That dollar amount reflects a 33.4% increase since 2017 and a 43.3% acceleration from 2020 to 2021.
Based on the average exchange rate for 2021 on a Purchasing Power Parity basis, the Indian rupee dropped by -13.5% against the US dollar since 2017 but appreciated by 0.2% from 2020 to 2021. India’s weaker local currency since 2017 makes India’s exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
India’s biggest export products by value in 2021 were refined petroleum oils, diamonds, medication mixes in dosage, jewelry and rice. In aggregate, those major exports approach one third (29.4%) of the India’s overall export revenues. The commodities themselves suggest India’s 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 53.9% of products exported from India were bought by importers in: United States (18.1% of the Indian global total), United Arab Emirates (6.4%), mainland China (5.8%), Bangladesh (3.6%), Hong Kong (2.9%), Singapore (2.7%), United Kingdom (2.6%), Netherlands (also 2.6%), Germany (2.4%), Nepal (2.3%), Belgium (also 2.3%) and Saudi Arabia (2.1%).
From a continental perspective, 45.6% of India’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 20.1% were sold to North American importers. India shipped another 19.2% worth of goods to Europe.
Smaller percentages went to Africa (9.6%), Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (3.6%) then Oceania led by Australia (1.9%).
Given India’s population of 1.392 billion people, its total $394.8 billion in 2021 exported products translates to roughly $300 for every resident in the vast South Asian country. That dollar metric represents a significant increase from an average $200 per capita in 2020.
India’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups categorize the highest dollar value in Indian global shipments during 2021. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from India.
- Mineral fuels including oil: US$56.4 billion (14.3% of total exports)
- Gems, precious metals: $38.2 billion (9.7%)
- Machinery including computers: $24.2 billion (6.1%)
- Iron, steel: $21.2 billion (5.4%)
- Organic chemicals: $21.2 billion (5.4%)
- Pharmaceuticals: $19.5 billion (4.9%)
- Vehicles: $18.9 billion (4.8%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: $18.8 billion (4.8%)
- Cereals: $12.4 billion (3.1%)
- Cotton: $10 billion (2.5%)
India’s top 10 exports exceeded three-fifths (61%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Mineral fuels including oil was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 104.1% from 2020 to 2021. That product category was propelled by higher international revenues from India’s exported refined petroleum oil.
In second place for improving export sales was iron and steel via a 99.4% gain.
India’s shipments of cotton posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 72.6%.
The slowest grower among India’s top 10 export categories was pharmaceuticals thanks to its 5.6% improvement 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.
Products Generating India’s Greatest Trade Surpluses
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$16.2 billion (Up by 1.3% since 2020)
- Vehicles: $12.5 billion (Up by 43.8%)
- Cereals: $12.3 billion (Up by 43.6%)
- Iron, steel: $9.5 billion (Up by 209%)
- Cotton: $9.3 billion (Up by 75%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $7.3 billion (Up by 27.3%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $6.7 billion (Up by 20.4%)
- Fish: $6.6 billion (Up by 31.3%)
- Miscellaneous textiles, worn clothing: $6.1 billion (Up by 45.3%)
- Sugar, sugar confectionery: $4 billion (Up by 99.1%)
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.
Products Causing India’s Biggest Trade Deficits
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.
India incurred an overall -$175.6 billion trade deficit for all products during 2021, expanding by 89.8% from -$92.5 billion in red ink one year earlier.
- Mineral fuels including oil: -US$114 billion (Up by 48.6% since 2020)
- Gems, precious metals: -$50.2 billion (Up by 202.5%)
- Electrical machinery, equipment: -$37.9 billion (Up by 28.5%)
- Machinery including computers: -$24.2 billion (Up by 40.7%)
- Animal/vegetable fats, oils, waxes: -$15.8 billion (Up by 72.1%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$10.7 billion (Up by 99.1%)
- Fertilizers: -$9 billion (Up by 27.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$7.4 billion (Up by 44.8%)
- Inorganic chemicals: -$7.2 billion (Up by 57.9%)
- Organic chemicals: -$6.1 billion (Up by 733.1%)
India has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for mineral fuels and related products, particularly for crude oil, coal and petroleum gases.
These cashflow deficiencies clearly indicate India’s competitive disadvantages in the international mineral fuels-related market, but also represent key opportunities for India to improve its position in the global economy through focused innovations for pertinent goods.
India’s Major Export Companies
India places over 50 corporations on the Forbes Global 2000 rankings. Many of these are major Indian export companies. Below is a selection of some of the biggest Indian corporations.
- Reliance Industries (oil, gas)
- Tata Motors (cars, trucks)
- Indian Oil (oil, gas)
- Coal India (diversified metals, mining)
- ITC (tobacco)
- Bharat Heavy Electricals (electrical equipment)
- Hindalco Industries (aluminum)
- Tata Steel (iron, steel)
- Bharat Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Hindustan Petroleum (oil, gas)
- Sun Pharma Industries (pharmaceuticals)
- Steel Authority of India (iron, steel)
- Bajaj Auto (recreational products)
- Hero Motocorp (recreational products)
- Grasim Industries (construction materials)
- JSW Steel (iron, steel)
Searchable List of India’s Most Valuable Export Products
At the more granular four-digit HTS code level, the following searchable table displays 100 of the most in-demand goods shipped from India during 2021. Shown beside each product label is its total export value then the percentage increase or decrease since 2020.
