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What is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)?

What is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)?
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Welcome to the dynamic world of the stock market, where investment opportunities abound and fortunes can be made. As an investor, it’s essential to acquaint yourself with the various avenues that can potentially amplify your financial growth. One such avenue is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the share market. FDI stands for Foreign Direct Investment. FDI is like a gateway to global investment, allowing you to participate in the success of companies beyond your national borders.

Therefore, in this blog, we will unravel the concept and meaning of FDI,  explore its significance and FDI regulations in India. So, fasten your seatbelt and let’s begin.

What is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)?

Foreign Direct Investment meaning is a type of investment in which a company or individual from one country invests in a company or asset in another country. Foreign investment can take many forms. This includes the purchase of shares, bonds, or other securities; the establishment of a new business; or the acquisition of an existing business. The importance of FDIs in the stock market is not only to bring money with them but also skills, technology and knowledge.

Unlike other forms of FDI, such as portfolio investment where investors only hold financial securities like stocks and bonds. FDI involves acquiring ownership stakes or establishing a significant level of control in the foreign entity. The purpose of FDI is to gain long-term involvement in the foreign market, generate profits, access new markets, and transfer technology and expertise.

Foreign Direct Investments in India: Overview

Indian economic development relies heavily on the flow of FDI. After the 1991 crisis, India began liberalizing its economy and has seen foreign direct investment steadily increase since then. Let’s have a look at the advancements:

  • Today, India is ranked number one in the greenfield FDI ranking globally and is part of the top 100-club on Ease of Doing Business (EoDB).
  • The top sources of Foreign Direct Investment into India are the United States, Mauritius, Singapore, and Japan. These four countries accounted for over 70% of all foreign direct investment inflows into India in 2022.
  • The sectors that attract the most FDI into India are manufacturing, services, and infrastructure. Manufacturing accounted for 35% of all FDI flows into India in 2022. While services accounted for 30% and infrastructure accounted for 25%.
  • Foreign Direct Investment has helped to boost economic growth in India. In 2022, India’s GDP grew by 8.7%, which was the fastest pace of growth in any major economy.
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has also helped to create jobs in India. In 2022, FDI created an estimated 10 million jobs in India.
  • The concept of FDI has also helped to improve India’s technology and infrastructure. Foreign Direct Investment has brought new technologies and investment into India. This has helped to improve the country’s productivity and competitiveness.

Government Measures to Increase FDI in India

  • In 2016, the government launched the ‘Make in India’ initiative. This aims to attract $1 trillion in FDI over five years. The initiative has been successful in attracting FDI in several sectors, including manufacturing, electronics, and automobiles.
  • In 2019, the government amended the FDI policy to allow 100% FDI in the insurance sector and the defense sector. This has made it easier for foreign companies to invest in these sectors.

If the trend continues and the foreign direct investment policy keeps on simplifying the approval process, then the investment climate for Foreign Direct Investment in India is likely to grow more.

FDI Regulations

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regulations in India are designed to attract foreign investment while also protecting the country’s economy and interests. The regulations are set out in the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), 1999 and the Consolidated FDI Policy. These are issued by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

How Does Foreign Direct Investment Work?

Foreign direct investment (FDI) companies or governments usually choose target companies in open economies that offer a skilled workforce and above-average growth prospects. Unlike FPI, FDI goes beyond capital. The major difference between FPI vs FDI is that foreign direct investment establishes effective control over the foreign business or at the very least substantial influence over its decisions.

The true meaning of foreign direct investment is to act as a bridge connecting the aspirations of a host country with the resources and expertise of foreign investors. It involves the transfer of capital, technology, and knowledge, resulting in a symbiotic relationship where both parties reap the benefit. Investors from one country can take the lead and venture into the fertile grounds of another nation. They embrace the local market, creating new enterprises or acquiring existing ones with a twirl of strategic brilliance. 

However, it is important to note that, foreign investment decisions require a delicate balance. With both host and home countries synchronizing their policies and aspirations to ensure mutual benefits.

What are the Types of FDI?

