Foreign direct investment (FDI) is critical in shaping an economy. It helps foster industrial expansion and generate jobs. Studies have demonstrated the correlation between access to clean water infrastructure, increased Foreign Direct Investment inflows into a country, and the availability of this form of water for industrial and household use.
India’s FDI Inflows
FDI has played a pivotal role in India’s economic development by providing access to foreign capital and technology that enhances domestic productivity and job creation while broadening global competitiveness. Furthermore, FDI creates local knowledge bases that support innovation in India’s economy.
Since 2023, India’s Foreign Direct Investment inflows have seen an upward trend. Non-manufacturing industries accounted for most of India’s FDI inflows compared to manufacturing, which only received a fraction. Both manufacturing and services industries can expect their investment flows to increase throughout 2019.
India has long been recognized for its large consumer market, skilled workforce and favourable business climate – drawing interest from multinational corporations such as Vodafone, Unilever, Amazon, Samsung, Adidas, Microsoft, Lotte Mercedes-Benz, and Toyota, among many others. Meanwhile, its growing middle class boasts aspirational spending power that matches that seen elsewhere.
India remains one of the top investment destinations, with massive foreign direct investments pouring into it each year. However, slowing global growth and rising geopolitical tensions could strain India’s FDI flows.
India has implemented numerous policy reforms to bolster its Foreign Direct Investment profile and to reduce red tape for investors, simplifying application procedures. Furthermore, foreign companies operating within its market will find it simpler with reduced sourcing requirements and other regulatory restrictions.
India’s new investment rules aim to provide an investment-friendly environment for foreign and domestic investors. However, some sectors still feature equity restrictions or management and control restrictions from the government. For instance, FDI in insurance companies is limited to 74% and must retain Indian management and control.
The government has also restricted foreign direct investment from countries with which India shares borders. In 2020, Press Note 3 required any proposed foreign direct investment from entities located or possessing “beneficial owners” within countries bordering India to be approved through government channels before proceeding further with the approval process.
India’s FDI Policy
India offers businesses numerous opportunities for growth due to its burgeoning economy, diverse workforce, improving physical infrastructure, well-established industrial ecosystem and expansive domestic market. However, companies seeking investment should be wary of certain foreign direct investment restrictions. Failure to understand these laws may prevent or delay investments altogether and even cause them to relocate operations out of India altogether.
India regulates foreign investment through its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy and National Domestic Investment Rules, which outline entry routes into various sectors (automatic or government approval), investment limits, and conditions that must be fulfilled to receive foreign direct investment. Furthermore, both documents enumerate which sectors cannot receive FDI investment.
In 2020, India issued Press Note 3, a screening requirement that mandates that any proposed foreign direct investment by entities located or with beneficial ownership in countries sharing land borders with India must obtain prior government approval through the government route. This rule mostly impacts investments made by the People’s Republic of China but applies to investments from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.
India can improve its external competitiveness by increasing FDI investment in manufacturing by improving productivity and creating jobs, with government incentives like its FDI Policy and PLI schemes providing incentives to attract foreign investments into fields like electronics, automobiles, steel production, renewable energy production and pharmaceuticals.
India’s increasing service sector growth will enhance the nation’s external competitiveness. But to maintain that position, further boosting services as a share of GDP while overcoming challenges like skilled labour shortages, energy shortfalls, and policy modifications is needed. The success of this shift depends on its ability to realize demographic dividends, increase labour force participation and upskilling, boost private investments, promote structural reforms in agriculture, land, and labour as well, and reduce fossil fuel dependency while transitioning toward renewable sources like solar, wind and hydrogen power. These changes must happen quickly to not become obsolete as an emerging leader of the world economy!
India’s FDI Restrictions
Foreign investment tends to favour countries with large and expanding markets, as this market size drives both vertical FDI (acquiring raw material suppliers in another country) and conglomerate FDI investments (acquiring businesses unrelated to core products/services).
Recently, India has implemented reforms that have made investments easier in sectors including single-brand retail and private security; however, its FDI regulations remain highly restrictive.
The Government of India regulates foreign ownership through the Foreign Investment Policy and Regulations. Under current policy, up to 100% FDI is permissible in most sectors open for foreign investment (Automatic Route). Sectors that require prior approval or where less than 100% FDI can be accepted fall under the Government Route. Here, minimum capital requirements, technology transfer obligations and other regulations must be fulfilled; government officials will review them regularly.
Foreign Direct Investment in India is subject to numerous national and local laws, regulations, and security conditions that govern labour, the environment, taxation, land use planning, and any other factors that might inhibit economic growth.
India maintains special economic zones, industrial parks and export-oriented units to provide incentives to investors in certain industries. Foreign investors who invest in such zones can often take advantage of tax breaks on income and excise taxes, exemption from industrial licensing requirements, and reduced sales tax rates – among many other benefits.
The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is India’s administrative ministry responsible for formulating and administering its Foreign Direct Investment policy. For any proposals needing to be approved by the government, DPIIT publishes an operating procedure and refers them directly to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs for consideration.
