company and people involved. As not many people were reading the DRHP, I was happy doing this so that my byline comes in the newly launched newspaper. This was the first story I co-wrote for Mint using DRHP.

Then gradually I moved to explore other public data, some hidden behind paywalls. Ideally they should be open data. One such source was corporate filing database maintained by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA21). Amazing amount of information hidden in that system, but the user interface used to be (still it is) very bad.

My sounding board in all those years was Anand Krishnamoorthy, co-founder of How India Lives. He was wise enough to quit journalism much earlier. We used to discuss about various public data (both domestic and international) and how we can use them for writing stories. In small ways, we used to encourage whoever asked us how to tap DRHP or MCA 21. I feel happy when reporters tap these sources, as there can’t be a better source to understand corporates and their activities.

The idea of How India Lives came up when we both were discussing Census data. Anand found that two districts adjoining Chennai – Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram – were witnessing huge growth as economic development of the state capital was spilling over. We saw this trend happening across many big cities. Urbanisation was happening around big cities, but stuff like these were not reported. Or trends like “Nuclear family is in decline in India”.

Then the idea of How India Lives came up. How about creating an interface where it’s easy for people to access data like these.

After forming the initial team (Avinash, Ramnath, Anand and I), we started talking to people both journalists and corporates as to what is stopping them from using public data. Three reasons came up:

  1. Data is in silos. Someone wants to compare credit growth, female population and number of households. He has to access data from two sources – RBI and the Census website.
  2. Each government agency defines data their own way. Read this story, “How many districts are there in India? Nobody is really sure”. See here.
  3. Data is in rows and columns, often in multi-dimensional column headers.

This feedback became the building block for How India Lives. We wanted to bring together all public data in a single database and make them talk to each other (this would mean mapping geographies across different datasets), enable search in the way we talk and write (still work in progress) and present the data in visual format.

People can argue about data quality, but I feel the first step is to organize the public data, make them searchable and comparable, so that more people can start using it. Can we break down terms like main and marginal workers in accessible usage like full or part-time workers? Can we develop a search engine which can fetch data in seconds for any geographical location in India?

The vision of How India Lives is to break the data barrier – people who understand data (a tiny percentage) and those who don’t (a vast majority). We believe when we turn data into insights (a meaningful one) through visualization, we will break that barrier. Like Hans Rosling said in his famous talk, “let the dataset change your mindset

We have faced huge hurdles in last three years, but we are convinced that making public data accessible will be a huge productivity booster – one that can save time and money. The growth of public data has increased exponentially in India, and what we have covered is just a tiny portion. But, we are constantly building ourselves to grow faster and make a difference in this ever dynamic world of data.

Read More