The Indian Space Research Organisation has entered into an agreement with MapmyIndia to develop mapping and other location-based services in India, which MapmyIndia suggested could become an alternative to widely-used Google maps and similar products.

“There are many reasons why Indians are better off with an indigenous solution for maps and geospatial services. MapmyIndia, being a responsible, local Indian company, ensures that its maps reflect the true sovereignty of the country, depicting India’s borders as per the government of India, and hosts its maps in India,” company’s CEO Rohan Verma wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Calling it a “pathbreaking milestone” towards the objective of Atmanirbhar Bharat, Verma said MapmyIndia’s end-user maps, apps and services would “integrate with ISRO’s huge catalogue of satellite imagery, and earth observation data, and would be a much better, more detailed and comprehensive, as well as privacy-centric, hyper-local and indigenous mapping solutions for Indians, compared to foreign map apps and solutions”.

“Users will be able to see in MaymyIndia’s maps and services, all of India from a bird’s eye point of view, and also benefit hugely from the various map-based analytics and insights about weather, pollution, agricultural output, land-use changes, flood and landslide disasters etc,” he said.

Neither ISRO nor MapmyIndia gave a timeline for the roll-out of the services.

For ISRO, the agreement with MapmyIndia is the latest in a series of partnerships it has entered into in recent weeks as part of the efforts to encourage the participation of private companies in the space sector. The government had last year set up a new organisation, called Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (INSPACe), with the specific objective of helping private players to grow in the space industry.

The government had argued that the ever-increasing demand for space-based data, applications and services could not be met by ISRO alone, especially since it also had to focus on its primary responsibility of space research, scientific expeditions and interplanetary exploration. Accordingly, ISRO has opened up its resources, both hardware and software, for utilisation by the private companies, which can build their own products and services. Private companies would even be able to launch their own rockets using ISRO facilities.

In the last few months, several private companies have already entered the sector, some of them building their own rockets and satellites, hoping to offer launch services, while others building space-based applications and services. According to ISRO, 28 interested parties have already initiated discussions with INSPACe. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had met some of the space entrepreneurs in a video-conference in December, and promised further government help in enabling them to do business.

Enhanced private participation in space happened to be the main theme of ISRO chairman K Sivan’s New Year statement this year. “This is also a year of change in the global space arena brought about by the participation of private players in all aspects of the space sector, including launch vehicles and human spaceflight, which were hitherto the domain of the government space agencies. The situation is not different in our own country. For the first time in the history of this nation’s space programme, we have a handful of entrepreneurs who have come forward to develop end-to-end launch vehicles and satellites with the intention of providing space-based services and, thereby, contribute to the space economy,” Sivan had said.

Sivan had said all the relevant aspects of satellite communications policy, remote sensing data policy, space transportation systems policy and others, were being amended to facilitate these changes.