All posts by edenis

Startup ventures are betting big on India’s small-town boom

In places largely bypassed by the big-name brands, enterprising businessmen are building malls, multiplexes and retail businesses to take the latest in shopping and consumer trends to small-town India.

A Nielsen study late last year mentions that Middle India, a region made up of approximately 400 towns, each with a population of 1-10 lakh, is home to 100 million Indians and accounts for a fifth of the overall consumption of fast moving consumer goods.

In The Economic Times, 31 August 2012

Urban mobilities and the cycle rickshaw

This is a paper written by Gopa Samanta for Seminar (August 2012) on the mobility within small and medium towns and the role of cycle rickshaw:

“It is difficult to imagine Indian streets without rickshaws. Three major types of rickshaws – hand-pulled, cycle and auto – remain an indispensable form of mobility in Indian cities. Yet, planners and policy makers continue to see rickshaws as a nuisance on city streets, seeking to either control their number or ban them altogether. Commonly, in the process of city planning, two major arguments are often advanced”.

The full article here

Urban India 2011: Evidence Report

A publication of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements

India’s urban transition, a once in history phenomenon, has the potential to shift the country’s social, environmental, political and economic trajectory – a transition to be reckoned with. IIHS originally produced this book for the India Urban Conference: Evidence and Experience (IUC 2011), a series of events designed to raise the salience of urban challenges and opportunities in the ongoing debate on India’s development. The Urban India 2011: Evidence also marks the initiation of a series of thematic Urban Atlases in collaboration with leading scholars and practitioners.


Big ideas, small towns

In a country where innovation is just beginning to take root, start-ups like Foradian represent a new wave of small-town innovators. Their origins give them a better perspective on the adversity and diverse challenges presented by India’s vast geography. Unlike large companies who sell their products at a premium, plus added costs of customisation and support, small-town innovators’ solutions are inclusive and cost effective.

The Indian Express, 16 April 2012

Mandi Moods in Adolescent Town

by Mekhala Krishnamurthy

Tuesday, 31 January, 2012

A Seminar in the frame of the CPR-CSH Urban Series

organized by: Centre de Sciences Humaines (CSH) and Centre for Policy Research (CPR)

At Conference Hall, Centre for Policy Research, Dharma Marg, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi


This paper explores the everyday lives and life histories of an agricultural market in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Mandis or primary agricultural markets are old and ubiquitous institutions across many parts of the Indian economic landscape. Wherever they have formed, they tend to be dense sites of economic and political activity, connecting town and countryside, and local agricultural markets with larger circuits of commerce and consumption. In India, mandis are the most important sites for state regulation of the critical “first transaction” between farmers and the buyers of their produce, vital points of interaction in complex and intricately intermediated markets for a range of agricultural commodities. Widely portrayed and perceived as entrenched, inefficient and unchanging, the last decade has seen growing calls for the dismantling of the mandi system as the key to the liberalisation and growth of Indian agriculture. The paper is part of a larger ethnographic project, based on eighteen months of fieldwork focusing on the experiences of the farmers, traders, labourers, state functionaries and agencies, regional agro-processors, private corporations and their agents and managers who participate in the market and its different activities across marketing seasons. It traces the transformation of the mandi over the three decades from 1980 to 2010, as a number of regulatory and technological interventions in agricultural production and marketing interact with local agrarian contexts and political dynamics, producing a range of effects in the mandi, its spatial and temporal dimensions, material composition, forms of intermediation, and social relations. It looks at the ways in which the money made in the mandi is being spent outside it, changing the bazaar, shaping settlements, unsettling social relations, and influencing mobility in the town and its surrounding villages.

