Ancient written records talk about urban centres like Magadha, present day Bihar where agriculture was quite productive, iron mines were flourishing, elephants which then used to form important part of the armies were also found in that region. Urban centres which emerged like Patliputra were on river routes, Ujjayini along the land route, Puhar situated on the coast marked the beginning of the sea routes. Cities like Mathura were hotspots of commercial, cultural and political activities. Sea routes were quite active in 6th century BC, they extended as far as north Africa, south east Asia and china. Wide range of goods like salt, grain, cloth metal ores, stone, timber, medicinal plants and more. Spices and silk were in high demand in roman empire and were transported across the Arabian Sea to the Mediterranean.
India is known for exports of its agricultural produce and spices. Our agrarian history is well recorded in chronicles and documents from the Mughal court. Ain-i Akbari authored by Abu’l Fazl meticulously records arrangements made by the state to ensure cultivation. Rice, wheat and millets were the most cultivated crops back then. Cotton and sugarcane were considered as perfectly grown crops and in abundance. While India exported via sea trade routes, certain crops were also introduced in India. Maize was introduced into India via Africa and Spain, vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and chillies were introduced from the new world as were fruits like pineapple and papaya. People who resided in hills were also involved in collection of Mahua flowers, silk cocoons and resin for sale and wood for charcoal production. Babur Nama describes the then used irrigation system in detail.
Marathi texts written in early years of British rule have revealed existence of substantial numbers of artisans, sometimes as high as 25% of the total households in the villages. They would be involved in crafts such as dyeing, textile printing, baking and firing of pottery, making and repairing of agricultural implements to name a few. 16th and 17th century India with the consolidated Mughal empire saw vibrant networks of trade from China to mediterranean sea. This bought huge amounts of Silver bullion to the country. This period was marked by stability in availability of metal currency. Accounts by Italian traveller Giovanni Careri gives an idea of the cash and commodity transactions in 17th century India.
Even though urbanisation in India was progressing in it’s own good time, study of census reveal that between 1900 and 1940, urban population started to increase. Port cities like Calcutta, Bombay and Madras grew rapidly and became commercial and administrative centres. They also became entry point of European manufactured goods and export centres for Indian raw materials like cotton and jute. With introduction of railways in 1853, this changed drastically and trade centres started spreading to inland cities as well.
India is moving away from it’s socialistic policies pushing towards more self reliant manufacturing industries and is actively promoting ‘aatm nirbhar bharat’ as the way forward. The focus is on rising as a manufacturing power. It is a lucrative market which is operating at all different levels of the spectrum when it comes to socio-economic and cultural growth. Initiatives like Make in India, Digital India, Digital First, Swach Bharath Swasth Bharath, Beti Padhao Beti Bachao are tackling some of the main issues and taking India on the path of development.
India forms an important part of strategy by other countries as an emerging market and it is going to be the preferred investment destination for next 20 years.