Can trade steer the Indo-Pacific towards recovery?

Trade presents as a very mixed story for countries in the Indo-Pacific region – there appears to be both peril and opportunity ahead.

On the peril side – lockdowns, disrupted supply chains, security tension and travel restrictions.

What’s on the opportunity side?

Not much, but we should be optimistic.

The plunge in world trade could be bottoming out. Weak global growth could turn into moderate growth. Closed borders might soon open. And tensions around key areas of trade, technology and security (ie around China) could stop festering.

Or maybe pigs might fly?

What do you think is ahead?

Let’s build a secure Indo-Pacific but talk of war is not helping

First mission of the UK’s new mega aircraft carrier The Queen Elizabeth, was into the Indo-Pacific which is the world’s hottest region right now.

Globally the key strategic location of the world is moving this way – to the Indo Pacific region – and it is happening with some urgency.

Why?

Because of the economic success, military preparedness, activity in the region and the general rise of China.

Urgent discussions are happening among democracies and those in the region – such as India – are seeking defence support to balance things with China.

It is all happening in a rush.

India is fast tracking strategic discussions and arrangements and just completed some ground-breaking strategic deals with the UK and the European Union.

Of symbolic importance, the first mission of the UK’s new mega aircraft carrier (The Queen Elizabeth) was into the Indian Ocean.

The language of all these deals is about China – without mentioning the name. For example, most seek “an open, free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight in the international seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes”.

That’s a lot of words but it adds up to one word – China.

A secure region is good for us all. A region too keen to go to war is not good for us.

On the extremes of the discussions are those who eagerly await the “drums of war” – let’s just remember that these are either the same people or in the same lineage as those who took the west into disasters such as Afghanistan, Iraq and many more right back to and including the Vietnam War.

They have been wrong every time.

Can the Indo-Pacific region achieve peace without repeating these mistakes?

Deakin University again leads the way with India

When organisations ask how to engage with India, the answer can be found in how Deakin University has built the India relationship.

Deakin has demonstrated patience, long term commitment, adaptability and real community engagement with India.

Their latest announcement takes it to another level:

“Deakin University’s relationship with India has been a key part of who we are for more than 27 years. Our Indian students and staff are an integral part of the Deakin community and we have been shocked and saddened seeing the COVID-19 crisis unfold. 

“After careful consideration about what we can do to help make a difference to the Indian community, we’ve decided to join forces with our long-time partners, Tata Trusts, through their initiative ‘One Against COVID-19’ to lend financial support and encourage our community and partners to do the same.

“Funds will go to the areas most in need, specifically to aid with:

  • Repairing/upgrading facilities
  • Staff training, and
  • Expert project management to improve the efficacy and efficiency of the health response

“These funds would be in addition to the existing Student Emergency Assistance Fund which supports Deakin students experiencing financial distress and would go directly to the individuals and public services in need in India.”

To Vice Chancellor Iain Martin and Ravneet Pawha, Deputy Vice President Global – well done for shining a light in the relationship with India.

India could be world’s third largest economy as soon as 2030

Two facts demonstrate India’s amazing economic growth:

First, today India is the world’s 6th largest economy.

Second, as soon as 2030, it is likely to be the 3rd largest.

Mugunthan Siva, CEO of India Avenue Investment Management (Sydney and Mumbai) makes a compelling case for India focused, actively managed high conviction funds and the investment themes he likes include technology, manufacturing, construction, rural, real estate, B2B and market share leaders.

You can read more here:

https://www.livewiremarkets.com/wires/why-india-could-be-third-placed-by-2030

India Avenue website:

Swami Vivekananda can teach us about cultural differences between India and the west

My Swami Vivekananda blog continues to gain reactions – he shows us how rich, diverse and deep is Indian culture and thought. He was the multitalented, multifaceted teacher, Hindu monk and spiritual guru, born in 1863. With his extremely popular and respected speeches of all times starting with “Brothers and sisters of America”, he introduced Hinduism at the parliament of world religions in Chicago way back in 1893.

Through study of his quotes, we can gain special insight into the cultural (thinking) differences between India and the west.

This learning comes with no judgement, no sense of one culture being better than another – it is offered in the spirit of understanding.

SV – “Truth can be stated in a thousand different ways, yet each one can be true.” 

This goes to the heart of cultural difference – the west treats truth as an “absolute”, meaning there is no room for difference or “relative” truth as stated in India.

This can show up in business activity, where the westerner sees the plan as fixed and set in concret(absolute), while the Indian sees it as just a plan, capable of change (relative).