|Rank||Indian Export Product||2021 Value (US$)||Change|
|1||Processed petroleum oils||$54,037,062,000||+106.4%|
|3||Medication mixes in dosage||$17,122,453,000||+2.9%|
|7||Phone devices including smartphones||$6,456,381,000||+64%|
|10||Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$5,278,607,000||+73.6%|
|11||Crustaceans (including lobsters)||$5,253,863,000||+35.3%|
|12||Yarn (85%+ cotton)||$4,696,022,000||+80.1%|
|14||Iron ores, concentrates||$4,159,252,000||+7.3%|
|16||Sugar (cane or beet)||$3,813,056,000||+52.8%|
|17||Heterocyclics, nucleic acids||$3,594,440,000||+19.1%|
|18||Light vessels, fire boats, floating docks||$3,519,563,000||+31.6%|
|20||Iron or non-alloy steel products (semi-finished)||$3,100,971,000||+30.6%|
|21||Synthetic organic coloring||$2,981,486,000||+33.2%|
|25||Rubber tires (new)||$2,691,776,000||+54.5%|
|26||Cotton (uncarded, uncombed)||$2,682,048,000||+85.2%|
|27||Women's clothing (not knit or crochet)||$2,557,759,000||+28.3%|
|28||Flat-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products (plated/coated)||$2,543,756,000||+265.7%|
|29||T-shirts, vests (knit or crochet)||$2,347,422,000||+22.6%|
|32||Electrical converters/power units||$2,141,826,000||+26%|
|33||Unglazed ceramic flags, tiles, cubes||$1,758,294,000||+14.1%|
|36||Transmission shafts, gears, clutches||$1,669,887,000||+51.5%|
|37||Taps, valves, similar appliances||$1,535,463,000||+15.9%|
|38||Blood fractions (including antisera)||$1,514,067,000||+38%|
|39||Piston engine parts||$1,435,376,000||+56.7%|
|41||Cases, handbags, wallets||$1,369,563,000||+30.9%|
|42||Synthetic filament yarn||$1,364,679,000||+76.1%|
|43||Plastic plates, sheets, film, tape, strips||$1,353,510,000||+33.2%|
|44||Refined copper, unwrought alloys||$1,330,100,000||+180%|
|46||Miscellaneous iron or steel items||$1,313,916,000||+49%|
|47||Monument/building stones, art||$1,313,279,000||+20.2%|
|52||Miscellaneous iron and steel structures||$1,261,702,000||+27.3%|
|53||Other organic compounds||$1,252,298,000||+0.9%|
|54||Synthetic precious stones||$1,251,881,000||+119.9%|
|55||Miscellaneous cast iron or steel items||$1,247,193,000||+23%|
|56||Woven cotton fabrics||$1,242,747,000||+32.7%|
|57||Packing sacks, bags||$1,191,590,000||+51.2%|
|59||Liquid pumps and elevators||$1,159,099,000||+41.1%|
|60||Air or vacuum pumps||$1,152,004,000||+43.2%|
|61||Fixed vegetable fats/oils||$1,143,559,000||+25.4%|
|62||Men's suits, trousers (not knit or crochet)||$1,096,957,000||+27.7%|
|64||Plastic packing goods, lids, caps||$1,088,762,000||+33.6%|
|65||Electro-medical equip (e.g. xrays)||$1,065,299,000||+16%|
|66||Cold-rolled iron or non-alloy steel products||$1,054,454,000||+336.9%|
|67||Stainless steel bars, rods||$1,012,977,000||+60.7%|
|68||Infant clothing (knit or crochet)||$1,011,072,000||+26.2%|
|70||Lower-voltage switches, fuses||$978,073,000||+40.5%|
|75||Women's shirts (not knit or crochet)||$920,578,000||+19.1%|
|76||Tracksuits, swimwear (not knit or crochet)||$913,486,000||+14.7%|
|77||Soya-bean oil-cake, other solid residues||$900,822,000||+28.4%|
|78||Synthetic yarn woven fabrics||$875,569,000||+11.5%|
|79||Miscellaneous plastic items||$854,875,000||+52.7%|
|80||Monumental/buiilding stone (granite, sandstone)||$853,875,000||+10.9%|
|81||Saturated acyclic mono acids||$853,033,000||+37%|
|83||Centrifuges, filters and purifiers||$834,334,000||+35.9%|
|85||Heavy machinery (bulldozers, excavators, road rollers)||$822,306,000||+101.4%|
|87||Electric circuit parts, fuses, switches||$819,011,000||+34.2%|
|89||Electric motor parts||$802,053,000||+1%|
|90||Woven floor coverings including carpets||$792,537,000||+38%|
|92||Men's shirts (not knit or crochet)||$773,410,000||+13.7%|
|94||Textile floor coverings including carpets||$764,634,000||+39.3%|
|95||Miscellaneous iron or steel tubes, pipes||$761,984,000||+82.8%|
|96||Precious/semi-precious stones (unstrung)||$759,399,000||+202.5%|
|98||Iron or steel pipe fittings||$752,140,000||+55.8%|
|99||Vegetable saps, extracts||$740,559,000||+19.5%|
|100||Ball, roller bearings||$736,981,000||+60.9%|
These 100 exported goods were worth a subtotal of US$285 billion or 72.2% by value for all products exported from India during 2021.
In macroeconomic terms, India’s total exported goods represent 3.9% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2021 ($10.218 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.9% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2021 compares to 2.7% in 2020. Those percentages suggest India’s relatively increasing 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 7.8% at April 2022, up from 6.5% for March 2021 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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