Urbanization beyond Municipalities

Somik Lall

joint with Tara Vishwanath, Nancy Lozano, Siddharth Sharma and Hyoung Wang

A seminar in the Frame of the CPR-CSH Urban Workshop Series

3:45 pm Tuesday, 26 July, 2011

Conference Hall, Centre for Policy Research, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi
This presentation will report on spatial and economic patterns related to India’s
urbanization and highlight challenges for managing key economic efficiency and spatial
equity tradeoffs. Economic liberalization in the 1990s has encouraged clustering of
businesses in the seven largest metropolitan areas – with considerable spillovers beyond
municipal cores of the largest cities into their immediate hinterland – including smaller
cities and even rural areas. However, with over 75 percent of the country’s urban
population and 95 percent rural population living beyond these metropolitan areas, it
becomes important to identify options for enhancing living conditions in places that
have not yet been picked by market forces while not undermining efficiency of India’s
metropolitan engines. This work is part of a series of prototypes being piloted under the
Urbanization Reviews, which seek to build a body of knowledge on urbanization
challenges and public policy implications in a variety of country settings.
Somik V. Lall is Senior Economic Counselor to the National Transport Policy
Development Committee and is currently on external service from the World Bank.
Somik has been a core team member of the World Development Report 2009:
Reshaping Economic Geography and has been leading the World Bank’s analytic work
on the Urbanization Reviews, designed to identify policy priorities at different stages of
urbanization. Somik’s policy advisory and analytic work has spanned a range of
countries including Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa, focusing on
identifying priorities for public investment across places and sectors. His research has
been published in leading academic and policy journals. Somik holds a B.S. in
Engineering, Masters in City and Regional Planning, and a Ph.D. in Public Policy.


– Raman BHUVANESWARI (Jindal University)
– Basudeb CHAUDHURI (CSH – New Delhi)
– Rémi DE BERCEGOL (CSH / LATTS – Paris)
– Eric DENIS (IFP – Pondicherry; since September 2013, Géographie-cités, Paris)
– Kamala MARIUS-GNANOU (ADES – Bordeaux/IFP)
– Robert KAST (IFP)
– Frédéric LANDY (GECKO – Paris)
– Diya MEHRA (CSH)
– Milap PUNIA (JNU – CSRD – New Delhi)
– Partha MUKHOPADHYAY (CPR – New Delhi)
– Mythri PRASAD (IFP)
– Gopa SAMANTA (Burdwan University)
– N. SRIDHARAN (SPA – New Delhi)
– Elfie SWERTS ( Géographie-Cités – Paris)
– Pierre-Yves TROUILLET (CEIAS – Paris/IFP)

The Project

The number of city-dwellers in the world is continually growing, especially in developing countries. It is believed that the urban population in Asia will double between 2000 and 2030. Urban research has generally put emphasis on megalopolises: privileged environments for production and concentration of national wealth, innovation and talent, but also for critical societal and environmental problems. Taking note of this research, the World Bank – in its 2009 report Reshaping Economic Geography – states the need to promote town economies.

The SUBURBIN project positions itself in opposition to a vision of urbanisation reduced to metropolitanization and competition between global cities and that tends to consider the urban world only through the prism of very large cities – even though half of the world’s city dwellers do not reside there. It acknowledges the current process of urban transition, but questions the representations and measures of it. With the quick transformation of economies, analytical gaps persist and call for a deeper understanding and renewal of certain important questions: Where do we draw the line between rural and urban, between administrative status and functional reality? How and for what purpose would a rural area become an urban area? What is the relation between the proliferation of small towns and economic processes: are these towns dependent on the metropolitanization process? Could an endogenous growth and forms of specific innovation emerge from these areas? SUBURBIN puts forward the hypothesis of the urbanisation trajectories diversity, which it proposes to understand and qualify, in the case of India, by focusing on small towns, a neglected stratum of the city system.

This research focuses on India, where one out of ten urban citizens in the world already resides. India is the ideal field to shed light on this question because the urbanisation dynamics here seem to diverge from the seminal centre/periphery model, the number of small towns is increasing while migration to big cities is stagnating at a moderate level. Besides, one should also notice that the official recognition of settlements as urban units is restrictive and politically driven.

This project will discuss the relevance of definitions related to the distinction between rural and urban by utilizing geolocalised databases developed in the ANR (National Research Agency in France) Methods and Corpus programme: e-Geopolis (2008-2010).

The research will rest on a double approach: on one hand, economic and social indicators provided by large existing statistic databases will fuel Indiapolis in order to develop a precise and comparative analysis of towns with less than 50,000 inhabitants; on the other hand, field monographs will allow for a qualitative analysis of the observed dynamics;

The SUBURBIN project aims to offer alternative perspectives on “urban transition” from different disciplines, and linking the macro and micro analysis levels. Beyond a scientific aim, it also strives to actively contribute to the debates about the plurality of development models.

SUBURBIN is a joint project of IFP and CSH, under the responsibility of Eric Denis and Marie-Hélène Zérah. It brings together a team of scholars from various disciplinary backgrounds (economics, geography, urban studies and, anthropology). It is based on collaboration with several Indian partner institutions :