Sunday, October 29, 2006

bullish outlook on the economy

The "Hindu" rate of GDP growth was a consistant 4% annual for decades since Independence, in the late 90's it averaged to about 6% ... but over the last couple years the economy seems to be turbo charged and touching 9% with double digit growths not a pipe dream anymore ! India is emerging slowly but surely as a key influencer in the global economy ... consider the following facts :

1) Exports : Up 50% in the last 3 years ... both goods & services ( driven by IT ). This despite the fact that the rupee has been rising against the dollar ! Total exports crossed $120 Billion last year and the trend continues unabated this fiscal. Exports as a % of GDP has gone up significantly from <> 21% last fiscal. Clear indication that liberalization is working and India is becoming a more significant player in the global economy. There of course still is a dose of control since the Rupee is not fully convertible as yet ... but if Mr Manmohan Singh has promised that we are getting there !
2) FDIs : From zilch even in the '90s to > $20 billion last fiscal. Shows the confidence of the world's moneybags in the Indian economy. Total Forex reserves have crossed $150 Billion. This from a situation not long ago in the '90s when we had to pawn our Gold reserves to pay of World bank debts and avoid bankruptcy ( around the Gulf war period which in a way triggered liberalization : the one memorable thing Mr. Narasimha Rao did for the country ).
3) Infrastructure : The govt has pledged to spend $320 billion on roads / airports / ports etc by 2010 ! Yes, corruption exists, I may be overly optimistic and we need to see what really gets done ... but hey when was the last time our government had the gumption to take up such lofty goals ? Surely a far cry from the modest "5 year plans" we used to read about in school.
4) Agriculture : Going down substantially as a % of GDP ( 50% in '70s to <>300 million middle class consumers finally seem to be biting ! ). Strategies are being made to triple the business over the next few years.
-- Infrastructure has a long way to go ... but has already seen a step jump in the past 5 years. I drove from Mumbai to Pune last month ( 160 km ) in 1.5 hrs thanks to the new highway and the fact that cars are no longer the antiquated Ambys and Padminis which would wobble at 60 km/hr. Air travel is hugely more affordable and a new domestic airline pops up every 6 months driving even more competition. With Air Deccan / Spice Jet ( low cost airlines ) I can do a mumbai-kolkata-mumbai weekend trip and visit my parents for as low as Rs 3500 anytime I want. Ditto for Logistics costs ( either roads / rail ) which helps companies beef up their distribution networks and start targeting the "rural" markets, which anyway has increasing affluence ... thereby triggering a positive spiral.
-- Consumer behaviour : With malls coming up in every nook and corner Indians are changing their spending behaviour dramatically ... I see a total shift from a "savings" to "spend what u earn" mentality. Driven probably by spiralling salaries, double income households and general easy availability of commodities. Also while the per capita on absolute terms is a piddly $700 pa but on PPP its not too bad at $3500 ... which means that the top quarter of the 1 Billion population definitely has some money muscle. Reliance just announced its "Walmart" like plans of launchin its own retail outlets across the country. The move to organised retail ( slow but sure ) is yet another "visible" sign that ... times they are a changing !!!