India Insight

Equity funds underperform Sensex for first time since 2008

India’s diversified equity mutual funds rose in 2013 but underperformed the broader markets for the first time in five years, as returns were dampened by the losses in the mid- and small-cap shares as well as financial companies.

These funds gained 4.8 percent on average in 2013, according to data from fund tracker Lipper, delivering lesser annual returns than the benchmark BSE Sensex after 2008.  The Sensex touched life highs in 2013 and ended 9 percent higher, boosted by foreign inflows of more than $20 billion.

Shares of smaller companies, however, underperformed, with the BSE mid-cap index falling 5.7 percent and the small-cap index sliding 11.2 percent. Waqar Naqvi, chief executive at Taurus Mutual Fund, said the sharp fall in mid- and small-cap stocks came as a surprise in 2013.

“It was not expected that the market would create a life-time high again this year (2013) … I think it was a directional call which was unexpectedly in the other direction, which led to a situation where you did not load up yourself much more with large caps,” Naqvi said.

Funds were hurt because of significant exposure to smaller shares — data from Morningstar India showed that 35.54 percent of equity funds’ assets on average were allocated to such stocks during Jan-Nov. Data for December was not yet available.

Sensex performers in 2013: TCS surges 73 percent, Sun Pharma gains 54 percent

By Aditya Karla and Sankalp Phartiyal

The BSE Sensex ended 2013 with gains of 9 percent after hitting life highs during the year. The benchmark index touched an all-time high of 21,483.74 on Dec. 9 after falling to a 2013 low of 17,448.71 in August.

Foreign inflows boosted sentiment on the street even as concerns about a slowing economy and high inflation weighed. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) bought a net $20.1 billion worth of Indian shares in the year. FIIs had bought $24.5 billion worth of stocks in 2012.

The sharp fall in the rupee and recovering U.S and European economies boosted export-driven sectors, helping shares in many IT and pharma companies rank among the top Sensex performers.

Bollywood actor Farooq Shaikh dies at 65

Farooq Shaikh, the actor who embodied Everyman in Hindi films of the 1980’s and portrayed many memorable characters on screen, died in Dubai on Saturday. He was 65.

Shaikh is best known for his roles in films such as “Katha”, “Saath Saath” and “Chashme Buddoor”, where he straddled both commercial and art house cinema successfully.

His deadpan sense of humour stood him in good stead during his stint on television, where he played the lead in the Hindi adaptation of the British series “Yes, Prime Minister”.

The best (and worst) Bollywood films of 2013

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

This was the year of the mega blockbuster in Bollywood. Box-office records were broken in 2013 as more and more audiences thronged into cinemas. It was also the year that Indian cinema celebrated a century of existence, cementing its place as one of the world’s most prolific film industries — one that thrives on its own audiences and talent, without having to borrow from elsewhere.

As for content, it was a mixed year, with an overriding focus on catering to the lowest common denominator to bring in the money. Films such as “Chennai Express” and “Dhoom 3” proved that, backed by a big star, this formula still works like a charm.

Critics, thankfully, don’t have to go by numbers. Here then, are my picks for the year’s best and worst, in no particular order:

Tendulkar exits, Anand slips during emotional 2013

Sachin Tendulkar bid a teary-eyed farewell to cricket while contemporary Viswanathan Anand lost his world chess crown in an emotional year for Indians in sports.

Forty-year-old Tendulkar, statistically the greatest batsman ever, walked into the sunset in November after his 200th test at his home Wankhede Stadium brought the cricket-crazy nation to a standstill.

“My life’s been 22 yards for 24 years. It’s hard to believe that wonderful journey is coming to an end,” an emotional Tendulkar said during a moving farewell speech as most Indians on and off the ground battled to hold back tears.

A Minute with Vijay Krishna Acharya on “Dhoom 3”

Vijay Krishna Acharya wrote all three films in India’s only action franchise – the Dhoom films, and directed the latest one. Fashioned as slick action thrillers in the mold of “Ocean’s 11” or “The Fast and the Furious”, the films always star an intelligent thief – an anti-hero who is too smart to be caught.

Opening this weekend to record-breaking ticket prices (three times the normal amount of a multiplex ticket), “Dhoom 3″ features Aamir Khan as a bank robber. Acharya, 45, spoke to Reuters about the film, why he wanted to shoot it in Imax, and what it takes to write a good anti-hero.

Why did you want to shoot “Dhoom 3” in Imax?

I have been a keen watcher of Imax films abroad, and always thought that we should experiment with the format. With this film, I had the sets, the locations and the story that lent itself to this kind of treatment. The audience that is discerning, and has been exposed to such films in the past, will definitely appreciate the IMAX experience.

Movie Review: Dhoom 3

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

The dominant sound in Vijay Krishna Acharya’s “Dhoom 3” is the revving up of a bike. The bike never quite takes off though, resulting in a lot of noise and smoke, but not much else.

Hyped as the biggest release of the year, and as the slickest action thriller to come out of India, “Dhoom 3” turns out to be a damp squib. For an action film, there is hardly any action – instead the 172 minute film is laden with an insipid romance and many other distractions that add nothing to the story except lengthen it further.

Even the action sequences aren’t clever – the bike that Sahir (Aamir Khan) uses can apparently travel on water, fire and in air – can combine with another bike to transform into another machine altogether, and even straddle a rope across two buildings. If the film had gone on any further, it might have solved world hunger.

Tattoo business booms as India shows off body art

Kamaldeep Sethi used to be a corporate trainer with a flair for drawing on office walls. Then a colleague talked him into learning the art of tattoos.

Sethi, who goes by the name KD, set up a tattoo parlour in New Delhi in 2005. He now owns three shops, including one in Canada. The 32-year-old is part of a new generation of tattoo artists who left high-paying corporate jobs to follow their passion.

Though exact numbers are hard to come by, tattoo art is a flourishing business in cities like New Delhi, which is estimated to have between 60 and 100 tattoo studios and more than 300 home-based artists.

India’s debit card safety rule boosts sales of payment processing firms

Companies that help in processing card payments look set to benefit from rising demand for portable card swipe machines after the Reserve Bank of India adopted new rules to prevent fraud and enhance security.

Merchants in India usually swipe cards through a reader to generate receipts that customers sign, but the new rule, effective Dec. 1, adds another layer of security by making debit card holders enter their personal identification numbers to validate transactions via these machines, also referred to as point-of-sale (POS) terminals.

Businesses such as fuel stations, hotels and restaurants that normally keep their card machines out of the customer’s reach will have to buy the portable, GPRS-enabled devices to offer convenience to clients.

A year after a deadly rape, Delhi women not keen on self-defence classes

Riddhi Mittal took a big professional risk when she moved back to Delhi in September to start her own software company. She did not want her personal safety to be part of the risk, especially considering the gruesome tale of the deadly Delhi gang rape that made headlines around the world one year ago this week.

Mittal, who earned her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in computer science at Stanford University in California, and was an intern at Facebook and Microsoft, was apprehensive about returning to the city, now that it was dubbed “India’s rape capital,” so she signed up for self-defence classes.

“I was here in Delhi in December 2012 for my winter vacation when (the rape) happened. So I was tracking it 24×7 when I was here, and even when I went back to the U.S. in January when my vacations had ended,” said Riddhi, 23, who lives with her parents in South Delhi’s New Friends Colony.

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