On official data, the world's seventh largest economy with 1.3 billion consumers cemented its lead as the fastest-growing country in the world, clocking 7.3 per cent year-on-year in the last quarter – blazing past China, which posted 6.8 per cent, and the United States, which grew 0.7 per cent in the same three months to December.
However, analyst debate has intensified around India's growth ever since the Central Statistics Office revised the way it calculates GDP last February, bumping up the rate for previous years significantly. India's 4.7 per cent GDP in 2014-13 was recalculated as a vigorous 6.9 per cent.
This was particularly controversial, as India's Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian pointed out, that was a “crisis year" in India, when capital flowed out and interest rates tightened.
Subramanian was among many economists, government and private sector, who raised doubts about the revised growth numbers, branding them “mystifying". Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan agreed, telling reporters “we find it hard to see the economy as rollicking" that year.
Meanwhile, analysts began sifting through official data for new indicators to better match the perceived activity levels on the ground. This led to the creation of India's own version of the 'Li Keqiang index' following the Chinese premier's reported favourite indicators – in China's case railway cargo volume, electricity consumption and loans disbursed by banks.
India's Central Statistical Office did explain its method, noting it changed the base year from 2004-05 to 2011-12 and expanded coverage of manufacturing. It also switched the calculation from factory costs to the gross value of goods and services production at market prices, including indirect taxes.
Analysts were reportedly invited to a workshop in Delhi so bureaucrats could enlighten them on the finer points of the revisions, which included new ways of valuing livestock by-products, including skin and excrement, and counting households' expenditure on gold as savings, instead of consumption, as they did previously.
The CSO has a hard task ahead of it. When the latest GDP data was released on February 8 with forecasts for 7.6 per cent growth for the fiscal year, analysts began to ask questions.
“Based on the government's advance estimates, it seems to be recovering on an annual basis – to 7.3 per cent in FY16 from 4.9 per cent in FY13, we believe otherwise," Phillip Capital told investors.
Its analysts singled out 12.6 per cent growth in manufacturing – a historical high in the new GDP series – as “unrealistically strong," and reflecting zero impact from severe floods in the industrial hub city Chennai in November.
Ambit Capital, another Mumbai-based brokerage, has similar doubts.
“While there are certain segments of the economy that are holding up, such as IT or e-commerce, large parts of the economy are actually slowing down," Ritika Mankar Mukherjee, analyst and Associate Vice President at Ambit said.
“All our qualitative and quantitative data checks suggest GDP growth decisively decelerated in 2015-16."
Because India's GDP growth isn't supported by other economic data, it's made the robust rate “very controversial," according to Jayshree Sengupta, a senior fellow in the economy and development program at Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation.
“They've calculated India as the highest rate of growth in the world but nobody's feeling it, the ground reality's more than a little different," she said.
Mukherjee and Sengupta are among many economists who now look to other indicators to gauge India's economic health. Phillip Capital does the same, citing “reasonable doubts about GDP methodology, data, and deflator."
What indicators are analysts watching that seem to defy India's GDP numbers? Not long after India's GDP formula changed, Ambit developed India's Keqiang Index, which covers electricity demand, passenger car sales, capital goods imports and cargo handled at airports.
Ambit's read on economic momentum? “This indicator confirms our view the Indian economic is undergoing a pronounced economic slowdown," it told clients.