India Insight

Equity mutual funds record best monthly performance since Jan 2012

India’s diversified equity funds posted their best monthly performance since Jan 2012 as the benchmark Sensex scaled record highs in October, with bets on sectors such as banking and capital goods boosting mutual fund returns.

Such schemes, which form the largest category of equity funds in India by number and assets, rose 9.2 percent on average, mirroring returns on the 30-share BSE Sensex, data from fund tracker Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, showed.

The Sensex hit an all-time closing high in October — and went on to touch a life high on Nov. 1 ahead of the Diwali weekend — bolstered by foreign inflows of around $3.5 billion after the U.S. Fed decided to delay stimulus tapering.

“Liquidity has overtaken the economic scenarios, probably this is likely to continue for a couple of months,” said R.K. Gupta, managing director at Taurus Mutual Fund. “The outlook for mutual funds looks slightly better. Over a period of time, most of the mutual funds are taking care that profit booking is an ongoing exercise.”

Other than large-cap stocks, funds’ investment in smaller shares also paid off, as the BSE mid-cap index rose 9 percent while the small-cap index gained 7.9 percent. These stocks collectively accounted for more than a third of such funds’ assets by end-September, separate data from Morningstar India showed.

India’s mission to Mars at a glance

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, the country’s first interplanetary foray, is billed as a pathfinder to test technologies to fly to orbit and communicate from the Red Planet. It follows India’s successful 2008-2009 Chandrayaan-1 moon probe, which discovered water molecules in the lunar soil.

Here are some facts about the project:

    One of the objectives is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. The mission aims to explore Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and search for methane in the Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments. Payloads on the satellite include instruments for studying the atmosphere, particle environment and surface imaging. These include the Lyman Alpha Photometer, a methane sensor, a composition analyser, a camera and an imaging spectrometer. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter satellite as part of its 25th mission. The satellite is scheduled to reach the Mars orbit in September 2014 and is designed to circle the Red Planet in an elliptical orbit of 366 km X 80,000 km. The total cost of the Mars mission is $73 million.

Source: Reuters, Indian Space Research Organisation. More info here

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shashank on Twitter @shashankchouhan and Tony@tonytharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

Pricey onions mean more tears for businesses, public

By Anupriya Kumar and Arnika Thakur

Onion prices recently reached 100 rupees per kilogram ($1.62) in some parts of New Delhi. It is hard to emphasize enough how prices like that are hurting businesses and the public. Onions are one of India’s staples, and people consume 15 million tonnes of them a year. Now, many people can’t afford to buy as many as they need – or any at all.

The government’s efforts to ease the price, which has quadrupled in some cities in the past three months, are unlikely to succeed. Heavy rains have reduced crop yields and delayed harvesting. Now, the average price of onions in India is 83 rupees per kilo, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said in an interview with Reuters published on Wednesday.

Here’s how the people are reacting to the “onion crisis”. (We have edited responses for clarity)

Interview: Sheila Dikshit on elections, rise of Modi and Kejriwal

By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The emergence of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a credible contender in the Dec. 4 state election in Delhi has not dampened the Congress party’s confidence, its chief minister Sheila Dikshit said on Tuesday.

Dikshit, 75, who has been chief minister of India’s capital since 1998, spoke to Reuters at her official residence about the upcoming elections, the rise of Kejriwal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under Narendra Modi.

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:

Opinion polls show that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will eat into your vote share this time. What is your view?
I have nothing to say. All these polls that are being conducted I think are somewhere in the air, they don’t reflect reality because nobody has made up their mind. How do I vote for the Aam Aadmi when I don’t even know what the Aam Aadmi stands for. It has jhadoo (broom) which they say is going to sweep everything away, but what are you going to do? With the Congress, at least you have 15 years of work to show.

Uncompromising Kejriwal won’t support any party if Delhi gets hung assembly

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

The Aam Aadmi Party has up-ended the calculations of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the race for control of New Delhi in one of five state assembly elections later this year.

Party leader Arvind Kejriwal is an uncompromising anti-corruption crusader who has tapped into a vein of urban anger after a string of breathtaking graft scandals.

