Based on the average exchange rate for 2020 on a Purchasing Power Parity basis, the Indian rupee dropped by -7.3% against the US dollar since 2016 and depreciated by -0.3% from 2019 to 2020. India’s weaker local currency makes Indian exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
India’s biggest export products by value in 2020 were refined petroleum oils, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, jewelry and cars. In aggregate, those major exports account for almost one third of the India’s overall exports sales. The commodities themselves suggest a relatively diversified range of exported goods.
India ranks among world-leading countries exporting diamonds, jewelry and refined petroleum.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 55.1% of products exported from India were bought by importers in: United States (17.9% of the global total), China (6.9%), United Arab Emirates (6.5%), Hong Kong (3.5%), Singapore (3%), Bangladesh (2.9%), United Kingdom (2.8%), Germany (also 2.8%), Netherlands (2.3%), Malaysia (2.2%), Saudi Arabia (also 2.2%) and Nepal (2.1%).
From a continental perspective, 46.9% of India’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 20.1% were sold to North American importers. India shipped another 18.7% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Africa (9.5%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (3.4%) then Oceania led by Australia (1.5%).
Given India’s population of 1.379 billion people, its total $275.5 billion in 2020 exported products translates to roughly $200 for every resident in the vast South Asian country.
India’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Indian global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from India.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$27.6 billion (10% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $24.5 billion (8.9%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $18.4 billion (6.7%)
- Machinery including computers: $18 billion (6.5%)
- Organic chemicals: $17.4 billion (6.3%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $13.5 billion (4.9%)
- Vehicles: $13 billion (4.7%)
- Iron, steel: $10.6 billion (3.9%)
- Cereals: $8.7 billion (3.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $6.6 billion (2.4%)
India’s top 10 exports approached three-fifths (57.5%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Cereals represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 22.7% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was pharmaceuticals: via a 13.3%gain led by ???.
The other two gains belong to pharmaceuticals (up 8.8%) and iron or steel (up 8.8%).
The leading decliner among India’s top 10 export categories was mineral fuels including oil thanks to its -37.9% drop year over year.
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.
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$15.9 billion (Up by 16.1% since 2019)
- Vehicles: $8.7 billion (Down by -27.9%)
- Cereals: $8.6 billion (Up by 24.2%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $5.7 billion (Down by -22.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $5.6 billion (Down by -27.4%)
- Cotton: $5.3 billion (Up by 19.6%)
- Fish: $5 billion (Down by -18.9%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $4.2 billion (Down by -9.2%)
- Meat: $3.1 billion (Down by -9.9%)
- Iron, steel: $3.1 billion (Reversing a -$2 billion deficit in 2019%)
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.
Overall, India incurred a -$92.5 billion trade deficit for all products during 2020, shrinking -40.6% from -$155.6 billion in red ink one year earlier.
Below are exports 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$76.7 billion (Down by -29.1% since 2019)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$29.5 billion (Down by -17.9%)
- Machinery including computers: -$17.2 billion (Down by -25.8%)
- Gems, precious metals: -$16.6 billion (Down by -25.2%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$9.2 billion (Up by 6.1%)
- Fertilizers: -$7.1 billion (Down by -0.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$5.4 billion (Down by -26.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$5.1 billion (Down by -16.4%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$4.6 billion (Down by -8.2%)
- Copper: -$3.2 billion (Down by -25.4%)
India has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels, particularly for crude oil, coal and petroleum gases.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate India’s competitive disadvantages in the international mineral fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for India to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations for pertinent goods.
Major Indian Export Companies
India places over 50 corporations on the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. Many of these are major Indian export companies. Below is a selection of some of the biggest Indian corporations.
- Reliance Industries (oil, gas)
- Tata Motors (cars, trucks)
- Indian Oil (oil, gas)
- Coal India (diversified metals, mining)
- ITC (tobacco)
- Bharat Heavy Electricals (electrical equipment)
- Hindalco Industries (aluminum)
- Tata Steel (iron, steel)
- Bharat Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Hindustan Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Sun Pharma Industries (pharmaceuticals)
- Steel Authority of India (iron, steel)
- Bajaj Auto (recreational products)
- Hero Motocorp (recreational products)
- Grasim Industries (construction materials)
- JSW Steel (iron, steel)
Searchable List of India’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from India during 2020. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2019.
