India was enslaved for over 200 years by western rulers, before it attained freedom. Since then, the country has come a long way. In 1947, India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was `2,700 Bn which has increased to US $ 3.53 Tr in 2021, making it the world’s sixth largest economy. Per capita income jumped over 500 times; in 1950 it stood at ₹ 265 and it increased to ₹ 128,829 in 2020-21.

Beginning with 1947, India had nowhere to go but up. The need to press forward, gave birth to a series of revolutions in various important industries, which would go on to prop the nation up for many years to come. As the country focuses on surging ahead, retrospection of the last 75 years will help enrich the blueprint for the next 25 years.

  • The Green Revolution

In 1964–65 and 1965–66, India experienced two severe consecutive droughts, in a country experiencing growth in population. In fact, population was growing at a much faster rate than food production. This led to severe food shortages and famines. In the late 1960’s, the Green Revolution program served as a turning point as the sector now had access to modern agricultural technologies. An increase in food grain production (especially wheat and rice) resulted in large part from the introduction of new, high-yielding varieties. India has seen a six-fold rise in food grain production over the decades. From 50.82 Mn tonnes in 1950-51, food grain production went up to 314.51 Mn tonnes in 2021-22. India's ag ricultural exports touched a new milestone, crossing US $ 50 Bn in FY22. This is the highest level ever achieved for agriculture exports. The highest ever exports have been achieved for staples like rice ($ 9.65 Bn), wheat ($ 2.19 Bn), sugar ($ 4.6 Bn) and other cereals ($ 1.08 Bn).

Sectoral Contribution 1950-51 v/s 2021-22
Sectors 1950-51 2021-22
Public administration, defence & other services 11% 15%
Financing, insurance, real estate & business services 12% 21%
Trade, hotels & restaurant, transport, communication 10% 17%
Construction 3% 8%
Agriculture, forestry & fishing 52% 19%
Mining & quarrying 1% 2%
Manufacturing 11% 15%
Electricity, gas & water supply 0.25% 3%
  • The White Revolution

The White Revolution in India was successful in transforming the country from a milk deficient nation to a world leader in milk production. Prior to this initiative, milk production was just 17 Mn tonnes in 1950-51 compared to 210 Mn tonnes in 2021, which makes India the largest producer of milk. The White Revolution also dubbed as Operation Flood fulfilled not only the objectives of increased production but also increasing the income of farmers and keeping the price of milk affordable for everyone.

  • The Blue Revolution

The Blue Revolution was like the earlier mentioned revolutions, but specifically aimed at the fishing sector. Similarly, the objective was to enhance the production of fish, marine products and introduce technological improvements in fishery and aquaculture in India. India’s fish production rose from 0.75 Mn tonnes in between 1950-51 to 78.51 Mn tonnes in 2010-11.

Trade (in INR Bn) 1947 2022
Foreign trade 7.92 77,196.55
Exports 4.03 31,470.00
imports 3.89 45,727.80
  • Automotive sector

Up until 1930, India did not have any manufacturing facility and cars were imported directly from other countries. From the 1940s, Indian companies like Hindustan Motors and Premier started to manufacture cars of other firms. Mahindra & Mahindra also started to produce utility vehicles. After independence, the Government of India tried to create an automotive component manufacturing industry, in order to supplement the automobile fraternity. From 1960 to 1980, the Indian market was dominated by Hindustan Motors. It was in the 1980s that the two firms, Hindustan Motors and Premier, were challenged by a new entrant, Maruti Udyog Limited.

Soon after the liberalisation period, car makers that were previously not allowed to invest in the Indian market arrived in the country. Post liberalisation, the alliance between Maruti and Suzuki became the first joint venture between an Indian and foreign company. Slowly and steadily, the economic reforms led to the entry of major foreign companies like Hyundai and Honda, which expanded their base in the country. From 2000 to 2010, almost every major car company expanded its presence in India by establishing manufacturing facilities across the country. India’s automotive exports scaled an all-time high by hitting the 5 Mn mark in FY 22 driven by the demand for made- in- India two wheelers in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. Overall, the passenger vehicle exports from India grew 43 percent in FY22 to 570,000 units as against 404,000 units in FY21.

  • The iron and steel industry

Finished steel production in India has grown from a mere 1.1 Mn tonnes in 1951 to 120.01 Mn tonnes during FY 22. Steel exports from India began only in 1964. During 1976-77 India exported 1 Mn tonnes of pig iron and 1.4 Mn tonnes of steel. Steel further rose to 2.79 Mn tonnes in 1995-96, 3.3 Mn tonnes in 2001-02 and 13.5 Mn tonnes in 2021-22. Till 1950, there were only three iron and steel manufacturing plants in India - Tata Steel, Steel Authority of India and VISWL. Growth in the steel sector in the early decades after independence was mainly due to the public sector. However, the situation changed between 1990-2000 with most of the growth originating from the private sector. The share of the public sector and private sector in the production of steel during 1990- 91 was 46 percent and 54 percent respectively, while in 2001-02 the same was 32 percent and 68 percent respectively.