(Click here for main story)

Reuters spoke to Kejriwal at his New Delhi office about the state assembly election in December and his plans to root out corruption. Here are edited excerpts from the interview.

Liquor retailers toast online model in India

When Dhruv Khandelwal started working as an equity research analyst after finishing his MBA in the United States, he wanted to start an Indian financial services website. That changed when Khandelwal and his friends ran out of beer on a Sunday afternoon.

Letsbuydrink.com, a website launched by Khandelwal six months ago, offers imported alcoholic beverages for sale in India. The website has 2,000 registered members and averages monthly sales of 150,000 rupees ($2,460).

“It’s just a point of convenience for (customers) and that’s the target market,” said 29-year-old Khandelwal. “This is an industry where you need to build a brand image and you have to build confidence.”

Stamp collecting stages quiet comeback in India’s digital era

Rajjesh Mittal spends 20 minutes each morning placing bids for postage stamps on eBay. The IT entrepreneur began flirting with philately, or stamp collecting, two years ago, and has become such an ardent collector that he wants to demonstrate his love for postage by getting a tattoo of independent India’s first commemorative postmark.

Mittal is part of a generation of urban, educated Indians celebrating all things postal in the age of e-mail and Twitter. Though numbers are hard to come by, philately appears to be staging a revival in India, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to over 100,000 active collectors. Like Mittal, working professionals are taking up the hobby, joining stamp-collecting clubs and fostering friendships with enthusiasts from all walks of life.

“I want to have fun with philately,” says Mittal, 41, who helped found the Philatelic Society of Delhi and is working on three books on the hobby. “My wife hates it. The money which I spend, I have to give her equivalent money … It’s another thing I don’t give her the exact numbers.”

Interview: Chidambaram on Modi, Rahul Gandhi and becoming PM

By John Chalmers, Frank Jack Daniel and Manoj Kumar

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

P. Chidambaram, now in his third stint as finance minister, spoke to Reuters about Narendra Modi and the 2014 elections in an interview on Monday ahead of a trip to the United States. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

If Congress returns to power in the elections next year and Rahul Gandhi is the prime minister, do you see yourself as finance minister?
That’s a question you should put to the prime minister. I am glad you acknowledge Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi but that is a question you should put to him.

What about Narendra Modi and the momentum he appears to be gaining?
I don’t know if he is gaining any momentum. I concede that he has united the rank and file of the BJP. The rank and file of the BJP was divided, the leaders are still divided, the rank and file was equally divided. But he has been able to unite the rank and file. Perhaps he has gained some traction among urban youths but I think it would be a gross exaggeration to say that people are not worried about his positions, his policies, his past, his track record. It will be a gross exaggeration to say that he is sweeping the countryside. It’s a gross exaggeration to say that he will win in every state. All this is largely media created.

Interview: Chidambaram on the state of India’s economy

By John Chalmers, Frank Jack Daniel and Manoj Kumar

(This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

The Indian government will have to rein in spending and cut subsidies to meet its fiscal deficit target, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said on Monday, underlining that an austerity drive will not be blown off course by an election due next year.

The urbane Harvard-educated lawyer, now in his third stint as finance minister, spoke to Reuters in an interview ahead of a trip to the United States. Here are edited excerpts from the interview:

Do you think that the government has done enough to pull the economy out of the crisis that we saw it in several weeks ago?
One can never say we’ve done enough. We’ve done a lot of things, but we have to do many more things, and I think we will do them in the next few weeks and months, both by the government and by the central bank.

Modi, Kejriwal become latest video game characters as developers focus on elections

Politicians are becoming the Super Mario Brothers equivalent for Indian video gamers as 2014 election fever starts to settle over the country.

Software developers have been developing all kinds of new games and apps in recent years as Indians increasingly shift to smartphones of companies such as Samsung, Apple, Micromax and Karbonn. Now politics has crept into the mix.

In ‘Modi Run’, which debuted in July, players help the kurta-clad Narendra Modi — the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate — navigate various obstacles in a run through India’s states to become the country’s premier.

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