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is when a company invests in another country by establishing a new business or acquiring an existing one. There are three main types of foreign direct investment:

  • Horizontal FDI: This occurs when a company invests in another country to produce the same products or services that it produces in its home country. For example, a U.S. car manufacturer might build a new factory in China to produce cars for the Chinese market.
  • Vertical FDI: When a company invests in another country to acquire a supplier or distributor for its products or services. For example, a U.S. clothing company might acquire a textile mill in India to produce the fabric for its clothes.
  • Conglomerate FDI: It occurs when a company invests in another country to produce products or services that are unrelated to its core business. For example, a U.S. telecommunications company might invest in a hotel chain in Europe.

What are the Factors Affecting FDI in India?

There are many factors that can affect foreign direct investment. Some of the most important factors FDI include: 

  • Market Size: Foreign direct investment is often attracted to countries with large and growing markets. This is because companies want to sell their products or services to a large number of potential customers.
  • Economic Growth: FDI is also attracted to countries with strong economic growth. This is because companies want to invest in countries where there is a demand for their products or services and where the economy is likely to continue to grow.
  • Political Stability: FDI is also attracted to countries with political stability. This is because companies want to invest in countries where there is a low risk of political upheaval or violence.
  • Tax Rates: Foreign direct investment can also be affected by tax rates. Companies are more likely to invest in countries with lower tax rates.
  • Infrastructure: FDI can also be affected by the quality of infrastructure in a country. Companies are more likely to invest in countries with good transportation, communication, and energy infrastructure.
  • Labor Costs: Foreign direct investment can also be affected by labor costs. Companies are more likely to invest in countries with low labor costs.
  • Intellectual Property Rights: FDI can also be affected by the protection of intellectual property rights. Companies are more likely to invest in countries where their intellectual property is protected from theft or infringement.

What are the Permissible FDI Routes in India?

There are three permissible FDI routes in India that have been described in the following table: 

Category 1Category 2Category 3
FDI up to 100% is allowed under the automatic route in most sectors. There are a few exceptions, such as the defense sector, where FDI is restricted to 49%.The Government Route requires prior approval from the government through the respective ministries/departments.In these sectors, foreign investors can invest up to a certain limit under the automatic route, but any investment beyond that limit will require prior approval from the government

Automatic Route Sectors

  • Manufacturing
  • Services
  • Infrastructure
  • Healthcare
  • Education

Government Route Sectors

  • Defense
  • Telecommunications
  • Media
  • Banking
  • Insurance

Automatic and Government Route Sectors

  • Mining
  • Petroleum
  • Natural gas

Sectors Where FDI is Prohibited

Here’s a list of sectors where foreign direct investment (FDI) is prohibited in India:

  • Lottery Business: This includes government lotteries, private lotteries, and online lotteries.
  • Gambling and Betting Activities: This includes casinos, betting exchanges, and other forms of gambling.
  • Chit Funds: These are unregulated savings schemes that are popular in India.
  • Nidhi Company: A type of company that can only borrow money from its members and lend money to its members.
  • Trading in Transferable Development Rights (TDRs): These are rights to develop land that are issued by local authorities.

Other Sectors

In addition to these prohibited sectors, there are also several sectors where FDI is restricted. These sectors include:

  • Defense: Foreign investment in defense companies is limited to 49%.
  • Infrastructure Companies in the Securities Market: Foreign investment in infrastructure companies in the securities market is limited to 49%.
  • Insurance and Sub-Activities: Foreign investment in insurance companies and sub-activities is limited to 49%.
  • Power Exchanges: Foreign investment in power exchanges is limited to 49%.

The Indian government has the right to review and change the FDI policy at any time. Therefore, it is important to check with the government for the latest information before investing in India.

How to Invest in FDI? 

The process of investing in FDI can vary depending on the country and the type of investment. However, there are some general steps that are common to most FDI transactions. These steps include:

  • Identifying an Investment Opportunity: The first step is to identify an investment opportunity that can meet the company’s objectives. This may involve researching different countries, industries, and companies.
  • Conducting due Diligence: Once an investment opportunity has been identified, it’s advisable to conduct due diligence to assess the risks and potential returns of the investment. This can involve reviewing the financial statements of the target company, as well as its legal, regulatory, and environmental compliance.
  • Negotiating the Terms of the Investment: Once the company has decided to proceed with the investment, it can negotiate the terms of the investment with the target company. This may include the purchase price, the ownership structure, and the governance of the new entity.
  • Obtaining Regulatory Approvals: Depending on the country and the type of investment, the company may need to obtain regulatory approvals from the government.
  • Closing the Transaction: After obtaining all the necessary approvals, the company may need to close the transaction. This will involve transferring the ownership of the assets and completing the necessary paperwork.

