India's services activity improved in March, with the S&P Global India Services Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) rising to a three-month high of 53.6 from 51.8 in February.
A reading above 50 indicates expansion in activity, while a sub-50 print is a sign of contraction.
IHS Markit - the compiler of the PMI - completed its merger with S&P Global on Febraury 28, leading to the renaming of the PMI for India as well as some other countries.
"Buoyed by the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, consumers were eager to go out and spend. Service providers recorded the fastest upturn in new business in 2022 so far, with an equal outcome seen for business activity," noted Pollyanna De Lima, economics associate director at S&P Global.
While the rise in new work in March was characterised as "solid", it was driven by the domestic market, with new business from abroad declining. Worryingly, the fall in new business from abroad was the fastest since September 2021.
The real concern, however, were prices.
The increase in costs in March was the most in 11 years, with service providers experiencing higher chemical, fuel, raw material, retail, transportation, and vegetable costs.
"Inflation risks continued to curb business optimism regarding growth prospects, with sentiment among services companies remaining subdued by historical standards. This lack of confidence in the outlook also meant that employment continued to fall in March," De Lima added.
Service sector jobs fell again in March even as the PMI increased to the highest in three months. However, the loss of service sector jobs in March was "only marginal".
While some companies passed on the the higher costs to consumers, on the whole, the increase in prices paid by consumers was "moderate and broadly in line with its long-run average" as price hikes were capped by the need to obtain new work, according to anecdotal evidence.
Like the services PMI, the composite PMI for March also rose to a three-month high of 54.3. Data released on April 4 showed the S&P Global India Manufacturing PMI declined to 54.0 in March from 54.9 in February.