India, as the world’s biggest mosaic of cultures, is famously difficult to understand. It is large, mystifying, and full of contrasts.
It is said that India has been the biggest economy in the world for at least two millennia. In more recent times, India was the world’s fastest growing economy between 2014 and 2018, replacing China.
And, with a 500-million-strong emerging middle class with a growing purchasing power, India’s economic wonders are likely to continue in the coming decades.
A dozen colossal metropolises are where the country’s economic magic really takes place, though some 65% of the nation’s population live in rural areas, and their contribution is mainly agricultural.
Here is a list of the eight primary economic hubs that drive the South Asian giant’s economic engine.
Located in Maharashtra, Mumbai is indisputably the economic capital of India. It is where most international businesses have a presence and also home to India’s National Stock Exchange. The Reserve Bank of India, too, is based in Mumbai.
With an estimated GDP of USD310 billion, Mumbai single-handedly accounts for 6-9% of India’s economy.
Even those who do not know much about India, have surely heard of Mumbai and, quite probably, caught sight of the city’s skyline in some Bollywood movie or another.
Thanks to the influence of Mumbai’s media industry, the city is a trendsetter in terms of culture, lifestyle, and fashion. Quite conveniently, Mumbai also has a robust textile and apparel industry.
Serving as the seat of the Central Government since 1911, New Delhi is also a major economic hub. The city was originally intended to be a quiet political capital without much hustle and bustle.
However, today New Delhi has grown to become a huge metropolis. With a GDP just under USD300 billion, Delhi’s economic significance is only second to that of Mumbai.
Delhi’s economy stands out in India in that it is mainly service-based, unlike other economic hubs of India which are essentially industrial powerhouses. IT and telecommunications services, financial services, and tourism are currently the city’s key money spinners.
Famous for its offerings in terms of leisure and entertainment, the former colonial capital of India is still going strong.
In addition to its cultural attractions, Kolkata is the third largest economic hub of India, with a particular focus on the trade of tea and other agricultural commodities.
Kolkata’s status as a commercial hub and port city in Northeast India is comparable to that of Mumbai on the west coast of the subcontinent.
Thanks to the availability of a highly skilled workforce and high levels of fluency in English, Kolkata has established itself as a destination for business process outsourcing (BPO).
Bangalore is the epicenter of India’s IT and high-tech businesses, to which most foreign tech companies with operations in the subcontinent are inevitably drawn. The city is often compared to Silicon Valley in California.
In recent years, Bangalore has experienced an influx of internal immigration, including IT professionals from across the nation.
The high-tech industry, alone, has created over 1.5 million job opportunities in the city.
Bangalore’s high-tech industry is not limited to IT and software development. The city is also a forerunner in aviation and aerospace engineering, and home to R&D units owned by both Boeing and Airbus.
Home to India’s growing automotive industry, Chennai is where many international brands have set up their Asian assembly plants. Hyundai, Nissan, and Ford, among others, manufacture some of their models or spare parts in Chennai.
Over a third of all cars in India’s market are put together somewhere in Chennai. As such, the city is sometimes compared to Detroit in Michigan.
The citizens of Chennai are said to enjoy a relatively high quality of life and the third highest per capita GDP in the country.
Also of note in Chennai’s economy are sectors such as petrochemicals, engineering and construction, electronics, and pharmaceuticals.
A former trading hub of precious stones and pearl in Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad has now turned into a center of high-tech businesses.
Hyderabad’s economy in contemporary times used to be based on traditional manufacturing and government-owned enterprises, with the state and central governments being the biggest employers. But, as a result of economic diversification efforts since the 1990s, IT, electronic, and especially biopharma businesses have also taken root in the city. The activists of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research have further consolidated the pharma industry.
Given Hyderabad’s rich cultural heritage, it is also a major tourist attraction.
Pune’s original claim to fame in modern times was its many universities, attracting international students from across the subcontinent, the Middle East, and beyond. Over half of international students in India are based in Pune, giving the city a youthful and stylish spirit.
But, now the city is on its way to further industrialization. Automotive, IT, and pharmaceutical businesses have been setting up shop in Pune since the early 2000s, including the nation’s largest automotive manufacturer, Tata Motors.
The largest city in Gujarat, Ahmedabad, is the heart of India’s textile industry, partly thanks to the fact that Gujarat is the nation’s leading producer of cotton.
The city’s growing population led to a construction boom in the 2010s, with skyscrapers popping up here and there on the city’s skyline.
Ahmedabad is home to the headquarters of a number of pharmaceutical giants, including Zydus Cadila, whose name has been recently associated with the mass production of antiviral drugs used for COVID-19 patients.