With all the focus on China, India is being largely ignored in Australia, both from a business and investment point of view, says David Thomas, founder and head of Sydney-based Think Global Consulting.
Media coverage and business attention seems to be directed towards China, in the form of the World Expo, the resources boom, government policy on foreign investment and so on, he adds. “I believe this is a mistake, because India deserves at least the same coverage as China, certainly from an investment point of view, if not more,” he says.
Thomas will be leading an Australian investment delegation to India in November, which will take in Mumbai, Agra and Delhi and involve investment and political briefings and networking sessions with local executives.inancial Forum in Hong Kong in January.
Australian fund-management and services executives visit the forum in Hong Kong at the start of this year. The trip was aimed at helping expand those firms’ businesses in the Asia-Pacific region – particularly in China and Hong Kong – and at piquing interest in the Australian funds market among Asian investors.
However, Thomas argues that India is not getting sufficient attention, and sets out eight reasons why he feels the country offers a “seriously compelling story” for investors.
Firstly, there is the size of the economy. India’s GDP is currently $1.3 trillion, making it the eighth largest economy in the world. However, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, which recognises India's low cost base, the GDP notionally rises to three times this amount ($3.8 trillion), putting it on a par with Japan. And, by 2013, it will become the third largest economy in the world (after the US and China) in PPP terms.
However, despite representing 7.5% of global GDP on a PPP basis, India attracts less than 0.5% of investment inflows. Thomas suggests this “anomaly” is unlikely to continue for much longer.
Then there’s the country's growth. India’s economy is expanding by 8.75% a year (in 2010), and this annual GDP growth rate is expected to increase to 9-10% for each of the next 10 years, he says. If that is borne out, India's GDP will grow five times in the next 20 years, and GDP per capita will almost quadruple.
Thirdly, Thomas cites the country’s diversity. The Indian economy offers investors exposure to a wide range of opportunities, from consumer goods and pharmaceuticals to infrastructure, energy and agriculture. With its strong services sector (comprising 50% of the economy), particularly in knowledge-based services (IT, software and business services), India has proved that industrialisation and the export of commodities and resources is not the only path to rapid economic development, he says.
In terms of demographics, India is one of the youngest countries in the world, with an average age of 25, and is likely to get younger. The working-age population will increase by 240 million over the next 20 years, notes Thomas. With a population of 1.2 billion, a strong work ethic, high levels of education, democracy, English-language skills and an entrepreneurial culture, India is poised to dominate the global economy in the next 20 years, he adds.
Further positive factors include the high savings rate of 37% of GDP and the fact that only 20% of total public debt is sourced from foreign borrowing, says Thomas. As a result, India’s domestic savings fuel most of its investment requirements. With an estimated $1.7 trillion of investment to be made in upgrading the country’s poor infrastructure in the next 10 years, he adds, the government is taking steps to further encourage private and foreign investments.
Meanwhile, domestic consumption -- generally led by the private sector -- has played a significant role in India’s growth and is expected to remain firm as more people enter the workforce and the emerging middle classes, Thomas says. The number of India's wealthiest consumers (those earning $1 million or more in PPP terms) will increase by 40 million in the next 10 years, a point that has led private banks, for example, to boost their focus on the segment, both onshore and offshore.
Every sector within India's consumer market is booming, adds Thomas, making India far less vulnerable to external shocks and pressures than other emerging markets.
A seventh factor Thomas cites is India’s “robust, diversified and well regulated financial system”, which he says has allowed it to weather the global financial crisis without any major difficulties. He also points to a strong banking sector, with “top-quality balance sheets, high levels of competition (there are around 80 banks in India) and strong corporate governance”.
Finally, the Bombay Stock Exchange offers investors a low-cost, highly efficient, modern and well governed environment in which to prosper from India's extraordinary economic growth, Thomas says. The Indian stock market has generated investment returns of over 15% a year for the past 10 years, and experts expect that rate to increase in the next decade, he adds.
More significantly perhaps, he says, Indian investors have doubled their money over the last three years, at a time when many have lost money in almost every other market.