Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Investments in India - building long term advantage

India has always admired the high Chinese domestic investment. Policy makers have also talked of striving for higher investment-led GDP growth in India. Contrast that with a fall in investment numbers and we seem to have a problem

In light of huge global over-capacities, particularly in metals etc., is it right for India to invest in similar capacities? I believe this is not a right way of deploying resources at the moment. For a start, it is advisable to invest in things that the world cannot provide, either because it is too local or because the global investment climate does not allow it. In both these cases there is a huge opportunity.

In terms of local investments, infrastructure is paramount. In fact investment can be directed at easily accessing the idle global capacity. Thus transportation infrastructure, namely ports, highways, ware-houses and terminals, railways etc., makes a good case for itself. Such infrastructure will also unleash local supply-chain efficiency reducing cost of goods while maintaining better quality. Agricultural produce, on which 55% of Indian population still depends, will be main beneficiary. Long ago, my colleagues at CRISIL did a study that indicated it was possible to double farm incomes by improving supply chain. I believe we underestimated the impact on incomes and possibly the doubling can be achieved with today's income.

Second dimension that needs impetus is information. For a country that is a leader in IT, we have poor information infrastructure. We can plan for unique products effectively. Small cars, unique food items (like spices, fruits and flowers unique to our climate etc.), IT services etc. can be strengthened. Rather than recreate redundant infrastructure, we must deploy investments to strengthen our advantages.

The impetus, at the moment, must come from the government. Almost all areas where India has advantage, save for IT, we have no policy backing. Organized industry hardly has any presence in such areas. Primarily, that is due to lack of clarity from government and proper strategic direction among private players. Let us hope things change and we make right investment and create sustainable value than create redundant supply that will wither the value away.

My book "Subverting Capitalism & Democracy" is available on Amazon and Kindle.