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For decades, a combination of ill health and high rental prices in India’s capital, New Delhi, prevented Ramy Suneja, a fashion design graduate, from setting up her own business. Finally, three years ago, at the age of 60, she started selling her sari designs from home through e-commerce company Snapdeal (one of her creations is pictured left). Today she boasts a turnover of $1m a year.

Throughout India, from dusty one-shop operations to snazzier big brands, retailers are discovering the power of e-commerce. The market is currently tiny: online retail constitutes 0.4 per cent of India’s total retail market, according to Technopak, an Indian consultancy.

But it is growing rapidly as more of India’s 1.3bn population goes online, and its potential is huge. Continue reading »

By Alastair Campbell and W. John Hoffmann, Exceptional Resources Group

The “rule of law” is set to dominate China’s key Communist Party plenum in October, Xinhua, the official news agency, has said. The rule of law is a “must” if the country is to attain “economic growth, clean government, cultural prosperity, social justice and a sound environment”, Xinhua added.

Many observers would agree. Some may even believe that China is about to embrace a Western-style system in which all actors – the government, institutions, companies and individuals – become subservient to an independent legal code. But what, in practice, is the renewed focus on rule of law likely to mean for China’s development? Continue reading »

There is more gloomy news for the world’s second largest economy. A comprehensive official survey of Chinese households, businesses and banks finds demand for loans slackening further in the third quarter, suggesting scant prospects of a reprieve from the credit slump seen in August and July.

Some 3,100 banks interviewed by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), the central bank, reported a significant easing in loan demand among all three categories of firms – small, medium and large – for the third quarter, which ends at the end of September.

The loan demand index fell to 66.6 per cent, down from 71.5 per cent (see chart). The muted demand for loans is set to create headwinds for the PBoC’s initiative this week to boost economic growth by injecting Rmb500bn ($81bn) into the five largest state-owned banks, economists said. Continue reading »

Japanese fast food lovers: Indonesian yakitori and chicken nuggets may be coming to a table near you soon as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy tries to take advantage of China’s latest food safety woes.

McDonald’s Japan stopped importing Chinese chicken in July, part of a broader backlash after a major Chinese supplier was accused of selling meat beyond its shelf-life. Continue reading »

China’s plan to spread the wealth of coastal cities into poorer interior regions is starting to pick up speed, with better transport infrastructure in particular likely to accelerate the process, according to HSBC Global Research.

While China’s coastal regions have seen breakneck growth – the nominal GDP of seven coastal provinces has increased nearly 200 times since 1978 – its vast inland areas, remote and undeveloped, have lagged behind. Per capita income in the coastal regions of China is twice as high as in inland provinces. Continue reading »

Headline statistics on the Chinese property market continue to relay a picture of virtually unrelieved gloom. However, in one small but important area, market pressures appear to be easing.

All year long Chinese banks have tightened up on mortgage lending to both first time buyers and purchasers of second homes, withdrawing discounts on mortgage loans and restricting loan growth – and thereby depressing buying activity.

However, this changed in August, with banks switching course to offer softer terms on mortgage loans, research companies said. Continue reading »

By Kavaljit Singh, Madhyam

On 28th August, an ambitious programme on financial inclusion – Jan Dhan Yojana (People’s Wealth Scheme) – was rolled out across India amid much fanfare. The government claims that on the inaugural day, a record 15m zero-balance bank accounts were opened across the country under the program. Nowhere else in the world has such a large number of bank accounts been opened on a single day. This is undoubtedly a big achievement for the new government. Continue reading »

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, arrived in India on Wednesday for a visit expected to showcase significant investment deals and make progress toward resolving a decades-old border dispute.

But beyond the official bonhomie, the shallow foundations of an uneasy bilateral relationship are readily evident. Nowhere are they more obvious than with tourism. China’s outbound tourism boom appears to have largely bypassed India, which took only 2.5 per cent of its tourist arrivals from its northern neighbour in 2013.

This put Chinese arrivals behind those both from Malaysia – at 3.5 per cent of the total – and Russia – at 3.7 per cent. Continue reading »

A huge bonfire of the brands awaits auto manufacturers in China as some 90m car owners prepare to disregard loyalty when they chose their next model.

A survey of some 2,400 car owners conducted by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found an itch to switch brands among 83 per cent of respondents who drove domestic Chinese brand cars. Of these, only 30 per cent said they would drive another domestic brand as their next car, while a full 40 per cent said they planned to plump for a Volkswagen.

The findings suggest that the next big trend for auto manufacturers in the Chinese market – which has expanded tenfold since 2000 to register annual sales of around 20m units – may not be so much concerned with chasing growth as with inculcating brand loyalty. Continue reading »

Investors have been awaiting an upturn in India’s economy since Narendra Modi, prime minister, took power in May. But a raft of recent data paints a mixed picture, with inflation moderating while slack industrial production conflicts with some robust consumer spending signals.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI), out on Monday, confirmed that inflation is easing, reaching a 58-month low of 3.74 per cent year-on-year in August from 5.19 per cent in July. Continue reading »

South Korea, which has one of the highest numbers of smokers per capita among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, has declared war on tobacco.

The government laid out its battle plan on September 11, including at 80 per cent increase in prices of tobacco products, a ban on manufacturers and retailers from advertising tobacco products and the introduction of picture warnings on tobacco packs. Under the plan, the average price per pack would go up to Won 4,500 ($4.35) by the start of next year. The current price is Won 2,500, unchanged for about 10 years. Continue reading »

By Anil K Gupta and Haiyan Wang

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to India this week will likely be the most significant meeting between the leaders of China and India since Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Beijing in 1988. Indeed, India’s leading business daily has gone so far as to suggest that Xi will bring along with him commitments to invest $100bn over the next five years. But while ties between India and China are growing quickly, such estimates remain highly unrealistic and risk saddling this burgeoning relationship with unrealistic expectations.

An article in the Economic Times newspaper quotes China’s consul-general in Mumbai: “On a conservative estimate, I can say that we will commit investments of over $100bn or thrice the investments committed by Japan during our President Xi Jinping’s visit next week. These will be made in setting up of industrial parks, modernization of railways, highways, ports, power generation, distribution and transmission, automobiles, manufacturing, food processing and textile industries.” Continue reading »

Until about a decade ago India was barely producing enough cotton to meet its own needs, let alone export the stuff. But this year Asia’s third largest economy will overtake China to become the world’s biggest producer of cotton.

Data from the US Department of Agriculture released on Thursday suggests that India will produce 30m bales of cotton in the season that began August 1 while China will produce just 29.5m bales. Continue reading »

Wealth is not necessarily translating into health for China’s growing cohort of millionaires, many of whom complain of eating disorders, too much alcohol and an average of just 6.2 hours of sleep a night (see chart).

Fast living is blamed for a variety of ailments, with around a third of millionaires (those with a personal wealth of Rmb10m or US$1.6m, £1m) suffering from insomnia, headaches, fatigue and memory loss while smaller proportions endure hair loss, immune problems, numb limbs and smokers’ coughs, according to a survey by Hurun Research Institute released on Friday.

Such conditions underpin a burgeoning demand among wealthy Chinese for products, treatments and lifestyle choices that are thought to confer health. “There is a clear trend among the Chinese millionaire class towards exercise, eating more carefully and generally taking better care of their bodies,” said Rupert Hoogewerf, chairman of the Hurun Report. Continue reading »

Since the collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka’s Rana Plaza last April, which killed more than 400 people and injured many more, Bangladesh’s garment industry has been popularly associated with wretched working conditions and exploitation.

A new research paper, however, reveals an altogether more benign side to the country’s garment industry. Continue reading »