Strategically located near highly populated trading partners including China, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Republic of India shipped US$295.8 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2017. That dollar amount represents a -12.1% drop since 2013 but a 13.6% increase from 2016 to 2017.
From January to September 2018, India’s exported goods were valued at $241.7 billion. This 9-month metric puts Indian exports on track for an annualized $322.3 billion estimated for all 2018 and a projected 9% year-over-year gain.
Based on estimates from the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, India’s exported goods plus services represent 18.4% of total Indian economic output or Gross Domestic Product. The analysis below focuses on exported products only.
From a continental perspective, half (50.5%) of Indian exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries. Another 18.7% was sold to European importers while 17.6% went to North America. India shipped smaller percentages to Africa (8%) and Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (2.8%).
Given India’s population of 1.282 billion people, its total $295.8 billion in 2017 exports translates to roughly $230 for every resident in the vast South Asian country.
India’s unemployment rate was expected to be 3.5% as of September 2018, according to Trading Economics calculations.
TOP 10 Things India Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Indian global shipments during 2017. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from India.
- Gems, precious metals: US$42.6 billion (14.4% of total exports)
- Mineral fuels including oil: $35.9 billion (12.1%)
- Machinery including computers: $16.7 billion (5.6%)
- Vehicles: $16.2 billion (5.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $13.6 billion (4.6%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $12.9 billion (4.4%)
- Iron, steel: $11.7 billion (4%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $9 billion (3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $8.8 billion (3%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $8.3 billion (2.8%)
Note that the results listed above are at the categorized two-digit Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) code level. For a more granular view of exported goods at the four-digit HTS code level, see the section Searchable List of India’s Most Valuable Export Products further down near the bottom of this article.
India’s top 10 exports accounted for 59.4% of the overall value of its global shipments.
Iron and steel was the fastest growing among the top 10 export categories up 81.8% from 2016 to 2017.
In second place for improving, Indian export sales were mineral fuels including oil which gained 29.5%, led by refined petroleum oils.
Indian machinery including computers posted the third-fastest gain in value up 22.8%, trailed by the 20.6% improvement for exported organic chemicals.
There were two declining top categories: pharmaceuticals via its -1.1% drop and unknit and non-crocheted clothing or accessories, the latter decelerating by -0.7%.
Advantages for India
The following types of Indian product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports is the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Pharmaceuticals: US$11.1 billion (Down by -2.3% since 2016)
- Vehicles: $10.7 billion (Up by 4.9%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $8.6 billion (Down by -1.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $8 billion (Up by 5%)
- Fish: $6.6 billion (Up by 28%)
- Cereals: $6.1 billion (Up by 19.5%)
- Cotton: $5.7 billion (Up by 10.5%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $4.5 billion (Up by 10.2%)
- Meat: $4.3 billion (Up by 8.5%)
- Articles of iron or steel: $2.9 billion (Up by 27.2%)
India has highly positive net exports in the international trade of drugs and medicines. In turn, these cashflows indicate India’s strong competitive advantages under the pharmaceuticals product category.
Opportunities for India
Overall India incurred a -$148.2 billion trade deficit for all products during 2017, up 53.8% from its -$96.4 billion in red ink one year earlier in 2016.
Below are exported from India that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country India’s goods trail Indian importer spending on foreign products.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$87.1 billion (Up by 41.5% since 2016)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$38.1 billion (Up by 32.2%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$31.8 billion (Up by 444.5%)
- Machinery including computers: -$19.3 billion (Up by 2.1%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$10.7 billion (Up by 10.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$7.1 billion (Up by 14.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$5.6 billion (Up by 21.1%)
- Organic chemicals: -$4.4 billion (Up by 25.2%)
- Fertilizers: -$4.2 billion (Down by -7.3%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$4 billion (Up by 11.2%)
India has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels especially crude oil, coal and petroleum gases.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate India’s competitive disadvantages in the international mineral fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for India to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations.