Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Revisiting India’s Manufacturing Dilemma: A Call for Comprehensive Ecosystem Development


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: India's Services and manufacturing sector

Mains level: India's Manufacturing versus Services Debate, performance, challenges and way forward


Central Idea

  • The ongoing debate regarding India’s preferred path for economic growth, whether it should prioritize manufacturing or services, has resurfaced in public discussions. While India’s software exports previously flourished, questioning why the services sector couldn’t spearhead the nation’s progress. In light of the disappointing manufacturing growth post the 1991 economic reforms, it becomes evident that a structural obstacle inhibits the sector’s progress

Unfulfilled Promises of Manufacturing Reforms

  • Limited Increase in Manufacturing Share: Despite the economic reforms of 1991, which were primarily focused on manufacturing, there was not a significant increase in the share of manufacturing in the economy. The expected growth and expansion in the sector did not materialize as anticipated.
  • Rising Income Inequality: Although there have been qualitative improvements in the range and quality of products manufactured in India since 1991, the limited expansion of manufacturing in proportion to the overall economy has resulted in a rising income inequality. The benefits of these improvements have not been distributed equitably across the population.
  • Persistence of Structural Challenges: Despite policy initiatives and reforms focused on manufacturing, the sector continues to face deep-rooted structural challenges. These challenges have impeded the sector’s growth and hindered its ability to reach its full potential. There is a need for a comprehensive approach to address these underlying issues.
  • Limited Demand Constraints: Manufacturing growth is constrained by demand considerations, which are largely independent of supply-side reforms. Household demand for manufactured goods is closely linked to the satisfaction of basic necessities such as food, housing, health, and education. The dominance of food expenditure in a significant portion of Indian households limits the growth of demand for other manufactured products.
  • Educational Gap and Skill Development: India lags behind successful manufacturing nations in terms of educational outcomes. Poor performance in international assessments and low literacy and numeracy levels among Indian children highlight the need for significant improvements in the education system.
  • Insufficient Focus on Ecosystem Development: The economic reforms of 1991 primarily focused on policy changes but overlooked the need for a comprehensive ecosystem to support manufacturing growth. This ecosystem should encompass aspects such as schooling, training, infrastructure, and supportive policies. A more holistic approach is required to build a conducive environment for the manufacturing sector to flourish.

Recent Initiatives and Underwhelming Performance

  • Make in India: Launched in 2014, this initiative aimed to promote manufacturing in India and attract foreign direct investment (FDI). Despite its ambitious goals, the initiative has not yielded the expected results in terms of substantial manufacturing growth and contribution to the economy.
  • Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme: This scheme, introduced more recently, provides production subsidies to incentivize the manufacturing of specific products. While announced with fanfare, the article highlights that the record of these schemes has been unimpressive.
  • Low Manufacturing Growth: The first advance estimates for 2022-23, as mentioned in the article, indicate a manufacturing growth rate of only 1.3% for the year. This growth rate lags behind agriculture and major segments of the services sector, suggesting a lack of substantial progress in manufacturing.

The Need for a Manufacturing Push in India’s economy

  • Job Creation: Manufacturing sectors have the potential to generate a significant number of jobs, particularly for the growing workforce in India. The government and policymakers recognize the importance of manufacturing in addressing the unemployment challenge and providing livelihoods for the population.
  • Economic Growth: A vibrant manufacturing sector can contribute to overall economic growth. By expanding manufacturing, India can increase its GDP and strengthen its position as a global economic player. A robust manufacturing base can enhance productivity, attract investments, and drive economic development.
  • Private Sector Readiness: The finance minister, in addressing corporate leaders, emphasizes that the private sector needs to be ready to contribute to the manufacturing push. The private sector’s active involvement is seen as crucial for driving manufacturing growth.
  • Public Investment: The government’s increased capital expenditure in the last Union Budget is expected to support the private sector by raising aggregate demand. This investment in infrastructure and other sectors can provide a stimulus to manufacturing and create an enabling environment for its expansion.

Demand Constraints and the Role of Food

  • Household Expenditure: Demand for manufactured goods is influenced by household expenditure patterns, which are largely determined by the satisfaction of basic necessities such as food, housing, health, and education. These necessities take up a significant share of household expenditure and are considered non-discretionary expenses that cannot be postponed.
  • Food Expenditure: Food occupies a large share of expenditure for a substantial section of Indian households. The high share of food expenditure leaves a smaller portion of disposable income available for spending on other goods and services, which can constrain the growth of demand for manufactured products.
  • Negative Relationship with Per Capita Income: Globally, there is a strong negative relationship between per capita income and the share of food in household expenditure. Wealthier countries, such as the United States and Singapore, tend to have lower shares of expenditure allocated to food. In contrast, India, with its lower GDP per capita, experiences a larger share of food expenditure, which can limit the growth of demand for manufactured products.
  • Manufacturing Demand Implications: The dominance of food expenditure in household budgets suggests that the demand for manufactured goods is closely linked to the satisfaction of basic needs. As households prioritize spending on food, housing, health, and education, the demand for other manufactured products may be constricted, affecting the growth potential of the manufacturing sector.
  • Export Potential: Smaller countries in East Asia have achieved significant manufacturing growth by relying on global markets rather than relying solely on their domestic markets. By diversifying into exports, manufacturers can tap into broader consumer markets and mitigate the constraints imposed by domestic demand limitations.

Exports as a potential solution for the manufacturing sector

  • Overcoming Limited Domestic Market: Exporting provides a significant opportunity for the manufacturing sector to overcome the constraints of a limited domestic market. By tapping into global markets, manufacturers can reach a larger customer base and increase their sales potential beyond domestic demand alone.
  • Diversification of Markets: Exporting allows manufacturers to diversify their markets and reduce dependency on a single market. This helps mitigate risks associated with fluctuations in domestic demand or economic conditions in the home country.
  • Global Competitiveness: To succeed in the export market, manufacturers need to focus on enhancing their global competitiveness. This includes factors such as product quality, innovation, pricing, branding, and customer service. Manufacturers must strive to offer products that meet international standards and are competitive in terms of cost and quality.
  • Infrastructure and Logistics: Manufacturers need reliable transportation networks, including roads, railways, and ports, to move their goods to international markets. Access to efficient seaports, airports, and customs facilities helps streamline export processes and reduce turnaround times.
  • Cost of Production: Manufacturers need to ensure that their cost structure, including labor, raw materials, energy, and overheads, is competitive compared to other exporting countries. Cost-efficient production methods and economies of scale can contribute to enhancing export competitiveness.
  • Trade Agreements and Market Access: Engaging in trade agreements and securing preferential market access can provide manufacturers with a competitive advantage. By accessing markets with reduced tariffs or trade barriers, manufacturers can improve their competitiveness and expand their export opportunities.
  • Export Promotion and Support: Governments can play a crucial role in supporting exports through export promotion initiatives, financial incentives, export credit facilities, and market intelligence services. These measures help manufacturers navigate export procedures, access information on international markets, and avail financial assistance to expand their export capabilities.


  • India’s economic growth requires careful consideration of the manufacturing versus services debate. While the services sector has played a significant role, a comprehensive ecosystem supporting manufacturing is crucial. Only through concerted efforts and holistic reforms can India truly unlock its manufacturing potential and secure long-term economic prosperity.

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Urban-rural manufacturing shift: A mixed bag


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