Who Can Invest in FDI? 

Various entities can invest in foreign direct investment (FDI), including:

  • Multinational Corporations (MNCs): MNCs are a major source of FDI, as they often establish new businesses or acquire existing businesses in foreign countries to expand their reach and market share.
  • Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs): State-owned investment funds that manage the financial assets of a country are SWFs. They can invest in FDI on behalf of their government, often to diversify their investment portfolio and generate long-term returns.
  • Private Equity Firms: Private equity firms are investment firms that raise capital from institutional and individual investors to invest in private companies. They can invest in FDI by acquiring existing businesses or providing funding for new business ventures in foreign countries.
  • Pension Funds and Insurance Companies: Pension funds and insurance companies manage large pools of capital. They can invest in FDI by purchasing shares of foreign companies. Also, investing in foreign bonds, or participating in real estate projects in foreign countries.
  • Individual Investors: Individual investors can also invest in FDI. But they typically do so through intermediaries such as mutual funds or exchange-traded funds (ETF) that specialize in foreign investments.

The specific rules and regulations governing who can invest in FDI vary from country to country. However, in general, most countries welcome FDI and encourage foreign investors to invest in their economies. This is because FDI can bring a number of benefits, such as job creation, economic growth, and technology transfer.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Foreign Direct Investments?

There are several advantages and disadvantages of FDI for both host and home countries. The advantage of foreign direct investment is that it fuels economic growth by creating employment opportunities, fostering technological advancements, and boosting productivity. It also contributes to infrastructural development and helps host countries attract foreign exchange earnings and increased tax revenue. Furthermore, FDI facilitates knowledge transfer and skills enhancement, improving living standards and quality of life. 

However, there are potential drawbacks to consider. Dependency on foreign investors can leave host countries vulnerable to economic fluctuations and changes in investor sentiment. Local industries may face stiff competition or even displacement, impacting domestic businesses negatively. Additionally, issues such as exploitation, inequality, and political and regulatory risks may arise. Governments and stakeholders must strike a balance, carefully weighing the benefits and challenges of FDI.

Examples of Foreign Direct Investment 

Direct foreign investments can take the form of mergers, acquisitions, or partnerships in the retail sector, in services, or in logistics. Their growth strategy indicates a multinational approach. Here we have listed down two prominent Foreign Direct Investment examples for you:

  • Google picked up 7.73% of Reliance’s ‘Jio Platforms’ for USD 4.5 billion, making it one of the biggest deals in recent Indian corporate fundraising sessions. 
  • In 2022, Tesla, a US-based electric car company, opened a new factory in Shanghai, China. The factory can produce 500,000 cars per year and is anticipated to generate 10,000 jobs. Tesla’s investment in China is an example of FDI because it involves a foreign company (Tesla) investing in a business in another country (China).

To Wrap It Up…

Undoubtedly, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in India is poised for exponential growth. The Indian government has taken significant measures to open up various sectors, including the aviation industry, allowing 100% FDI. As a result, India has emerged as an attractive investment destination, offering a vast market, a skilled workforce, and a favourable business environment. With the entry of more international players into the domestic market, consumers stand to reap the greatest advantages of foreign direct investment. 


1. Who introduced FDI in India?

Foreign direct investment (FDI) was introduced in India in 1991 under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) by the then Finance Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

2. What are three examples of direct investing?

The example of foreign direct investment are Greenfield Investment (setting up a new business in a foreign country from scratch), Joint Ventures (two or more companies come together to create a new entity), and Acquiring or Merging with an existing foreign business.

3. What is vertical FDI examples in India?

Vertical FDI, or vertical foreign direct investment, occurs when a company invests in a foreign company that is either upstream or downstream in its supply chain. This can be done for a number of reasons, such as to secure a reliable source of supply, to gain access to new markets, or to improve efficiency.

4. Which country has the highest FDI in India?

As of 2022, Singapore has the highest foreign direct investment in India. In the financial year 2021-22, Singapore invested $15.9 billion in India, accounting for 27% of the total FDI. Followed by the United States and Mauritius.

5.  Which state has the highest FDI in India?

As of 2022, Karnataka has the highest FDI in India. In the financial year 2021-22, Karnataka received $16.3 billion in foreign direct investment, accounting for 28% of the total foreign direct investment.

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