This paper explores the causes of India's productivity surge around 1980, more than a decade before serious economic reforms were initiated. Trade liberalization, expansionary demand, a favorable external environment, and improved agricultural performance did not play a role. We find evidence that the trigger may have been an attitudinal shift by the government in the early 1980s that unlike the reforms of the 1990s, was probusiness rather than promarket in character, favoring the interests of existing businesses rather than new entrants or consumers. A relatively small shift elicited a large productivity response, because India was far away from its income-possibility frontier. Registered manufacturing, which had been built up in previous decades, played an important role in determining which states took advantage of the changed environment.