Role of Multinational Corporations in the Indian Economy!

Prior to 1991 Multinational companies did not play much role in the Indian economy. In the pre-reform period the Indian economy was dominated by public enterprises.

To prevent concen­tration of economic power industrial policy 1956 did not allow the private firms to grow in size beyond a point. By definition multinational companies were quite big and operate in several countries.

While multinational companies played a significant role in the promotion of growth and trade in South-East Asian countries they did not play much role in the Indian economy where import-substitution development strategy was followed. Since 1991 with the adoption of industrial policy of liberalisation and privatisation rote of private foreign capital has been recognized as important for rapid growth of the Indian economy.


Since source of bulk of foreign capital and investment are multinational corporation, they have been allowed to operate in the Indian economy subject to some regulations. The following are the important reasons for this change in policy towards multinational companies in the post-reform period.

Some of world’s largest multinational corporations are given below:


1. Promotion Foreign Investment:

In the recent years, external assistance to developing countries has been declining. This is because the donor developed countries have not been willing to part with a larger proportion of their GDP as assistance to developing countries. MNCs can bridge the gap between the requirements of foreign capital for increasing foreign investment in India.


The liberalized foreign investment pursued since 1991, allows MNCs to make investment in India subject to different ceilings fixed for different industries or projects. However, in some industries 100 per cent export-oriented units (EOUs) can be set up. It may be noted, like domestic investment, foreign investment has also a multiplier effect on income and employment in a country.

For example, the effect of Suzuki firm’s investment in Maruti Udyog manufacturing cars is not confined to income and employment for the workers and employees of Maruti Udyog but goes beyond that. Many workers are employed in dealer firms who sell Maruti cars.

Moreover, many intermediate goods are supplied by Indian suppliers to Maruti Udyog and for this many workers are employed by them to manufacture various parts and components used in Maruti cars. Thus their incomes also go up by investment by a Japanese multinational in Maruti Udyog Limited in India.

2. Non-Debt Creating Capital inflows:

In pre-reform period in India when foreign direct investment by MNCs was discouraged, we relied heavily on external commercial borrowing (ECB) which was of debt-creating capital inflows. This raised the burden of external debt and debt service payments reached the alarming figure of 35 per cent of our current account receipts. This created doubts about our ability to fulfill our debt obligations and there was a flight of capital from


India and this resulted in balance of payments crisis in 1991. As direct foreign investment by multinational corporations represents non-debt creating capital inflows we can avoid the liability of debt-servicing payments. Moreover, the advantage of investment by MNCs lies in the fact that servicing of non-debt capital begins only when the MNC firm reaches the stage of making profits to repatriate Thus, MNCs can play an important role in reducing stress strains and on India’s balance of payments (BOP).

3. Technology Transfer:

Another important role of multinational corporations is that they transfer high sophisticated technology to developing countries which are essential for raising productivity of working class and enable us to start new productive ventures requiring high technology. Whenever, multinational firms set up their subsidiary production units or joint-venture units, they not only import new equipment and machinery embodying new technology but also skills and technical know-how to use the new equipment and machinery.

As a result, the Indian workers and engineers come to know of new superior technology and the way to use it. In India, the corporate sector spends only few resources on Research and Development (R&D). It is the giant multinational corporate firms (MNCs) which spend a lot on the development of new technologies can greatly benefit the developing countries by transferring the new technology developed by them. Therefore, MNCs can play an important role in the technological up-gradation of the Indian economy.

4. Promotion of Exports:

With extensive links all over the world and producing products efficiently and therefore with lower costs multinationals can play a significant role in promoting exports of a country in which they invest. For example, the rapid expansion in China’s exports in recent years is due to the large investment made by multinationals in various fields of Chinese industry.

Historically in India, multinationals made large investment in plantations whose products they exported. In recent years, Japanese automobile company Suzuki made a large investment in Maruti Udyog with a joint collaboration with Government of India. Maruti cars are not only being sold in the Indian domestic market but are exported in a large number to the foreign countries.

As a matter of fact until recently, when giving permission to a multinational firm for investment in India, Government granted the permission subject to the condition that the concerned multinational company would export the product so as to earn foreign exchange for India.

However, in case of Pepsi, a famous cold -drink multinational company, while for getting a product license in 1961 to produce Pepsi Cola in India it agreed to export a certain proportion of its product, but later it expressed its inability to do so. Instead, it ultimately agreed to export things other than what it produced such as tea.

5. Investment in Infrastructure:

With a large command over financial resources and their superior ability to raise resources both globally and inside India it is said that multinational corporations could invest in infrastructure such as power projects, modernisation of airports and posts, telecommunication.

The investment in infrastructure will give a boost to industrial growth and help in creating income and employment in the India economy. The external economies generated by investment in infrastructure by MNCs will therefore crowd in investment by the indigenous private sector and will therefore stimulate economic growth.


In view of above, even Common Minimum Programme of the present UPA government provides that foreign direct investment (FDI) will be encouraged and actively sought, especially in areas of (a) infrastructure, (b) high technology and (c) exports, and (d) where domestic assets and employment are created on a significant scale.