India Insight

Organised players, growing acceptance boost India’s used car market

One would expect the former head of India’s No. 1 car maker to drive a glitzy new SUV or an imported luxury car, but Jagdish Khattar thinks differently. The industry veteran who spent 14 years at Maruti Suzuki now buys only second-hand cars and drives a used Volkswagen Passat.

Rich people buy new cars, intelligent people buy second-hand cars,” said Khattar, the founder of Carnation Auto, a service and used-cars company he started in 2008 after leaving Maruti. The used car market, he said, is the future of automobiles.

The rising presence of well known car brands in the used cars business, coupled with growing acceptance of second-hand vehicles, is spurring demand. That is putting in shape the largely unorganised used-car business at a time when new car sales have slumped for the first time in more than a decade.

Customer-to-customer sales and small dealers still dominate used car sales in India, while workshops and mechanics also double up as agents to help people sell or buy cars.

Now, companies such as Maruti True Value, Mahindra First Choice and Carnation Auto account for about 15 percent of the market share, experts said. Despite a slowing economy and a gloomy outlook for India’s auto industry, these companies are expanding.

Analysts remain positive on India’s IT stocks after 2013 rally

India’s information technology services businesses will continue to benefit from improving client demand from developed countries in 2014, pushing stocks higher after a stellar performance last year, analysts told India Insight.

India’s No. 1 IT services exporter Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and its rival Infosys beat analysts’ expectations in their financial results that were released earlier this month. They also raised their sales growth forecasts on signs of improving economies in the United States and Europe.

“In Europe we are gaining market share; in U.S. things are looking up – that will drive discretionary and new technology spends,” said Kuldeep Koul, IT-sector analyst at ICICI Securities. “What’s also helping the industry … is the fact that the rupee continues to remain at very benign levels.”

Interview: AAP’s Yogendra Yadav defends Delhi protests, blames media

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

Senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) member Yogendra Yadav on Wednesday defended his party’s protest against the police on the streets of New Delhi and blamed the media for “unsympathetic” coverage.

Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the AAP, or “common man’s party”, ended his planned 10-day dharna” after two days on Tuesday.

The protests were unusual considering state chief ministers do not use street protests to achieve their ends. Last week, the party accused two police officers of negligence, one of whom was in charge in the tourist area where a Danish woman was reportedly gang-raped.

Catching them young to revive India’s glorious hockey past

It’s just after sunrise on a foggy winter morning in north India. Most people are snuggled up in quilts, but a group of teenagers with hockey sticks is out on the field. The ragtag bunch chasing a ball in Khera Garhi village, about 20 kilometres from central Delhi, shares a dream — to play in India’s field hockey team.

It’s an unusual dream in a country obsessed with cricket, but one that former national player Rajesh Chauhan hopes to foster among youngsters across India. Chauhan, 37, played for India during the second half of the 1990′s and set up the Jai Bharat Hockey Academy in 2011 to try to restore Indian hockey to its former glory.

India was a men’s hockey superpower in the last century, winning eight Olympic gold medals. Since 1980, the national team’s fortunes have declined.

Interview: Congress session will lead to changes – Sachin Pilot

After years in the shadows as a reluctant heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi is set for his own tryst with destiny, to lead the ruling Congress party in elections due by May that it has only a slim chance of winning.

Reuters spoke to Sachin Pilot, the country’s corporate affairs minister, on the Congress party’s strategy for the 2014 election, Rahul Gandhi’s style of working and the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

What is the Congress party doing wrong?
We have within ourselves perhaps far superior elements to take on conventional challenges today. But what we are not doing tremendously well is in the perception battle. Somehow, we have not been able to position ourselves as an alternative to most political forces operating today. What the Congress party needs to do now, I think what Rahul Gandhi wants to do, is to create an institutionalized mechanism for the party because this ad-hocism is not bearing fruit.

In pursuit of the perfect lehenga in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk

Each evening, after pulling their shutters down, sari salesmen in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market sit down for three hours to fold their wares: embroidered, embellished saris and lehengas that customers browsed all day.

Lehengas, embroidered and pleated long skirts, are serious business in Chandni Chowk, a busy Mughal-era market whose name means “moonlit square”. Despite numerous boutiques and malls opening across New Delhi, the old wedding market has kept its charm, its customers and its business.

“If I have a design in my mind I can get it tailor-made, custom-make any designer, whatever it is, I can get that replica made. It might not be an original of Sabyasachi or one of the fancy designers, but it’s very close, you can easily pull it off as one of those designer pieces,” said Reena Bhardwaj, a 29-year-old journalist who recently bought a lehenga priced at 50,000 rupees (about $800) to attend a wedding.

from Expert Zone:

U.S.-India dispute: A diplomat and a double-standard laid bare

(The following essay is commentary. The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of Reuters)

Relations between the United States and India have crashed to their lowest ebb since the last millennium, something many Americans might have missed during the holiday buzz.  A spat over the treatment of a diplomat and her maid threatens the foundations of a key international partnership, and the implications extend far beyond foreign policy. This case could endanger American diplomats, businesspeople and tourists travelling abroad.

The fight began with the December arrest of Devyani Khobragade, India’s Deputy Consul in New York.  Khobragade, a young mother accused of under-paying her maid and making a false statement on a visa form, says she was hand-cuffed, strip-searched, and thrown in a holding facility with violent criminals.  India regards her arrest as a violation of diplomatic immunity.  The United States argues that such immunity does not extend to consular officials.

Interview: BJP’s Harsh Vardhan slams AAP-Congress alliance in Delhi

By Aditya Kalra and Sankalp Phartiyal

India’s Congress party and the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) entered an “unholy alliance” to share power in Delhi following state elections in the national capital, the chief ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said in an interview on Dec. 31.

Harsh Vardhan, who lost the race for chief minister of the capital region to AAP founder Arvind Kejriwal, said he thinks that the Congress party and the AAP had “some sort of understanding” before the elections. He offered no proof. Spokesmen for the AAP and the Congress party denied these charges.

Kejriwal, 45, was sworn in as the youngest chief minister of Delhi on Dec. 28. The anti-corruption activist and former civil servant surprised India with his strong showing and is likely to create uncertainty over how the 2014 general elections and race for the prime minister’s seat will turn out.

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.

Business of new and worn banknotes thriving in Delhi

Rakesh Kumar is not like most of the street vendors in Old Delhi. The hand-painted sign on his wooden counter, “exchange damaged, old notes,” reveals a different story. He sells money.

For the past 40 years, Kumar has offered customers new banknotes for soiled or damaged ones for a fee that earns him about 100,000 rupees ($1,600) a year. It has also helped him pay for the marriages of his three children.

“We charge commission depending on the condition of the note,” the 58-year-old Kumar said while examining some 1,000-rupee notes nibbled by rats. “Around 30-40 people come to us daily.”

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