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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 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 »

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 »

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 »

We all know that India’s stock market has been booming for months. As excitement built up over the election, investors were drawn by the prospect of a strong new government promising to restart Asia’s third largest economy.

Foreign investors have led the enthusiasm but now domestic funds are also rushing to get in on the game. In August, investments by domestic mutual funds reached their highest point since the beginning of 2008. Continue reading »

Since April car sales in India have been improving as consumer sentiment picks up following this year’s general election – and August saw the biggest year-on-year jump in this upturn as festival season neared.

Sales of passenger cars were up 15.2 per cent year-on-year in August to 153,758 units, according to data published on Wednesday by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam), a trade body. Continue reading »

India emerges from the latest World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report as the sickest member of the BRICs. It is ranked a lackluster 71st among 144 countries surveyed, down 11 places from last year and 22 places from five years ago. Moreover, it is ranked the lowest among its peers for the first time in years (China comes in 28th, Russia 53th, Brazil 57th).

The consequences of India’s lower GDP growth are also increasingly obvious: whereas India’s GDP per capita was higher than China’s only 15 years ago, it now stands at only a quarter of that of its Eastern neighbor.

So how come this all happened, and what can be done about it? Continue reading »

Remember that story back in June, when the Indian government blocked a couple of foreign sources of funding for Greenpeace India?

It looks like the courts may not let New Delhi withhold the international transfers. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court ordered that the blocked funds should be shifted from accounts with the central bank to Greenpeace’s accounts and placed in a fixed deposit until October 10, when a final verdict will be announced. Continue reading »

Mumbai is in the midst of one of the nation’s noisiest and most fun-filled festivals: Ganesh Chaturthi.

During the 10-day festival, statues of the elephant-headed God are set up at mandals (temporary shrines) around the city and worshipped before being immersed in water – usually on the seafront.

But who foots the bill for this vast celebration with its enormous sculptures, temporary altars and elephantine decorations? Continue reading »

As the global automotive industry continues its recovery there is particularly bright news for investors in OEMs (original-equipment manufacturers – otherwise known as automakers) that are focused on emerging markets.

The global automotive industry has been more successful than most at producing investor value, says the Boston Consulting Group in a recent report, A Comeback in the Making. Component manufacturers posted a median annual total shareholder return (TSR) – a measure of the value a company creates for its shareholders – of 33 per cent between 2009 and 2013, while OEMs produced a TSR of 29 per cent in the same period. Compare this to a 21 per cent TSR for the 26 global industries tracked by BCG.

But it was carmakers focused on emerging markets that were especially successful at pushing up value for shareholders. Continue reading »

Tata Motors, the Indian carmaker, has announced plans to sell its cars in Algeria in a further sign of the growing role that Indian companies are playing in Africa.

Tata said it would launch its passenger cars in a partnership with SPA Elsecom, an established distributor in Algeria. Continue reading »

Ratan Tata (pictured), who was the head of India’s powerful Tata group until 2012, ushered in a period of ambitious international expansion at the company. He is one of the most respected figures in the business community today.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the illustrious businessman has personally invested in Snapdeal, the online marketplace that is battling to win a share of India’s fast-growing market for ecommerce. Continue reading »