Major Car Exporters – FY 22
Players Exports (units)
Maruti Suzuki 235,670
Hyundai 129,260
Kia India 50,864
Volkswagen India 43,033
Renault India 24,117
Honda India 19,323
  • The fertiliser sector

Fertiliser consumption was less than 1 Mn tonnes before the mid-1960s. With the introduction of high-yielding variety (HYV) seeds, there was acceleration in the growth of fertiliser consumption. It reached 12.73 Mn tonnes in 1991/92 as against 0.78 Mn tonnes in 1965/66, which further rose to 61.4 Mn tonnes in FY2020. Prior to 1960/61, India produced Ammonium Sulphate (AS), urea, Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN), ammonium chloride and Single Superphosphate (SSP). The production of NP complex fertilisers commenced in 1960/61. Currently, India produces around 26 Mn tonnes of urea and imports 9 Mn tonnes to meet domestic demand. Around 6 Mn tonnes of production capacity will be added for conventional urea and the output of nano urea it is estimated will rise to 440 Mn bottles per annum, which will be equivalent to 20 Mn tonnes of conventional urea. That is how India is hoping to end its reliance on imported urea within the next four years by expanding the output of a locally developed version called nano urea.

  • The power sector

At the time of independence in 1947, the total installed power generation capacity in India was a mere 1,362 MW, as compared to about 400,000 MW today. The Electricity Supply Act, 1948 envisaged the creation of State Electricity Boards (SEBs). The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) was also constituted for power planning at the national level. The growth of the sector was further powered by The Electricity Act of 2003. The act came into force in June 2003, with an objective to introduce competition, protect consumer interests and provide power to all. By 1972, the installed capacity grew 12 times to 16,660 MW and the per capita consumption also increased 7 times to 120 units. Over the years, the installed capacity increased to 85,795 MW in 1997, and as on March 2022, India had achieved a capacity of 399,497 MW, with approx. 41 percent coming from non-fossil. Per capita consumption has also seen improvement from just 16 units in 1947 to, 1,231 units in 2021. Though India suffered power shortages since independence, in March 2017, India finally became a net exporter of electricity for the very first time.

  • Space and defence

India’s space exploration mission was crystalised with the formation of the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) in 1969. It was set up with the intent to harness space technology for national development. The launch of the Indian National Satellite System (INSAT) in 1983 was one of the first few successful ISRO missions, that revolutionised the country’s television and radio broadcasting, telecommunications and meteorological sectors. One of the few largest domestic communication satellite systems in Asia Pacific, the INSAT has 9 operational satellites.

Developed in the 1990’s, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has become the Indian space mission’s most reliable workhorse. The PSLV carried out its first mission in 1993, but its first successful outing was the next year. For the next 20 years, it launched various satellites for historic missions such as the Chandrayaan and Mangalyaan. PSLV remains a favourite among various organisations as a launch service provider and has launched over 40 satellites for 19 countries.

India joined an exclusive global club when it successfully launched the Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan in 2014 on a shoestring budget. This was at least ten times lower than a similar project by the US. The US $ 4.5 Bn project revolved round the red planet, set to collect data on Mars’ atmosphere and mineral composition.

According to sources, the Indian space sector currently stands at US $ 7 Bn, and is expected to grow to US $ 50 Tr by 2024. India possesses critical capabilities to become a major player in the global commercial space market especially in the areas of communication (5G, broadband) and earth observation.

  • Pharmacy of the world

Today the share of made-in-India medicines in the Indian pharma market is now 80 percent from the previous 5 percent in 1969. From a global perspective India is the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs and is known as the pharmacy of the world. The Indian pharma industry contributes more than 20 percent by volume to the global generics market, and fulfils 62 percent of the global demand for vaccines. India’s domestic pharmaceutical market size was recorded at US $ 42 Bn in 2021 and is projected to expand to US $ 120 Bn by 2030. The COVID-19 period helped further spotlight the Indian pharma industry as an engine for economic growth.

Today, while India makes up a small percent of the world’s GDP with just under 3.8 percent, it is still part of the top five economies with a US $ 3.5 Tr economy. However, the country has a long way to go before it can accomplish the status of a developed nation. This can be achieved through some key initiatives that are already in the works; boosting domestic manufacturing and cutting import dependence, technological advancement through various digital initiatives and the strengthening of micro, small and medium enterprises. The runway for growth is long, but a look through the rear-view mirror indicates that the country has what it takes to be a force among some of the world’s largest economies.