Research Summary

India Transformed? Insights from the Firm Level 1988-2005 (with Anusha Chari)

by Laura Alfaro


Using firm-level data this paper analyzes, the transformation of India’s economic structure following the implementation of economic reforms. The focus of the study is on publicly-listed and unlisted firms from across a wide spectrum of manufacturing and services industries and ownership structures such as state-owned firms, business groups, private and foreign firms. Detailed balance sheet and ownership information permit an investigation of a range of variables such as sales, profitability, and assets. Here we analyze firm characteristics shown by industry before and after liberalization and investigate how industrial concentration, the number, and size of firms of the ownership type evolved between 1988 and 2005. We find great dynamism displayed by foreign and private firms as reflected in the growth in their numbers, assets, sales and profits. Yet, closer scrutiny reveals no dramatic transformation in the wake of liberalization. The story rather is one of an economy still dominated by the incumbents (state-owned firms) and to a lesser extent, traditional private firms (firms incorporated before 1985). Sectors dominated by state-owned and traditional private firms before 1988-1990, with assets, sales and profits representing shares higher than 50%, generally remained so in 2005. The exception to this broad pattern is the growing importance of new and large private firms in the services sector. Rates of return also have remained stable over time and show low dispersion across sectors and across ownership groups within sectors.