What is FDI?

  •  4 min
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  • 14 Aug 2023

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has emerged as a critical global economic growth and development driver. Countries actively seek foreign investment in an increasingly interconnected world to stimulate economies and create favorable conditions for sustainable progress. Over the years, FDI in India has considerably risen, from USD 45.15 billion in FY 2014-15 to USD 70.97 billion in FY 22-23.

FDI refers to the investment made by an individual, organization, or entity from one country (known as the "home country") into another country (referred to as the "host country") to establish a long lasting interest and a significant degree of influence or control over a business or operation in the host country. Unlike portfolio investment, which involves purchasing different types of stocks, bonds, or other financial assets, FDI involves a more active and direct involvement in the management and operations of a business.

In essence, FDI occurs when a company or individual invests in assets such as property, equipment, buildings, technology, or shares of a foreign business entity, aiming to establish new business operations, expand existing ones, or gain a substantial stake in a foreign enterprise. The key characteristic distinguishing FDI from other forms of investment is the level of control and influence the investor exercises over the operations and management of the foreign entity.

The following are the benefits of FDI:

1. Enhanced Economic Growth

One of the primary advantages of foreign direct investment is its potential to contribute to a country's economic growth significantly. When foreign investors inject capital into a nation, it often results in increased production, improved infrastructure, and technological advancements. These factors collectively propel economic expansion, creating a ripple effect that benefits various sectors.

2. Technology Transfer and Innovation

One of the significant advantages of FDI is that it brings advanced technologies, management practices, and expertise from the investing country. This knowledge transfer spurs innovation as domestic industries gain exposure to cutting-edge processes and methodologies. Such technological infusion fosters the development of new products, services, and processes, boosting a nation's competitiveness on the global stage.

3. Employment Generation

Establishing foreign-owned businesses frequently leads to job creation within the host country. As these enterprises grow and expand their operations, they require a skilled workforce to drive their activities. This translates into increased employment opportunities for the local population, reducing unemployment rates and enhancing the overall standard of living.

4. Infrastructure Development

FDI often results in improved infrastructure within the host nation. Foreign investors may engage in projects to develop transportation networks, energy supply systems, and communication facilities. These infrastructure enhancements support foreign enterprises' operations and provide a foundation for broader economic development.

5. Export Promotion

Foreign investors often use the host country as a base for their operations, which can increase exports. By leveraging the local resources and labor force, foreign companies can manufacture goods and services more efficiently, making them more competitive in the global market. This boosts a nation's export potential and can contribute to a favorable trade balance.

6. Diversification of Industrial Base

FDI contributes to diversifying the host country's industrial base. The introduction of foreign businesses across various sectors makes the economy less dependent on a single industry. This diversification can enhance economic resilience, reducing the risks of relying heavily on a specific sector.

7. Access to Capital and Financing

Foreign investors bring substantial financial resources to the host country. This influx of capital can supplement domestic savings, making it easier for local businesses to access funds for expansion, research and development, and other growth-oriented initiatives.

8. Stimulated Competition

The entry of foreign businesses introduces healthy competition within the domestic market. This compels local companies to improve their products, services, and operational efficiency to remain competitive. As a result, consumers benefit from better quality products and enhanced choices.

9. Political and Social Stability

FDI can contribute to political and social stability in the host country. Foreign investors are often vested in the country's stability, leading them to advocate for policies that support a conducive business environment and socio-economic progress.

10. Improved Human Capital

Collaboration with foreign entities can lead to a skill transfer and knowledge to the local workforce. Employees working in foreign-owned companies often receive training in advanced techniques and practices, enhancing their expertise and contributing to developing a more skilled labor force.

Routes Through Which India Gets FDI

Now that you know the benefits of FDI, let's understand the routes through which India gets FDI:

  • Automatic route

Under the automatic route, foreign investors enjoy a streamlined process that eliminates the need for prior approval from the Indian government or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for their investment endeavors. This investor-friendly pathway has been designed to promote efficiency and ease of doing business, facilitating seamless capital inflows into the country.

This route serves as an open gateway for foreign investors across diverse sectors and industries, offering them the freedom to engage directly with Indian companies without the burden of navigating through intricate bureaucratic procedures. The automatic route expedites the investment process by bypassing the requirement for prior approval, enabling foreign entities to capitalize on emerging opportunities swiftly.

  • Government Route

The second pathway through which FDI manifests in India involves the government route. When FDI follows the government route, companies seeking to invest in India must secure mandatory prior approval from the government. These companies must complete and submit an application form via the Foreign Investment Facilitation portal, which provides a platform for obtaining streamlined clearance. Subsequently, the portal transmits the foreign company's application to the relevant ministry vested with the authority to either endorse or decline the application.

Before arriving at a decision, the concerned ministry consults with the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). This collaboration ensures a comprehensive assessment before deciding on the foreign investment proposal. The DPIIT enacts the Standard Operating Procedure aligned with the existing FDI policy upon successful approval. This procedural mechanism effectively paves the way for the inflow of FDI in India.

Certain sectors can't attract FDI. These include:

  1. Atomic energy generation
  2. Any gambling or betting businesses
  3. Lotteries (online, private, government, etc.)
  4. Investment in chit funds
  5. Nidhi company
  6. Agricultural or plantation activities
  7. Housing and real estate (except townships, commercial projects, etc.)
  8. Trading in TDRs
  9. Cigars, cigarettes, or any tobacco-related industry

Agriculture and Animal Husbandry






Railway Infrastructure






Food products manufactured/produced in India



Pension sector



Banking - public sector



Multi-brand Retail Trading



Sector FDI Limit Entry Route
Agriculture and Animal Husbandry100%Automatic
Railway Infrastructure100%Automatic
Food products manufactured/produced in India100%Government
Pension sector49%Automatic
Banking - public sector20%Government
Multi-brand Retail Trading51%Government

In Conclusion

FDI catalyzes economic growth, technological advancement, and job creation. The numerous advantages of FDI, including enhanced economic growth, technology transfer, employment generation, and infrastructure development, make it a sought-after strategy for nations aiming to boost their economies.

By fostering innovation, diversifying industries, and stimulating competition, FDI creates a more dynamic and resilient economic landscape. As countries continue to harness the benefits of foreign direct investment, they position themselves to thrive in an increasingly competitive world.

Foreign Direct Investment FAQs

Products manufactured as a result of foreign direct investment (FDI) can find markets both within the host nation and overseas, thereby establishing an additional vital source of income. Furthermore, FDI enhances a nation's exchange rate stability, attracts capital inflows, and fosters the development of a competitive market environment.

The optimism regarding foreign inflows into India stems from a combination of factors, including measures to enhance the ease of conducting business, the availability of skilled manpower, abundant natural resources, progressive FDI policies, a substantial domestic market, and promising prospects for robust GDP growth.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India is influenced by a range of pivotal factors, encompassing governmental policies and regulations, the evolution of infrastructure, the stability of the political climate, the scale and prospects of the market, and the overall business-friendly environment.

FDI consists of three fundamental components: equity capital, reinvested earnings, and intra-company loans. Among these, equity capital signifies the acquisition of shares in a foreign enterprise by an investor from a country other than its own.

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