India’s FDI Opportunities
India’s economy is expanding faster than most emerging markets, providing ample opportunity for foreign investment and supply chain diversification and reshoring to boost other growth-enhancing factors, including its low inflation environment, stable exchange rates and well-developed industrial ecosystem.
India boasts strong economic fundamentals and offers a business-friendly legal environment, including a liberalized foreign direct investment (FDI) policy that opens many sectors for investments via the “automatic route” without needing approval from either the government or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
Services have received the most Foreign Direct Investment equity inflows during fiscal 2022, led by computer software and hardware, telecommunications, trading, retail food services, finance, banking, etc. As exports increase, so will services’ share of GDP grow – this trend will only intensify over time.
Though manufacturing sector growth prospects are limited by stringent labour laws, subpar logistics, and underdeveloped infrastructure, Citi’s analysis suggests that the government could boost private investment in this area by reforming labour laws, relaxing land acquisition regulations and improving infrastructure quality – as well as by fast-tracking infrastructure development and logistics supply chain development; fast-tracking logistics supply chain development while simultaneously lowering energy costs.
India’s favourable demographics should enable it to increase labour force participation and productivity through increasing education levels and recruiting more skilled migrants, in turn taking advantage of global demand for high-value-added services such as software and pharmaceuticals.
Although India’s protectionist economic policies impede its integration into global supply chains, structural reforms are being introduced that will improve its business climate for investors and exporters. These include liberalizing Foreign Direct Investment restrictions, modernizing bankruptcy and labour laws and replacing an array of state border taxes with one national Goods and Services Tax. Each step will help the nation attract additional FDI while simultaneously shifting towards an economy driven by services, ultimately raising living standards among Indian citizens.
Future of Foreign Direct Investment in India’s 2024 Economic Landscape
India’s economic growth surges despite political unpredictability and monetary tightening, with inflation remaining relatively low and its currency depreciating to help prevent capital flight.
Modi has implemented structural reforms that make doing business easier in his country. Yet, continued protectionist measures impede expansion in bilateral trade – such as having one of the highest tariffs among major economies and encouraging localization to promote self-sufficiency.
1. Demographic Dividend
India is the fourth-largest steel producer worldwide and features an active stock market. India’s banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions are rapidly gaining global recognition while foreign exchange reserves continue to rise and poverty decreases.
The demographic dividend is an economic phenomenon that arises when a country experiences an ever-reducible dependent population and an expanding working-age population, often due to lower fertility and mortality rates.
But this will only benefit a country if appropriate social, economic and policy measures are implemented – such as schooling policies for children of immigrants, tax incentives/disincentives related to having children, investments in women/girls. Finally, the availability of health care and pensions are crucial as well.
2. MSME Sector
MSME firms make up roughly one-third of India’s GDP and account for nearly half of its exports. They are major sources of employment in rural and less-developed areas, helping reduce regional imbalances while guaranteeing equitable income distribution.
Government initiatives – including campaigns such as Skill India, Start-Up India, Digital India, and Make in India – aim to foster growth and productivity within this sector. Digitisation also makes it easier for MSMEs to access timely debt payments and credit from new nonbanking finance companies.
However, MSEs still face many difficulties – such as limited access to capital and technology – which prompted India’s government to issue Press Note 3 mandating all foreign direct investment into MSMEs (other than agriculture sector investments) be approved beforehand by its Ministry of MSME – this requirement primarily affected People’s Republic of China-based entities; additionally it severely limited MSE participation in global tenders.
3. Growth in the Services Sector
The growth of the Indian services sector is essential to broad-based consumption and investment and will help it take advantage of three megatrends: offshoring, digitalization, and energy transition.
Services sectors offer transformative opportunities to all nations at all stages of industrialization and income levels, accounting for more than half of GDP and employment in developing economies.
Growth in this sector is spurred by consumer spending shifting away from goods toward services, along with technological innovation and an expanding middle class.
The government aims to expand its services sector with particular attention paid to logistics, e-commerce and banking. Already, it has implemented national infrastructure projects to enhance logistics while digitalizing banking systems throughout India. Furthermore, eight investment regions along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project were established to stimulate economic activity and encourage foreign direct investment (FDI).
4. Technological Innovation
Tech innovation refers to creating and introducing new ideas or tools that meet people’s technical needs. While technological innovations may have unexpected results, businesses should always carefully consider any long-term implications associated with investing in tech innovations.
The business impact of technology innovation depends upon its impact on improving efficiency and productivity by automating more processes, streamlining others more efficiently and ultimately leading to cost savings and an increase in output.
India could see great economic success by 2024 thanks to its demographic dividend, expanding middle class, and three global megatrends – global offshoring, digitalization, and energy transition. These trends should help drive domestic consumption spending and strengthen MSME sector development.
Foreign investments in India are subject to various rules and regulations, including its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy. Most sectors fall under an “automatic route” without needing prior government approval, while in certain sensitive sectors, a review process known as a “government route” must occur first.