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Straight from the Specialists

A bumper crop may energize Indian industry

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Industrial growth in India in 2012 was less than a percent and data from April and May this year doesn’t show a lot of promise. The reluctance of industry to grow has been the reason for GDP growth dropping to a disappointing 5 percent, raising doubts about whether the India story has come to an end. That may be an extreme view considering that even the best performers, such as China, are having problems.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Monsoon rains have been above average this year and a bumper crop is expected. Agriculture contributes to around 20 percent of India’s GDP and even an 8 percent increase in agricultural production will at best improve GDP growth by a percent. But agriculture does have an impact on industry and both together can make a perceptible difference.

Before the nineties, when agriculture was a relatively larger sector of the economy, a good monsoon counted for a lot. But after reforms that gave new impetus to industry, agriculture is losing its relevance as a stimulant to industry. Still, a bumper crop does promote industry and helps it grow faster.

Agriculture provides industry with input such as grains for processed foods, sugarcane for the sugar industry, oilseeds for edible oil industry, cotton for textile industry and so on. About 30 percent of the manufacturing sector is agriculture-based. So a bumper crop eases the supply of raw material for industry.

Hyundai makes a grand move with the Grand i10

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In 1947, when India won freedom from British rule, an enterprising young man in South Korea was realizing a dream that was to become a global phenomenon. Chung Ju-yung, founder of the Hyundai group, set up a construction company at 32 and two decades later, the Hyundai Motor Company was born.

Indian telecoms at the crossroads again

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In the 18 years I have been working with Indian telecoms operators, I can recall several points where I felt the industry was at a crossroads in its evolution.

Sooner the better for RBI to unwind grip on liquidity

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) wasn’t expected to do anything new at its policy review on Tuesday and it did exactly that. But the markets still reacted adversely. The stock market moved in consort with the rupee with the Sensex falling 245 points.

It is generally true that markets overreact, more so in India, partly because market sentiment is affected far too quickly. What evoked these sentiments was the undue concern expressed by RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao about external uncertainties, more so about quantitative easing by the U.S. Federal Reserve and food inflation in India.

The paradox of India’s real estate business

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

Over the last two years, India has been battling various economic issues such as rising fiscal deficit, a falling rupee and increasing food inflation. No, nothing new there. And what does this have to do with real estate? Quite a lot.

A country’s economic performance has direct repercussions on how its real estate market behaves. This is especially true for the residential property segment. More prosperity means higher financial confidence among home buyers, and this leads to a greater demand for homes. The opposite is, of course, equally true.

New ways to distribute insurance policies

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

On a rainy day in Mumbai, I was chatting with the taxi driver. It was a prolonged journey, made worse by a never-ending traffic jam. We talked about insurance and I asked him about his insurance cover. I heard the familiar story of a man being cheated into buying an expensive plan; he escaped only after losing a lot of money.

When we think of insurance, it’s typically life, motor and health insurance that come to mind. These are relatively expensive and an already reluctant Indian consumer stays away unless forced into it. This ‘push’ component has become the default sales mode. Motor insurance is mandatory by law and should have ready acceptance. But a large number of vehicles on Indian roads are still not insured.

How the RBI’s recent measures affect you

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Reuters)

Banking is the backbone for growth in large economies such as India. Banks provide short-term finance to trade, industry and agriculture while also ensuring excess money is channelized into productive assets via deposits and financial intermediation.

Banks have to work under the stipulated policies of the central bank with respect to deposit mobilisation and lending for which they need to maintain minimum cash balances and government securities.

Time to get used to a weak rupee

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The fall of the rupee has become politically embarrassing. When the rupee crossed 60 to the dollar, the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) thought it was time to act. The RBI tried to suppress speculation that had exaggerated the rupee’s fall and the government sought to increase foreign resources to fund the current account deficit (CAD).

The RBI complied half-heartedly. “We let our exchange rate be largely market determined, but intervene in the market to smooth excess volatility and/or to prevent disruptions to macroeconomic stability,” Governor Duvvuri Subbarao said in a speech in London.

India Markets Weekahead: Prudent to hold cash

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Indian markets ended steady on Friday after rising to its highest intraday level in nearly two months. The Nifty closed up 0.33 percent at 6029, marking its fourth weekly gain.

A weakening rupee led to intervention by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which tightened liquidity and lifted short-term interest rates on Monday. Though the central bank’s stance against currency speculation has made it all the more difficult for speculators, it also sent bond yields soaring and led to concerns that an increased cost to borrowers would curtail growth that is already limping at 5 percent. Bond portfolios recorded losses, wiping out gains over the last few months.

Why the rupee is linked to jobs in the U.S.

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It appears odd that an increase in job offers in the United States should pull the rupee down in India. After all, any improvement in the U.S. economy should benefit the rest of the world. It means an increase in imports by the U.S. and exports by other countries. But there is more to it than that.

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