India Insight

Connecting borrowers and lenders: Indians try peer-to-peer model

Srinivas Porika tried for months to get a loan of 250,000 rupees ($4,000) to pay for his sister’s wedding, but every bank he tried turned him down. The problem: Porika’s employer, a tech start-up company, was not on the banks’ lists of pre-approved companies.

“They were ready to give me a credit card, but were not ready to give me a loan,” said the 28-year-old from Hyderabad, who met several bank managers and officials to plead his case.

The wedding went ahead in 2012, but only after Porika dipped into his savings and borrowed from friends. With an insufficient bonus at work and pressure mounting to pay off his debts this year, Porika turned to a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending website.

Entrepreneurs in India are now experimenting with the P2P business model, helping people like Porika, with websites such as i-lend.in and faircent.com providing a meeting ground for borrowers and lenders.

Such portals charge an upfront fee from both groups and get the borrower’s documents and employment details verified by a third party. A contract with terms and conditions is signed within a week, with a recovery process in place for those who default on payments.

Equity funds outperform in November; smaller shares rise

India’s diversified equity funds bucked the trend in the broader markets to eke out gains in November, as a strong performance by mid- and small-cap shares and sectors such as capital goods supported unit values.

Data from fund tracker Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, showed that such funds rose only 0.21 percent on average in the month, but outperformed the 30-share BSE Sensex that fell 1.8 percent.

Mahesh Patil of Birla Sun Life Asset Management cited the outperformance of mid- and small-cap stocks as the “main reason” for positive returns generated by diversified equity funds in November.

India’s political parties pump up the radio volume

Anyone who keeps a radio turned on in India’s National Capital Region knows that election fever has settled on Delhi ahead of the Dec. 4 state polls. The ruling Congress party, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are betting big on radio campaigning — a medium that reaches millions of people across economic classes and backgrounds.

Overall, about 250 million to 500 million rupees ($4 million to $8 million) have been spent on radio advertising in this year’s assembly election in Delhi – at least 200 percent more than during the 2008 state elections, Sunil Kumar of radio consulting firm Big River Radio estimated.

The AAP, or “common man party,” led by Arvind Kejriwal, has allocated 20 million to 30 million rupees ($320,000 to $480,000) for advertising, with 60 to 70 percent for radio and phone calls, said Dilip K. Pandey, an AAP secretary responsible for their communication strategy.

Stan Lee bets on India for latest superhero success

Legendary comic book writer Stan Lee has someone in mind that he would like to popularize as much as his 1960s co-creation “Spider-Man”: “Chakra, the invincible!” said the 90-year-old Lee, his voice booming with the excitement of a freshman working on his first project.

The American comics veteran, who collaborated on the creation of superheroes such as Thor and Iron Man, helped create an Indian superhero in partnership with Graphic India. Chakra will make his debut as an animated feature on Cartoon Network in India later this month.

The teenaged character Raju Rai, who lives in Mumbai, will tap into the ancient Hindu belief of chakras or centres of energy in a human body. He and a scientist develop a suit that activates these mystic wheels, giving superpowers to Raju, who fights crime in India’s financial capital.

Indian superhero should have been created long time ago – Stan Lee

Best known for his comic book superheroes that have been adapted into big Hollywood movies, veteran American writer Stan Lee is set to make his India debut.

In partnership with Graphic India, Lee has created a TV animation feature called “Chakra – the Invincible.” The teenaged superhero is based in Mumbai and taps into ancient Indian Hindu beliefs to gather his superpowers.

In an interview from California on phone, Stan Lee tells India Insight how his latest creation has him all excited, why he thinks the digital age is no threat to comic book characters and why his superheroes are not cardboard characters.

Sharad Devarajan has big plans for Stan Lee’s Indian debut ‘Chakra’

Sharad Devarajan is no stranger to the animation and comic book scene in India. He was responsible for bringing DC Comics, Marvel and the publishing activities of Cartoon Network to the country, and worked with Marvel on an Indian avatar of the Spider-Man in 2004, the first “trans-creation.” Devarajan is also launching a series on Bollywood superhero franchise Krrish.

He heads a U.S.-based digital entertainment company, Liquid Comics, which creates original graphic and animation content for various media. The company’s Indian arm, Graphic India, worked with Stan Lee‘s POW! Entertainment and developed the American cartoonist’s first Indian superhero, Chakra.

(Also read: Indian superhero should have been created long time ago – Stan Lee and Stan Lee bets on India for latest superhero success)

Doctors seek home-grown deterrents in India’s diabetes fight

From yoga and fenugreek powder to mobile messaging, diabetes experts in India are searching for local and cost-effective methods to fend off the disease as it affects ever more numbers of people in the country.

India is home to more than 60 million diabetics, a number that the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India (RSSDI) estimates will cross 85 million in 2030, or nearly 8 percent of the country’s population today.

Among the reasons for the rising number of cases is an increasing tendency toward sedentary lifestyles that have accompanied growing economic prosperity, as well as genetic predispositions in a country already known for its sweet tooth.  Doctors told India Insight that in 1975 — when India’s GDP was around $100 billion — only about 1.5 percent of its population had diabetes. Today’s percentage is more in line with developed nations such as the United States at 8.3 percent and France at 5 percent.

Real estate offers lure some Indian buyers

For around a year, Girish Kale was flirting with the idea of buying his dream house. His budget of 3.5 million to 4 million rupees ($56,000-$64,000) wasn’t going to work for Mumbai, where the kind of house the auto industry professional wanted would cost upwards of 10 million rupees.

Kale, who currently lives in a rented flat in Kandivali suburb, turned instead to Pune, a university city 150 kilometres away, with a plan to opt for a so-called 80:20 payment scheme. Such schemes allow the buyer to pay 20 percent of the property’s cost initially and the remaining amount on possession after construction.

However, when the Reserve Bank of India issued a directive on Sept. 4 restricting some of these schemes, Kale’s broker put them on the back burner. The central bank’s directive might have disappointed buyers, but some still want to invest in property.

“Maybe when in six months I would like to get married … my expenses will go up. That is why I was interested in 80:20,” said Kale, who is still on the lookout for a similar offer that will fit his budget. “It will be difficult but still I will go for it. I want to invest in real estate … if I delay it for maybe one or two years further, the price will go up”.

Markets this week: Sensex loses 2.7 percent, SBI falls 7.5 percent

Hurt by profit-taking in blue chips, the BSE Sensex posted its worst weekly decline since August as it lost 2.7 percent in a holiday-truncated week.

On Thursday, shares were hurt after ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said it will review the rating of Asia’s third-largest economy after the new government lays out its policy agenda next year. The agency’s outlook on rating remains negative.

However, Goldman upgraded its view on India to “marketweight”, with a Nifty target of 6,900 points. The investment bank noted optimism over political change is trumping economic concerns.

Indian women get a new look, with some help from Pernia Qureshi

In a country where styling has not always been recognized as a worthy craft, Pernia Qureshi has put her profession at the forefront of Bollywood fashion.

Qureshi styled actress Sonam Kapoor for 2010′s “Aisha“, ushering in trendy outfits paired with designer handbags that overshadowed the film, a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s “Emma“.

Styling suddenly became serious business and the 28-year-old Qureshi found herself a pioneer in India. The Indian film industry woke up to the trend, shedding its garish costumes, and hiring stylists to mould a more glamorous image for Bollywood’s A-listers. Other celebrities followed suit.

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