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Rural Himachal Rocks!

Omkar Goswami


Himachal Pradesh’ economic success seems to have been a well kept secret. If you were to ask most people on which parts of rural India they consider better-off, the typical answers would cover Punjab, Haryana, Western UP, some parts of Gujarat, the Konkan districts and Kerala. Only few would refer to Himachal. Yet, on almost all economic indicators that you might chose to consider, rural Himachal scores very high, and many of its districts belong to the top 50 of India’s.


For the last two years, my colleagues and I at CERG Advisory have been collecting, digitising, harmonising and analysing huge amounts of data on rural India — diverse information that start at the level of the state and drills right down to villages. And everything that we have examined clearly shows that most districts of Himachal rank among the best. Here are some sample questions to tickle your fancy.


Did you know that…

  • The per capita expenditure of a Himachali is 45 per cent higher than the all-India rural average. And the only two major states which better it are Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir, both by a whisker.

  • The average rural household in Himachal spends 9 per cent more than its counterpart in Haryana, over 30 per cent more than a household in rural Gujarat, 38 per cent more than the average household in rural Andhra Pradesh, and over 40 per cent more than the rural household in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

  • Households in rural Himachal have transited to a stage of well being where almost half their annual consumption expenditure is on non-food purchases. In terms of total non-food spend, rural Himachal households rank third among the larger states in India — coming only after Kerala and Punjab.

  • Almost 60 per cent of rural households in Himachal have a savings account in a bank or a post-office. Incidentally, that is 12 percentage points better than Punjab, 15 points superior to Haryana and UP, 18 points better than Maharashtra, 22 points higher than Karnataka, and 27 points better than Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

  • 95 per cent of rural households in Himachal have electricity connections to their homesteads. And that unlike most other states, these houses actually get electric supply more often than not.

  • One out of every two rural Himachali households own a TV. Only Punjab fares better. To put this in perspective, the share of rural households owning TVs in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka varies from 25 per cent to 21 per cent.

  • Over 20 per cent of rural households in Himachal use LPG for cooking. This is a pretty good measure of higher purchasing power as well as a governance system that ensures decent distribution of this public sector product. This ratio is a little under 12 per cent in Kerala, around 9 per cent in Maharashtra and Gujarat, and under 5 per cent in Karnataka. 


If one were to cull out all key assets and amenities such as electricity, TV, two-wheelers, proximity to water, toilet and bathroom facilities, bank accounts and the like, and create a composite score for these across all districts in India, rural Himachal performs spectacularly well. As many as 11 of its 12 districts rank among the top 100 in India. Two of them are among the top 30; another rank between 31 and 65; one district ranks 92nd; and only one, Chamba, ranks below 100.


Why then is this not a focus state for many players who want to make their mark in rural India — a geography that everyone considers to be the place of real action? The reason I have heard is that the population is not large enough. That’s bosh. Even if one were to ignore the far-flung districts of Kinnaur, Lahaul & Spiti and net out Chamba because it ranks below 100, one would still be looking at a market of over 1 million households. People who are way better-off than most parts of rural India, and wanting goods, services and amenities of our urban pockets. Not focusing on Himachal is lazy marketing. Its like  saying, “I don’t want to make money”. And, by the way, Uttaranchal also rocks!


Published: Business World, February 2006


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