Mark Twain famously described India as “the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition”. As well as being steeped in history and culture, India is a vibrant and rapidly modernising economy with a burgeoning consumer market.

Covid-19 latest information

This guide is an accurate reflection of the pre-Covid-19 business environment in India. Please note that due to the current situation, some circumstances may have changed in this country. Figures and data in the guide were last updated in August 2020.

Welcome to India

With a population of well over a billion, India is not only the world’s largest democracy but it is also a rising economic powerhouse. In fact, India is due to become the world’s third largest economy by 2030.

As such, it’s easy to understand why this technicolour market – full of unique sights, smells and sounds – is a magnet for companies seeking new growth opportunities. The country’s young, literate, English-speaking, and digitally-oriented workforce, makes India an even more attractive location to do business. The government's commitment to making India a manufacturing hub is seen in the number of reforms introduced to improve the ease of doing business and make India an integral part of global supply chains.

HSBC has long understood the charms of India as a business location, and our origins in the country date back to 1853 when the Mercantile Bank of India was established in Mumbai. Since then, the bank has grown steadily and been active in the development of the Indian banking industry – even installing the first ATM in the country in 1987.

Today, we offer a range of products and solutions to help support local and international companies in the country reach their ambitions. Industries that are flourishing include outsourcing, telecommunications, construction, e-commerce, education and retail – but there are opportunities everywhere you look. For India, and for businesses leveraging the country’s resources, the future is bright.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Surendra Rosha Group General Manager & Chief Executive Officer, HSBC India

Head office address:
52/60 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Mumbai, 400 001


1.36 billion1
3,287,263 sq km
Main languages
Hindi and English, as well as regional languages
Capital city
New Delhi
Other major cities
Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai (Madras) and Bengaluru (Bangalore)
Indian Rupee (INR)
Dialling code
USD1,963 per capita2
Top exports
Gems, precious metals, mineral fuels, vehicles, machinery including computers, and pharmaceuticals3
Top imports
Mineral fuels, gems, precious metals, electrical machinery and equipment, machinery including computers, and organic chemicals3
Unemployment rate
Corporation tax
40% for foreign companies5
Typical office hours
9.30am-5.30pm, Monday to Friday and 9.30-12.30 on Saturday
Time zone
UTC +5:30
Emergency numbers
112 (all emergency services)

1 World Bank Group, 2019
2 International Monetary Fund, 2018
3 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), 2018
4 Trading Economics, 2020
5 PwC, 2019
* Map shows cities of economic significance according to the CIA, 2018

India: The eye of the tiger

  • Fast growing economy

    Despite the recent global downturn, India remains one of the fastest growing economies in the world, averaging 6.6% GDP growth in 2018.

  • Strategic location

    With a coastline spanning 7,500 km, India is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, and is strategically located on major world trade routes.

  • Large youth population

    While Europe and East Asia grapple with ageing populations, India has an abundance of youth. Half of its population is under the age of 25. Two-thirds are less than 35 years old. As such, India is likely to have the world’s largest workforce by 2027.

  • Favourable policies

    The government has undertaken major foreign direct investment (FDI) policy reforms in a number of sectors, making it much easier to invest in the country. The ease of doing business in India is also vastly improving, thanks to government reforms.

  • Easy e-commerce

    Thanks to its growing digital infrastructure, e-commerce is revolutionising the Indian market. As such, e-commerce represents an easy way to test the market before deciding whether or not to set up shop on-the-ground in India.

  • Stable and secure

    With a full majority government in power, India is now starting to see the benefits of a relatively stable political system. And the country boasts two of the 60 safest cities in the world: Delhi and Mumbai.

Country profile

Life – and indeed business – in India is an adventure like no other. The country is a diverse republic that never ceases to surprise and delight. It is also home to one of the oldest civilisations on earth, and boasts a unique fusion of traditions from the East and the West.

Sitting close to major trade routes, the country has a history built around trade and making the most of its resources. However, only in the last 25 years has the country pushed through economic reforms that have truly opened it up to the global economy.

Throughout its merchant history, India has introduced a number of popular products to the world, including: Darjeeling tea, Indian khadi cotton, Bombay Duck, Kashmiri carpets, Indian spices and dried fruit.

India’s market has continued to strengthen and expand. What’s more, public finances remain stable – as does the government headed up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As well as having a roaring economy, India is also recognised for its fiercely competitive education system. In fact, it has produced some of the foremost scientists and technicians of our time. The number of skilled professionals, including engineers and technicians, who are fluent in English also makes the country an attractive market for doing international business.

On the regulatory side, India also offers a very competitive tax regime and a robust and efficient legal and judicial system. The country benefits from a well-regulated financial system that offers a broad range of services. Businesses operating in the country can also tap into its developed capital markets as an alternative source of financing, which is comforting.

Since India’s economy is incredibly diverse, comprising traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries and a multitude of services – there are also opportunities for any type of business to succeed.

Read on to discover more about the dos and don’ts of doing business in India. Also find out how trading in or with the country could help boost the future growth of your business.

India’s market has continued to strengthen and expand. What’s more, public finances remain stable – as does the government headed up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

5 key challenges2

  1. 1

    No single version of India

    With different culture, languages, and levels of economic development, different regions in India must be addressed with different commercial efforts and even strategies. This requires deep local knowledge. 

  2. 2

    Strained infrastructure

    Despite huge investments, India’s infrastructure is in need of improvement. Problems with the country's roads, railways, ports and airports, to its power grid and telecommunications, are significant obstacles for businesses.

  3. 3

    Unpredictable climate 

    The extremely hot weather in the summer in India, followed by the wet weather in the monsoon season, can affect business and supply chains.

  4. 4

    High taxes and tariffs

    Corporation tax for foreign companies in India is 40% and tariffs for companies exporting goods to India are likely to total circa 35% - which can make such a venture challenging.

  5. 5

    Intellectual property protection

    India is frequently ranked among the worst countries in the world for protecting intellectual property. While the laws are improving, enforcement is still relatively weak and the counterfeit goods market is strong.

5 reasons to do business in India1

  1. Workers are ready
    India has an expanding, skilled, willing and able workforce that speaks English – perfect for growing international business.
  2. Increasingly business-friendly
    The government has introduced nationwide initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India and Skill India to drive rapid economic growth by opening the country up to outside investment and knowledge. This is making the country ever more attractive for foreign companies and investors.
  3. Many promising locations
    Under the co-operative federalism system that exists in India, different states are competing with each other to introduce more business-friendly measures. As such, there is growth potential in areas right across India, not just in its capital city.
  4. A burgeoning consumer market
    With a population of over 1.3 billion, and rising incomes, the opportunities in India’s consumer market are hard to ignore.
  5. Relatively cheap destination
    In terms of the basic amenities to set up businesses in India, and move there, India represents a much lower cost base than other economic powers – especially compared to Asian markets such as Singapore.

1 Institute of Export & International Trade, 2018
2 TMF Group, 2018


All indices represent the latest 2017/18 rankings