|Rank||Indian Export Product||2020 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Processed petroleum oils||$26,174,665,000||-38.5%|
|2||Medication mixes in dosage||$16,635,015,000||+13.6%|
|8||Phone system devices including smartphones||$3,937,458,000||-8.1%|
|10||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$3,884,301,000||-16.9%|
|11||Iron ores, concentrates||$3,874,948,000||+64.3%|
|13||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$3,041,148,000||+18%|
|14||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$3,016,995,000||+9.4%|
|18||Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks||$2,674,630,000||-35.2%|
|19||Yarn (85%+ cotton)||$2,608,110,000||-8.6%|
|20||Sugar (cane or beet)||$2,494,646,000||+45.7%|
|21||Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)||$2,374,097,000||+106.9%|
|22||Synthetic organic coloring||$2,238,154,000||-17.8%|
|23||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$1,992,993,000||-23.8%|
|24||T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)||$1,914,652,000||-26.8%|
|27||Rubber tires (new)||$1,741,874,000||-5.9%|
|28||Electrical converters/power units||$1,699,913,000||-10.5%|
|29||Unglazed ceramic flags, tiles, cubes||$1,540,640,000||+17.6%|
|31||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$1,448,516,000||+34.7%|
|34||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,325,250,000||-13.9%|
|35||Other organic compounds||$1,240,935,000||-0.2%|
|37||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$1,102,084,000||-9.5%|
|38||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$1,096,977,000||+9%|
|39||Cruise/cargo ships, barges||$1,093,756,000||+3.6%|
|40||Monument/building stones, art||$1,092,702,000||+5.3%|
|41||Cases, handbags, wallets||$1,046,108,000||-29.9%|
|43||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,016,329,000||+1.1%|
|44||Miscellaneous cast iron or steel items||$1,013,777,000||-9.3%|
|46||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$990,979,000||-6.2%|
|47||Woven cotton fabrics||$936,605,000||-16.5%|
|48||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$918,084,000||-4.8%|
|49||Piston engine parts||$916,003,000||-16.7%|
|50||Fixed vegetable fats/oils||$911,602,000||-4.1%|
|54||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$882,041,000||-20.1%|
|55||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$859,324,000||-25.6%|
|58||Liquid pumps and elevators||$821,411,000||-15.8%|
|60||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$815,113,000||-7.1%|
|61||Air or vacuum pumps||$804,544,000||-6.6%|
|62||Infant clothing (knit or crochet)||$800,969,000||-13.7%|
|63||Tracksuits, swimwear (not knit or crochet)||$796,723,000||-32%|
|64||Electric motor parts||$794,240,000||+14.7%|
|65||Packing sacks, bags||$788,321,000||-12.1%|
|66||Synthetic yarn woven fabrics||$785,165,000||-29.3%|
|67||Synthetic filament yarn||$775,097,000||-31.6%|
|68||Women's shirts (not knit or crochet)||$772,799,000||-32.3%|
|69||Monumental/buiilding stone (granite, sandstone)||$769,982,000||+0.1%|
|73||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$701,358,000||-5.8%|
|74||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$695,978,000||-5.2%|
|75||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$695,650,000||-17.2%|
|76||Tea (including flavored)||$692,074,000||-15%|
|79||Men's shirts (not knit or crochet)||$680,110,000||-37.1%|
|82||Seeds (anis, coriander, caraway, juniper)||$633,182,000||+12.4%|
|83||Stainless steel bars, rods||$630,446,000||-24.2%|
|84||Saturated acyclic mono acids||$622,525,000||-5.7%|
|85||Vegetable saps, extracts||$619,822,000||-28%|
|86||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$614,004,000||-14.5%|
|88||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$610,444,000||-9.4%|
|89||Iron and steel tubes, pipes||$606,283,000||+22.1%|
|90||Leather clothing, accessories||$602,636,000||-24.5%|
|94||Textile floor coverings including carpets||$574,455,000||+3%|
|95||Synthetic precious stones||$569,410,000||+26.4%|
|97||Miscellaneous plastic items||$559,859,000||-12.5%|
|98||Tufted carpets/textile floor coverings||$549,054,000||+2.8%|
|99||Crustaceans, molluscs (preserved/prepared)||$543,918,000||+29.5%|
|100||Men's shirts (knit or crochet)||$538,361,000||-26.9%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$197.1 billion or 71.6% by value for all products exported from India during 2020.
In macroeconomic terms, India’s total exported goods represent 2.7% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($10.208 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 2.7% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2020 compares to 2.9% in 2019. Those percentages seem to indicate India’s relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for its total economic performance, albeit based on a short timespan.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. India’s unemployment rate was 6.5% at March 2021, down from 23.5% in April 2020 according to Trading Economics.
See also India’s Top 10 Imports, India’s Top Trading Partners, Top Indian Trade Balances and India’s Top 10 Major Export Companies
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