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The details of Gap’s move into the India yields insights into how Asia’s third largest market remains both very distinct from the West and at the same time increasingly similar.

In the US and European markets, womenswear is central to any brand’s expansion strategy, but in India this segment is dominated by traditional dress supplied by local companies. Thus, successful western retailers targeting India have either focused on menswear or on accessories, such as shoes and handbags.

But the strategy of San Francisco-based Gap reveals a market in flux. The group’s local franchisee, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Ltd, envisages the lion’s share of revenue still coming from menswear but at the same time perceives a growing following from women born after 1990. Continue reading »

Nations have negotiated trade agreements in one form or another for centuries. And for centuries economists have undoubtedly been facing the same question: Do trade agreements really matter?

The orthodox answer is obviously that they do. When you lower the barriers to trade goods flow more freely across borders and businesses, consumers and economies as a whole benefit as a result. But HSBC and the Economist Intelligence Unit are out with a new business survey that offers some interesting practical realities. Continue reading »

An eccentric Indian tycoon, some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and now the Sultan of Brunei. The story of one Indian company’s tortuous journey out of legal hot water has just taken another twist.

The Sultan of Brunei has emerged as the lead bidder for the Grosvenor House Hotel and other luxury properties that India’s beleaguered Sahara group has been trying to sell off in a desperate attempt to get its ‘managing worker’ out of jail. Continue reading »

Japanese and Indian culture could hardly be more different, but senior executives at Toto, the Kitakyushu-based toilet products manufacturer, say doing business has been a breeze in Asia’s third largest economy.

The Japanese group, whose fancy ceramic toilet fittings are already used in premier properties like the Four Seasons and Oberoi hotels in Mumbai, opened a manufacturing facility in India this week hoping to expand in the fast growing market.

Toto launched a 180,000 sq metre plant in Halol, Gujarat, that will produce some 500,000 toilet bowls every year. The group’s president, Madoka Kitamura, told beyondbrics that he expects about half of the output to be sold within India while the rest is exported to the Middle East and Europe. Continue reading »

“Anyone who says that Africa is missing the Millennium Development Goals is missing the point.” You might expect such a tart statement about a canonical organising principle of development policy to come from one of the aid industry’s many curmudgeonly sceptics.

That it came instead from Jan Vandemoortele, a Belgian economist who helped create the United Nations MDGs in the first place, raises questions whether propagating a single set of targets to drive government policy across the entire developing and emerging world is worth doing at all. The “sustainable development goals”, successors to the MDGs, are currently being developed, but the unfortunate signs are that they will be yet more complex and yet less meaningful than the originals.

 Continue reading »

Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP, the world’s biggest marketing services company, is bullish about India, suggesting the market is set for strong growth and that local companies should focus on tapping this vast market before expanding abroad.

Sorrell considers what he would do right now if he were an ‘Indian oligarch’. Some groups have succeeded in expanding globally, be it organically or inorganically, but that strategy comes with its own challenges.

“India is a massive market – it’s a 1.2bn person market, it has benefited from the rise of the middle-class,” he says. “I would milk the opportunities here until I have exhausted them before moving abroad.” Continue reading »

It sounds like a case of selling coals to Newcastle, but UK drink mixer company Fever-Tree plans to start exporting its premium Indian Tonic water to India, where the substance was first concocted about 200 years ago to stave off malaria among British troops in the Raj.

The move is the latest sign of India’s emergence as a big market for luxury consumer goods in spite of a slowdown that has cut overall economic growth to less than 5 per cent annually for the past two years.

Tim Warrillow, who co-founded the company in 2005, is to announce that India will become Fever-Tree’s 50th export market at an event in New Delhi next week with Nick Clegg, UK deputy prime minister. Continue reading »

Since the early days of its software industry in the 1980s, nearly all of India’s large IT companies have earned their crust selling software to companies in America, who have tended to be more open to outsourcing than competitors in Europe and Asia.

But for how much longer? Not that long in the case of Tata Consultancy Services at least, the country’s largest IT group by sales, which soon looks set to earn more than half of its revenues outside the US for the first time, according to chief executive Natarajan Chandrasekaran. Continue reading »

Introducing Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), at an Independence Day lecture on Wednesday evening, Sajjan Jindal of JSW Steel said he felt ‘at peace’ since the former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist took over at the central bank last year. That was at a time of turmoil, as a financial crisis swept through emerging markets and the rupee plummeted.

“You’re at peace but you still want lower interest rates,” quipped Rajan in response. “They’ll come.” Continue reading »

Just three months ago, this blog reflected the widespread public interest in Narendra Modi, now India’s prime minister. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in May’s general election with a majority that India hasn’t seen in three decades. It was seen as a presidential campaign, with the charismatic and controversial leader at the forefront of public debate.

Back then zealous optimism had commentators suggesting the former chief minister of Gujarat would do for the country what he did for the state and quickly turn around the beleaguered economy. Perhaps disappointment was inevitable – but is it fair? Continue reading »

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) gave its final approval this week for Real Estate Investment Trusts (Reits) to be set up and listed on Indian exchanges, a long-awaited move that will open up financing in India’s cash-strapped real estate sector.

The move also creates an opportunity for Indians keen to put their money into property. The new rules also provide plenty of safeguards to protect investors. Continue reading »

You may expect Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, to be the picture of poverty and struggle.

In fact the area, which borders Mumbai’s modern financial centre, is also a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity – and this isn’t just traditional work making clay pots and poppadoms. eBay is providing a platform for many young people to start their own businesses. Continue reading »

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time”, US Army officer and Vietnam veteran Creighton Abrams once said.

In his new book, The Rise of the New East, Ben Simpfendorfer does just that. His elephant is “The East”, the group of almost 50 emerging markets ranging from Turkey to China that is home to well over half of the world population.

Simpfendorfer gives his topic a thorough treatment. While his insights seem logical and intuitive, taken together they give an impressive oversight of into key trends shaping the region. beyondbrics noted five insights that particularly stood out. Continue reading »

Britvic, the British drinks maker, launched its Robinsons Fruit Shoot children’s drink in India on Wednesday with a senior executive challenging the conventional wisdom that it is difficult doing business in Asia’s third largest economy.

“It’s been a really good experience,” Simon Stewart, managing director of Britvic International, said of his experiences setting up shop in a country ranked 134th out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2014‘ survey. “From a regulation point of view it has been good,” he added.

India is the first Asian market Britvic has ventured into and the group is offering Fruit Shoot in four new flavours tailored to the local market: apple and pear, strawberry and raspberry, apple and blueberry, and India’s favourite – mango. Continue reading »

India’s central bank left interest rates unchanged for a third straight meeting and tweaked a banking regulation to encourage lending as Raghuram Rajan, governor, sought a balance between promoting economic growth and maintaining vigilance against inflation.

Rajan kept the benchmark repurchase rate at 8 per cent, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in a statement on Tuesday, as economists had widely expected. The statutory liquidity ratio – which mandates how much banks must invest in government bonds – was reduced to 22 per cent of net liabilities from 22.5 per cent, effectively freeing up funds for lending. Continue reading »