There is currently no reliable quantification of the magnitude of the economic output of Indian cities. Such hard evidence is critical for several reasons. It can help cement the centrality of Indian cities to the economic growth story with state-level policy makers and the broader electorate. In doing so, it can bolster the case for reforms that are critical for cities to deliver on their economic potential such as greater devolution of power, finances and trained personnel to city governments. For instance, estimates of city GDP can help better inform decisions regarding the tradeoffs associated with different public investments by state leaders, that may in turn drive future economic activity and revenues for the state.
We propose an exercise to measure the economic activity of metropolitan regions, a proximate measure of gross domestic product (GDP). We will initially do this for the first set of twenty Smart Cities as well as the largest ten metropolitan areas in the country, with the potential to scale this to additional cities. We propose using a combination of Remote Sensing nighttime lights, daytime satellite imagery and other secondary data sources to estimate the GDP for the largest metropolitan areas in India. Note that all sources of data for this exercise currently identified are freely available and the entire process from data preparation to final estimation will be conducted using open-source platforms (R, Python and QGIS) in order to ensure complete transparency of the methodology and accessibility of the tools for other researchers and policy-makers.