Although India's economy was traditionally based on agriculture, it ranks today among the ten leading industrial nations. However, because of its enormous population, India's per capita income (average income per person) is less than $400 a year. Thus, in spite of a growing economy, it remains one of the world's poorest nations.


Service industries account for 51 percent of India's total revenues. They include personal and business services, government, wholesale and retail trade, finance, insurance, real estate, transportation, communication, and utilities. Businesses related to tourism, such as hotels and restaurants, also provide much income.


Indian industry developed rapidly after independence, spurred by a series of five-year plans sponsored by the government. Today it accounts for about 24 percent of the economy.

The manufacture of textiles, particularly cotton clothing and fabrics, has long been one of India's most important industries. Other industries include the production of chemicals, processed foods, steel, transportation equipment, cement, engineering machinery, and computer software. India also has a flourishing filmmaking industry.


Most of India's farmland is divided into small plots. Farm machinery is not widely used. Most farmers plant and harvest their crops by hand. Progress is being made in modernizing agriculture, however. New farming methods, increased irrigation facilities, and new varieties of seeds have greatly increased food production in recent years.

India is one of the world's leading producers of rice, one of its staple foods. Most of the rice is grown in the Ganges River valley and along the coast of peninsular India. Wheat is grown in much of northern and central India. Cotton, for India's important textile industry, is grown in the southern and northwestern parts of the Deccan and in the Punjab. Sugarcane is grown on the Gangetic Plain.

Tea is grown on plantations in the far eastern state of Assam. Plantations in the south produce rubber, coffee, and spices, particularly pepper, cardamom, and mustard seed. Coconut groves on the Kerala coast in southwestern India yield coir (coconut fiber) and copra (dried coconut meat). Bananas are grown in the fertile soil of the river delta along the eastern coast. Other crops include jute (used to make burlap, sacking, and twine), peanuts, oilseeds, chickpeas, and such other grains as corn, millet, and sorghum.

Foreign Trade

India imports more goods from other countries than it exports abroad. Necessary imports include crude oil, machinery, and fertilizers. Most of these goods are purchased from the United States, the Benelux countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg), the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Germany.

Among India's primary exports are cotton fabrics and other textiles, gems and jewelry, engineering equipment, chemicals, software, and tea. Many of these goods are bought by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan.


India has vast transportation systems. There are nearly 40,000 miles (64,400 kilometers) of railway track and more than 2 million miles (3,220,000 kilometers) of roadways (although only one-third of them are paved). Buses and bicycles are widely used by commuters, as automobiles remain a luxury.

The chief means of transportation in rural India is the slow-moving two-wheeled bullock cart. The bullock, or steer, is also the chief work animal on farms. It is estimated that there are millions of these bullock carts in India, although increasingly more villagers now ride bicycles.

India has more than half a dozen fine ports and harbors, easing the transport of goods by ship and boosting foreign trade. Oil and natural gas are transported by a network of pipelines. The country has nearly 450 airports. International airports are located in Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Madras (Chennai), Calcutta (Kolkata), and Bangalore. The national airline is Air India.


India has nearly 250 radio broadcast stations and more than 550 commercial television stations. Major daily newspapers include Hindustan Times, Indian Express, and Deccan Herald. Computer use has grown as the number of Internet service providers (ISP's) has increased.