Geographies in Depth

India could become the world’s 3rd largest economy in the next 5 years. Here's how

A view of the Red Fort in Delhi, capital of India, by night

India is poised to play defining role in shaping the future of the global economy in 2024 and beyond. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sriram Gutta
Head, India and Deputy Head, South Asia, World Economic Forum
Suchi Kedia
Community Specialist, Regional Agenda - India and South Asia, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Amidst a challenging global scenario, India has emerged as a significant economic and geopolitical power.
  • 2023 was a landmark year for India as it assumed the presidency of the G20, marked by some notable achievements.
  • India is poised to play a defining role in shaping the future of the global economy in 2024 and beyond.

This article has been published in CNBC.

2024 begins at a critical and delicate juncture. While the global economy has managed to stave off recession, albeit narrowly, it has suffered significant volatility and unpredictability during the past year. Devastating conflicts have stoked geopolitical fractures, economic fragmentation and financial turbulence.

With new global challenges emerging, urgent progress is needed to address existing vulnerabilities, including fragile energy and food security, inclusive growth, and the intensifying climate emergency. Effective multilateral cooperation is key for the world to come to a common understanding to tackle these interlinked issues.

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Amidst a challenging global scenario, India has emerged as a significant economic and geopolitical power. Its actions in the coming year could lay the groundwork for the country to become the world’s third largest economy in the next five years and a developed nation by 2047, setting an example on inclusive, sustainable economic growth, digital development and climate action.

A landmark year

2023 marked a landmark year for India as it assumed presidency of the world’s highest profile global economic assembly, the G20, and showcased its economic prowess and diplomatic finesse to the world.

India’s emphasis on a rule-based international order, advocacy for collaboration to solve common issues, and commitment to upholding democratic values positions makes it a stabilizing force in an increasingly complex global geopolitical landscape. Importantly, India also helped herald a new dawn of multilateralism where developing countries take their rightful place in shaping the global narrative by mainstreaming the Global South's concerns in international discourse.

The notable achievements during India’s tenure – the inclusion of the African Union into the G20; the launch of critical multistakeholder partnerships such as the Global Biofuel Alliance and the Global Initiative on Digital Health; the progress on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the reform of multilateral development banks; and the scaling of digital public infrastructure – demonstrate its ability to build consensus to address global challenges collectively and effectively.

The World Economic Forum, through its centres and initiatives, actively supported India’s G20 agenda and contributed to key thematic areas including energy and health.

On the economic front, India has been a key growth engine for the world, contributing 16% to the global growth in 2023. The country’s growth rate of 7.2% in fiscal 2022-2023 was the second-highest among the G20 countries and almost twice the average for emerging market economies that year.

India’s efforts to maintain stability and enact structural reforms have contributed to its economic resilience in the face of global challenges. Investments in upgrading infrastructure and connectivity, including projects like the Bharatmala highway programme, the Sagarmala project for port-led development and the Smart Cities Mission, are transforming the country's landscape and playing a pivotal role in the country’s economic advancement.

India began laying a solid foundation for a more digital economy over a decade ago with the launch of its national identification programme, Aadhaar, which uses biometric IDs to establish proof of residence. Today, with a burgeoning tech industry, the country has become a key centre for innovation and technology services, not only boosting economic growth but also positioning India as a key player in shaping the future of the digital economy.

In the face of escalating climate-related concerns, India also plays a key leadership role in the global fight against climate change. Through the launch of the Mission LiFE of Lifestyle for Environment, coupled with a concerted push for Green Hydrogen, India has demonstrated a firm commitment to a growth trajectory that balances economic advancement with ecological responsibility.

India has also launched the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, and proposed a global grid for renewables. A major announcement made by Prime Minister Modi at COP28 in Dubai was the introduction of the Green Credit Initiative as a substitute for carbon credits.


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A focus on inclusive growth

Moving forward, fulfilling India’s national and global ambitions will require strategic policymaking to tread the delicate balance between economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability. India’s demographics will be advantageous to its growth story only if coupled with broad labour market reforms and human development measures to skill one of the world’s largest workforces and address youth unemployment.

Continued broad-based policy initiatives and structural changes focused on inclusive growth, sustained revival in domestic consumption demand, and rapid adoption of new and emerging technologies to enhance the productivity will be critical. Additionally, India must continue to engage in multilateral forums to address global issues such as health crises, economic disparities and geopolitical tensions.

The world is now witnessing a nation on the rise, with a booming economy, and a commitment to inclusivity, sustainability, and international collaboration. India is poised to play defining role in shaping the future of the global economy in 2024 and beyond.

This article was published as part of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2024 discussions.

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Geographies in DepthForum InstitutionalSustainable Development
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