While China was once the hot emerging market for foreign investment — with its consistent double-digit GDP growth and massive population — it’s begun to lose luster in recent years amid slowing growth and what many businesses say is a deteriorating atmosphere for foreign companies. But India, with economic growth that’s been picking up steam, promising trends in demographics, urbanization, and infrastructure development, and a government that’s courting foreign investment, is starting to look more appealing.
“The rates of return for international investors [in India] have been average,” said Mini Roy, managing director at Standard Chartered Bank for emerging markets, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. “But there’s an expectation that if India opens up, you could make so much more. That’s why people are going.”
Speaking at Asia Society in New York on February 7 at an event on investment opportunities in India, Roy noted that, in spite of the shock demonetization announcement in November that voided certain currency notes, the government has made considerable strides in liberalizing the economy and making it more transparent and accessible for foreign investment. Two particularly promising sectors are infrastructure and consumer goods. “It’s a huge economy with a lot of people and they all need stuff,” she said.
Naveen Aggarwal, India-U.S. corridor leader at KPMG India, said that the country’s young population presents enormous potential, and a drive to connect far-flung regions by developing digital and transportation infrastructure means more and more of them will become active players in the economy. Half of India’s 1.25 billion population is under 25-years-old, and they’re rapidly urbanizing. “The modern Indian consumer is wanting to look better, travel better, eat better, and is aspirational, “Aggarwal said. “[There are] very different categories of products getting consumed today, ranging from automobiles to personal care products and restaurants.”
He also noted that of the 350,000 babies born around the world each day, 70,000 are in India. But currently, only 3 percent of them use diapers, which is one indicator of the untapped potential. “The opportunity there is $70 billion,” he said. “That’s the kind of consumerism we’re looking at in India — with the kind of urbanization and shift in demographics that we’re going to see.”
In the above video of the program, panelists discuss other sectors “ripe for investment” in India and the implications of government economic policies.