SV – “All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in our own mind.”

Here the west takes a materialist and scientific view of knowledge, seeing the role of the mind to gain knowledge from the external world.

SV – “Bless people when they revile you. Think how much good they are doing by helping to stamp out the false ego.” 

In the individualistic culture of the west, from a young age we are trained to “stand up for ourselves” so the likely response from a westerner when reviled is to defend or even to attack. “The best form of defence is attack” is a common western phrase.

SV – “Things do not grow better; they remain as they are. It is we who grow better, by the changes we make in ourselves.” 

This internal view is very different from the west, where growing better is generally reflected in possessions, honours and achievements – in external things.

SV – “The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.” 

The big picture view of the world from the west is that it was put here for our benefit – so use it. At its worst, this has led to pollution and climate change. At its best, it is the basis of many innovations that benefit us all.

SV – “Do one thing at a Time, and while doing it put your whole soul into it to the exclusion of all else.” 

Multi-tasking has been highly fashionable in the west for decades and technology is the great enabler of it. But when you see a person totally focused on one task, you see how effective we humans can be.

SV – “All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.”

The concept of “oneness” is very foreign and strange to many westerners. They see differences as being of kind, and view the world through the lens of the individual, which is the opposite of “oneness”.

SV – “We are what our thoughts have made us. So, take care about what you think. Words are secondary, thoughts live and travel far.”

Thoughts are seen in the west as a totally private thing and secondary to what we do and say. Without words, a westerner could view thoughts as a waste of time.

SV –“Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes.”

This is a remarkably different view of life from how the west sees it. A westerner will strongly seek to either possess the attractive that comes or repel the negative that comes. In other words, far from “acceptance”, westerners take an activist approach to whatever life presents. It’s like a constant struggle.

SV – “In a conflict between the heart and the brain, follow your heart.”

“Think it through” is a much repeated piece of western advice, where the brain is given vast superiority over the heart.

SV – “The great secret of true success, of true happiness, is this: the man or woman who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish person, is the most successful.”

For many westerners this is a strange concept. Happiness is seen as something the individual must find and keep for themselves. Many would see virtue in sharing and being unselfish, but they would see it as folly to be “perfectly unselfish”.

The above are just my interpretations – offered in the hope that they give useful understanding of cultural differences. We can learn from each other. What do you think?

India’s millennials drive a shift to consumer demand

India’s millennials – what a shock – are borrowing for consumables.

This is a massive generational shift in India where previous generations believed in first saving and then buying – even if it took years or ultimately going without.

Consumer credit companies such as TVS Credit and Bajaj Finserv have been increasing the share of their offerings to these niche segments not covered by conventional lenders and NBFCs.

The loans are known as EMI’s (equated monthly instalments) and are used to buy various goods, including mobile phones, consumer durables and small-ticket items on easy, no-cost EMIs via loans or credit cards.

It is the segment of youthful, low-income but tech-savvy consumers that fintech lenders are targeting – half the small loans are of Rs5,000 or less.

The country’s largest AI-enabled consumer lending platform, ZestMoney, noted in a report that it had seen more than 125% growth in EMI funding.

E-commerce majors such as Amazon, Myntra, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Decathlon and Paytm, among others, have seen a substantial surge in online sales in the past year due to EMI financing schemes – and digital payments mean no cash.

The New India is not afraid of debt – signalling a major uplift in consumer demand for decades to come.

Adani takes giant steps towards becoming the world’s leading renewables company

Adani Group taking giant steps towards becoming the world’s largest solar power player by 2025.

Adani is taking a massive lead in India into green energy renewables.

But in Australia it is still seen as “the Indian coal company” because of its activities in Queensland – in this market the Adani reputation has taken a hit as a result.

The reality is Adani is a leader in green energy and just got a lot bigger!

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), this week signed share purchase agreements for the acquisition of 100% interest in SB Energy India from SBG (80%) and Bharti Group (20%). 

SB Energy India has a total renewable portfolio of 4,954 MW spread across four states in India.

Adani is super serious about renewables – the transaction marks the largest acquisition in the renewable energy sector in India. The transaction values SB Energy India at an enterprise valuation of approximately USD 3.5 billion.

The target portfolio consists large scale utility assets with 84% solar capacity (4,180 MW), 9% wind-solar hybrid capacity (450 MW) and 7% wind capacity (324 MW).

With this acquisition, AGEL will achieve total renewable capacity of 24.3 GW (1) and operating renewable capacity of 4.9 GW.

