The IMF has just published an excellent working paper authored among others by Raghuram Rajan, the chief economist of the Fund and Arvind Subramanian, also of the Fund. If you want a comprehensive overview of the idiosyncratic path of the Indian economy since 1947, there’s no better read than India’s Pattern of Development. In addition, Rajan, Subramanian et al use India’s fast growing states as a crystal ball of sorts to try and predict what path the economy as a whole will take in the future. For a taste of what to expect in this paper, here’s an excerpt from the introduction.
We argue that the nature of the policies India followed after independence in 1947 created unique specializations prior to the economic reforms that started in the 1980s. Relative to other comparable poor countries, India’s emphasis on tertiary education, combined with a variety of policy distortions, may have channeled the manufacturing sector into more skill-intensive industries. Furthermore, the government’s desire to create capital goods production capability, especially through public-sector involvement, implied that India had a greater presence in industries that required scale (and capital) than other developing countries. Regulatory penalties and constraints on large private enterprise implied, however, that within most industries, the average scale of enterprise was relatively small.
Finally, rigid labor laws as well as constraints on the scale of private enterprises may well have limited India’s presence in labor-intensive manufacture, the usual specialization in a populous developing country. Given these idiosyncratic policies, India had a far more diversified presence across manufacturing industries than the typical developing country. Interestingly, it had a lower-than-normal presence in services in the early 1980s, where the skill-intensive segments such as telecommunications were still dominated by the slow-moving public sector.