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World Bank approves $23.5 million biodiversity grant and loan for India

The Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihood Improvement Project will conserve biodiversity, while improving rural livelihoods by applying culturally appropriate and tested participatory approaches to support opportunities for improving rural livelihoods

Washington: The World Bank on Thursday approved a $15.36 million credit and $8.14 million grant for a project to conserve high-value forest areas while improving the livelihoods of forest-dependent communities in India, reports PTI.

The Biodiversity Conservation and Rural Livelihood Improvement Project will conserve biodiversity, while improving rural livelihoods by applying culturally appropriate and tested participatory approaches to support opportunities for improving rural livelihoods, the bank said in a statement.

“India is among the most diverse countries, with up to 47,000 species of plants and some 90,000 animal species and the country’s biodiversity is fundamental to human well being,” said Malcolm Jansen, World Bank senior environmental specialist and project leader.

“Millions are dependent locally on forests for their subsistence and livelihood and 70% of India’s rural population depends on fuel wood to meet domestic energy needs,” Mr Jansen said.

Noting that India’s rich biodiversity is threatened by increased population pressures and over-utilisation of resources along with development that is largely inconsistent with conservation objectives, the bank said these threats, coupled with the country’s high incidence of poverty, have accelerated the speed of degradation.


Moneylife mutual fund survey: Fund fare

Our poll indicates that our readers prefer to stay invested for the long term

Our mutual fund survey shows that Moneylife readers are extremely investment savvy. Out of a sample of 976 nationwide respondents, a massive 82% (798) invest in shares and an overwhelming 96% (936) invest in mutual funds. Of these, 859 or (88%) think mutual funds are a tool for long-term wealth creation and 93% (912) of them hold their mutual fund investments for over a year. This is quite unique in a market where the investor population has been dwindling steadily over the past 20 years (since liberalisation) and, according to the D Swarup Committee, is down to a third—only eight million people.

Another indicator of how the Moneylife reader is different is that as many as 688 respondents said that their investment is based on their own research, while a high 324 depend on financial planners. As many as 255 people said that media reports also play a role in deciding investment options. Three categories appear overrated—advertisements (52 respondents); bank relationship managers (80) and advice from friends and family (109).

As many as 713 respondents said that they invest through systematic investment plans (SIPs) while 550 preferred lump sum investments. And interestingly, 60% said they had never bought ULIPs (unit-linked insurance plans). Maybe they have been reading Moneylife regularly. An overwhelming majority (865) invest in equity diversified funds, by far the most popular choice. Nearly half the investors (461) also invested in tax-saving schemes like equity-linked savings schemes (ELSS). Thanks to rising gold prices, gold exchange traded funds (ETFs) are the third most popular choice. We did not capture data for the more exotic funds. One of our questions was: ‘which asset class would deliver higher long-term returns’. The choices were gold, property, bank fixed deposits, mutual funds, PPF (Public Provident Fund) and ‘others’.

Interestingly, mutual funds are clearly seen as the best asset for long-term wealth creation, followed by property. Since our sample comprises an extremely savvy class of investors, their perceptions on brands, companies and investment categories are also significant.

HDFC: A hands-down winner!
While the fund industry has been reeling from the impact of regulatory changes, we find that Moneylife readers are, by and large, satisfied with their investment choices. A large 66% of respondents were satisfied with their mutual fund investment; only 19% were unhappy with their choice and 15% were ambivalent. Our next question was on the best and worst mutual fund—this was an unprompted question, where investors listed one or more fund houses. Only 655 respondents actually named a fund house and several named more than one.

Where investor perception is concerned, HDFC Mutual Fund is miles ahead of its rivals. While HDFC is, indeed, a rock-solid, blue-chip brand and the good performance of its schemes is unquestioned, the positive impression about the fund house is disproportionate to its performance. Our Cover Story this time is on the best fund house and based on four parameters and HDFC ranks after RMF and Fidelity.

As many as 755 respondents answered this question about the best fund house. Of them, a massive 354 (47%) said that HDFC Mutual Fund was the best. Another 175 said it was their second choice. Taken together, it means that 70% of the savvy investors rank HDFC Mutual Fund as their best or second-best fund house. HDFC Top 200 was the overwhelming favourite as ‘the most rewarding scheme’ with 167 respondents rooting for it, followed by HDFC Equity with 96 votes. Even those who are not sure which scheme was rewarding for them, simply filled HDFC (51). Such is its brand power.

Compare this with RMF and Fidelity, which have emerged as the top two fund houses based on our parameters, and you have a case study for the benefits of good corporate governance and goodwill built over many years.

RMF got the second highest endorsement as the best fund house, but the number of respondents was a mere 74. In fact, more respondents (90) said they couldn’t say which was the best fund house. Another 108 ranked it the second best fund house. Even taken together (182), its votes are nearly half that of HDFC. In terms of the most rewarding scheme, RMF, while ranked second, lags far behind. A big surprise is that 93 investors (the second highest in that category) also ranked RMF as the worst fund house, despite its excellent financial performance since inception, as mentioned earlier.

This may also be a case of the negative perception about Reliance, or the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (R-ADAG) having cast a shadow on the perception about the mutual fund house. Or its gaps in investor service. This is one clear case of a fund house that needs to change its systems and processes and how it deals with investors.

How did the other fund houses fare?
Since HDFC, the overwhelming favourite, skewed the ranking, we thought it best to add the first and second rank to arrive at the perception ranking. By this yardstick, HDFC and RMF remain the top two, while DSP BlackRock (32+62=94) comes third, Franklin Templeton India (36+53=89) is next; Birla (35+49=84), ICICI Prudential (17+42=59) follows and Fidelity figures only after them (22+30=52).

Fidelity is one of the best-known fund houses, but it needs to work on its reach, branding and investor perception. In fact, even UTI Mutual Fund, which is pretty low on our rankings, has a slightly better ranking than Fidelity. Sundaram Mutual (13+27=40), another good fund house with an excellent image in south India, also loses out on the perception scale because it is seen as a regional player. It could do well to extend its geographical reach and make itself better known nationally.

Quantum Mutual Fund, a very small player, is also worth a mention. Its score (12+9=21) is almost on par with that of SBI Mutual fund (12+17=29) in the first ranking and just slightly behind SBI and IDFC (4+21 =25) when taken together with the second rank. More importantly, it ranks way ahead of bigger established brands such as Tata Mutual Fund, L&T Mutual Fund, LIC Nomura Mutual Fund and others.

Worst perception
An astonishing 207 rated JM Financial Mutual Fund as the worst fund house. So bad is the perception that over 120 investors listed its schemes as their ‘worst investment’. We have ignored other names, because no other scheme by any fund house had more than 19 votes as the ‘worst investment’. As we said earlier, RMF has the dubious distinction of being ranked the second best as well as the second worst fund house in terms of pure investor perception. UTI (67) and SBI Mutual Fund (42) were the next on the worst funds list. Sundaram, ICICI and Principal, with around 30 responses, followed. Only 566 investors answered this query (of which 28 were negative about all funds) and as many as 181 respondents panned more than one fund house.


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