You’ve got to hand it to Gautam Adani who has the vision to be the leader in sustainable energy transition globally and makes it one of the largest renewable energy platforms in the world.

Mr Adani created a vision in January 2020, wherein he laid out our plans to become the world’s largest solar player by 2025 and thereafter the world’s largest renewable company by 2030.

India Avenue 36.6% return for Australian investors in India

INTO INDIA has written before about Aussie fund managers India Avenue Investment Management. Their India Avenue Equity Fund is a standout.

It’s fact sheet for the month ending April 2021 is now available. Contact the CEO Mugunthan.Siva@indiaavenueinvest.com

The fund has delivered 36.6% over the last 12 months outperforming the index by 9.1%. 

The Fact Sheet explores how India is progressing through the 2nd wave and what sectors will benefit

The India Avenue story shows why active management through local connectivity in India is of critical importance and why it will continue to win, especially during uncertain times such as the pandemic 

The India Avenue Equity Fund is available on the following investment platforms: Macquarie Wrap, Netwealth, Hub24, Mason Stevens, Powerwrap and Praemium. In New Zealand, it is available on FNZ / One Answer, Aegis and InvestNow.

You’ll see many familiar names in their portfolio – Bajaj, Infosys, HDFC Bank, Kotak Mahindra and Tata Consulting Services.

But many have not heard of others such as – Kaveri Seed, Info Edge, Redington, Aurobindo Pharma, Divis Laboratories, Avenue Supermarts and Brigade Enterprises.

India Avenue has a local India team and the ability to drill down beyond the majors favoured by most global funds.

UK and India pragmatic negotiators achieve a trade and investment deal

INTO INDIA has been advocating for Australia to do what deals can be done with India, and “park” a Free Trade Agreement for later on.

The UK-India Virtual Summit has done just that.

Their newly created Enhanced Trade Partnership (bureaucratic speak for “these are the things we can agree on now) will create immediate opportunities for British businesses in India across industries including food and drink, life sciences and the service sector.

Non-tariff barriers on fruit and medical devices will be lowered, allowing British businesses to export more of their products to India and boosting UK growth and jobs. It also commits both sides to addressing immediate market access barriers as well as continuing to seek further opportunities on the road to an FTA. That is, “parking” the FTA for later on – it is just too hard to achieve.

Prime ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson held their Virtual Summit this week and agreed on a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” – the first European country to gain this status.

Australian PM Morrison achieved a CSP with India in 2020 and set out collaboration across science and technology, maritime issues, defence and more.

CSP deals are a sign that India is become more outward looking and – like everyone else – concerned about the behaviour of China.

The trade and investment package unveiled by the British government contains over £533 million of new Indian investment into the UK, covering areas such as healthcare and technology.

British businesses have also secured new export deals with India worth more than £446 million, which is expected to create more than 400 British jobs.

I hope our Australian trade officials are going through all the detail to see if any deals Australia has with India can now be updated on a deal-by-deal basis.

Indian startups – the real story

For decades Ashith Kampani has been in the Mumbai financial markets, giving him a front and centre seat to the Indian start-up environment. Here is his review – the real story.

Globally start-up names have become common in our lives – twenty years ago, today’s top names such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Alibaba, WeChat, Baidu, Uber, Ola, Instagram, Slack, PayPal, Tesla, SpaceX, Flipkart etc. did not exist or barely made a mark in the mind of consumers. These brands have made it to the top of the valuation charts over the last two decades.

Each firm named above has been funded by the elite global VC and Private Equity firms. This trend continues.

India is still in the catch-upstage of having an organised and monitored ecosystem for its indigenous start-ups. In the Indian start-up ecosystem local ideas and local capital pools locally are mismatched.

Although Indian Angel and Seed investors have been on the rise, risk appetite has not increased.

What is needed to encourage investment? Local investors need a curator who will qualify founders, whet business models and create capacity building. This will allow deep tech to grow locally.

The areas that Indian needs to develop more efficiency in are BFSI (Banking, financial services and insurance), CPG(Consumer Packaged Goods), Smart Infrastructure, Health Care, Real Estate, Defence & Aerospace.

BFSI and Health Care have many start-up names where optimisation and efficiency levels have shown some improvement but many existing large players in Banking and Health Care are dependent on legacy systems which will require a large capex to upgrade.

