FRANKFURT, Germany—Sales of industrial robots in India reached a new record of 4,945 units in 2021, a 54 percent compared with the previous year, according to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). In terms of annual installations, India now ranks tenth worldwide.

“India is one of the world’s fastest-growing industrial economies,” says Marina Bill, IFR president. “Within five years, the operational stock of industrial robots has more than doubled, to reach 33,220 units in 2021. This corresponds to an average annual growth rate of 16 percent since 2016.”

Today, India is the world’s fifth largest economy measured by manufacturing output. According to World Bank data, India’s manufacturing value added in 2021 was $443.9 billion, a 21.6 percent increase from 2020.

The automotive industry remains the largest customer for the robotics industry in India with a share of 31 percent in 2021. Installations in this industry more than doubled to 1,547 units. Demand was also strong in the metals, rubber and plastics, and electrical and electronics industries.

The long-term potential of robotics in India becomes clearer when compared to China: India’s robot density in the automotive industry, which is the number of industrial robots per 10,000 employees, reached 148 robots in 2021. China’s robot density hit 131 units in 2010 and skyrocketed to 772 units in 2021.

“As a result of the recent supply chain disruption, companies are rethinking their nearshoring strategies in Southeast Asia,” says Bill, who is also group vice president and head of marketing and sales for robotics and discrete automation at ABB. “India has traditionally been a popular destination for nearshoring in the manufacturing segment. The Indian government wants the country to be considered for new diversification options, such as ‘friend-shoring,’ which is partnering with countries that share similar values and interests.”

The manufacturing sector is also expected to benefit from the government’s initiatives to boost its competitiveness and attractiveness for investors. The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, for example, currently set to run until 2025, subsidizes companies that create production capacity in India in robot customer industries like automotive, metal, pharmaceuticals and food processing. 

New manufacturing capacities in India are an important step to provide adequate education and employment opportunities for its people: According to projections of the United Nations, India now has a population of 1,4 billion, surpassing China for the first time. India is expected to have the largest working-age population in the world by 2027.