In CPG & Smart Infrastructure there are fragmented players. Real Estate has many platforms, but they are part of a broken ecosystem as they are mainly matching and advertising platforms. Defence and Aerospace are a restricted sector due to government controls. However, India needs local start-ups to provide the “make & made in India” technology. This is urgently needed.

India based or born start-ups include PayTm, FlipKart, Ola, Oyo, Baiju, Swiggy, Zometo, Grofers, Nyakaa etc. They are all 10-12 years old. None of them have a dominant market share and are burning funds to acquire customers.

With a few exceptions, founders’ stakes are diluted below 15% ownership. I am OK with equity dilution as founders may have faced challenges initially to raise capital. However, if these early-stage capital pools were raised within India and in INR (Indian rupee) that would be preferable to an infusion of USD denominated funds.

Today hardly any start-ups are indigenously funded onshore in India. This is changing. Select names such as Lets Venture, angel groups which are city centric and micro-VC firms have started to commit between $100K to $1 Million in pre-seed or seed rounds.

India needs few hundred start-up names to work along with platforms like Lets Venture and a few more to provide risk capital.

Accelerators are scarce and should be encouraged to scale rapidly as well.

India also needs a centralised monitoring system on how start-ups are faring and what kind of ecosystem support is needed. These platforms can keep an eye on the progress of start-ups and create visibility and business opportunities for start­ups by bringing synergistic players on.

For example, start-ups can raise initial capital and receive visibility on the platform. They are then discovered by larger enterprises that need their services. Such platforms can be initially funded by enterprises (mid to Large) who shall have first access to the innovations of the nurtured start-ups.

Sector Analysis for India

CPG and Retail

There are four big players: Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket, Reliance. The first three are attacking the market from an e-commerce angle with an internet front end paired with a warehouse back end. They negotiate hard with CPG players and offer attractive lower prices to consumers to as well as home delivery. The fourth, Reliance Retail has tied up with Kirana stores for last mile delivery and storage. However, Kirana may lose its business to Reliance Retail in the distant future.

Both the models pose challenges to existing small stores. Today 85% of FMCG & CPG sales are in single or small stores while Ecom and organised retail have a combined market share around 15% (other names like Delhivery, ShopX, Udaan, RingRing are still growing while some have given up).

BFSI

This is the most active and largest sector where digital offerings have taken the front row. Frontend players like Digital Lending / Neo Banks/ Payments/ Foreign Exchange offer services which compete with large banks and lenders. There are many players who digitise middle and back-ops for fintechs, lenders and banks.

Competition is fierce and it is a dog-eat-dog market where service levels and delivery are key as pricing is dictated via negotiated deals. Barriers to entry are also high. Large entrants such as Amazon Pay, Google Pay, Phone Pe Bharat Pe have been more visible than silent players like Razor Pay, Pine Labs, Pay U etc. New Neo Banks have been creating a buzz as well (Epify, Jupiter, Niyo, Ocare etc). I have not factored in Jio, but they have big plans in BFSI.

Smart Infrastructure

One of the biggest markets with select international players in this market as local start-ups do not have enough funding yet. Personally, I would watch this segment carefully as new Indian players enter.

Health Care

This is now a most vibrant sector thanks to the recent pandemic Covid19. Vaccine creation to efficient delivery is a large and needed segment. Connecting the health of each individual (with assessment) into a seamless hospital, insurance and finance model will make a positive impact on many lives. Today we have cashless health insurance, but it is a fragmented system. Start-ups are better positioned to offer a solution to repair such an awkward process.

Real Estate

Real Estate is also a broken system in India. Renting or purchasing needs to be repaired as the experience is not seamless. Only some parts are digitised, and none offers an end-to-end service. This is a totally broken experience and must be repaired end to end.

Conclusion

The Indian market of 1.4 Billion people needs many start-ups to create products and services which suits the needs of Indian people. The road ahead in India and South Asia is extremely optimistic as start-ups can simplify, digitise and link together transactions.

The market opportunity is vast but initial funding needs to be localised and customised to the India based entrepreneur. More platforms that can offer funding, visibility, sales and exit needs to be encouraged.

About the Author

Ashith Kampani has spent 38 years in capital market. Journey began with family stock broking firm on Dalal Street open outcry system to all digital online trading systems. During this journey he spent time with retail, wealth management, institutional equities, private equities, Investment Banking M&A and now in Venture Capital and early-stage Investment and advisory. Worked with JV partner Morgan Stanley and before stepping down he was MD at JM Financial. Currently Chairman at CosmicMandala15 Group & Member of Managing Committee Bombay Chamber.