Here is why Private Investment is Down
After the euphoria of the early years of the current century, the Indian economy has been struggling in its attempt to boost the growth rate of its national income. Fleeting glimpses of 7.9% growth achieved in the fourth quarter of 2015-16 may have raised hopes temporarily; however, it now increasingly appears that we are clueless in reviving the economy and pushing the GDP growth rate towards the coveted double digits. Every succeeding quarter brings a longer wait and we are perennially clutching at straws in seeing evidence of expected, but as yet elusive, surge in the GDP. 
 
Statisticians typically estimate national income on the basis of demand, comprising personal consumption, investments, government expenditure and exports less imports (current account surplus). Growth can be revived by increasing one or more of these demand constituents.
 
The Indian consumer has over the years not been shy of spending his hard earned income on various goods and services, ensuring robust consumption. However, a long period of economic downturn, together with demonetisation and other disruptions over the last two years, have been a dampener. The impact of sluggish consumer spending are being felt in a wide range of industries. It would be unrealistic to depend now on increased consumption to enhance economic growth. 
 
Given the current financial position of the government, fiscal deficit too cannot be relied upon to play this role. Any deterioration in the government finances is likely to adversely impact our rating with the credit rating agencies besides raising inflation. The Indian economy continues to pay the price of the artificial fiscal stimulus naively undertaken in 2012-13. The current government has displayed commendable savvy, reining in fiscal deficit over the last four years. Abandoning such prudence will be counterproductive.
 
During the earlier period of high growth from 2003 to 2008 that we keep yearning for, exports were a big lever for economic push, having grown at 23% per annum. That looks unlikely to be repeated given the fact that our merchandise exports have been practically stagnant at $300 billion over the last six years. Any reliance on exports to get us out of the mess is unlikely to prove successful. The sector faces fundamental, structural issues that cannot be expected to be resolved any time soon.
 
That leaves private investment as the only wheel that can be relied upon to break free of the shackles. Investments as a proportion of the national income have come down significantly from the peak of 38.70% achieved in 2007-08. The billion dollar question to be answered is, what will revive investments and take it back to the pre-crisis era?
 
Most ideas to revive investments in the Indian economy are based either on misplaced hopes or incorrect appreciation of economic theory and logic, leading to a widespread belief that a turnaround of the Indian economy is around the corner. Even well respected global organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF join in the charade. 
 
There is a broad consensus that private investments must increase substantially, for the Indian economy to experience sustained high growth. What the usual analysis fails to take into account is the critical role played by “the animal spirits” in influencing investments that the business community undertakes. 
 
It is widely believed that investments are an outcome of dispassionate analysis, of discounted cash flows, internal rate of return and net present values. That may sound good in theory; reality, as always, turns out to be very different. The future is uncertain and investing large sums in long term projects is a brave and at times, a foolhardy decision. It is a significant leap of hope. What ultimately drives the corporate sector and the business community to loosen their purse and make investments in projects, where cashflows will accrue in the future in an uncertain environment, are “the animal spirits”. 
 
The term was initially coined by John Keynes who used it in his book ‘The General Theory” referring to the “spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction”. It refers to the emotions and the feelings that guide the behaviour of investors and consumers in a market economy. 
 
In their book titled ‘Animal Spirits’, Nobel laureates George A Akerlof and Robert J Shiller, describe five different aspects of the animal spirits like confidence, fairness, corruption and anti-social behavior, money illusion and stories. They place great emphasis on confidence about the future to unleash animal spirits. 
 
Such confidence depends on whether people feel that good things will happen in the future, that they will be treated fairly and that their interests will be taken care of. If the rules of governance and societal attitudes are loaded against them, they would be reluctant to invest in new ventures. 
 
It is in this context that the present state of the Indian economy and the opportunities to invest must be evaluated. The recent past, starting with demonetisation, has been highly disruptive. I am not getting into the justification or otherwise of the different actions, but the outcome of a series of such policy measures has been very obvious – suppression of liquidity, depression in demand, disruption in supply chains and a looming uncertainty. 
 
The psychological impact it has had on people’s thinking and behavior is likely to be long-lasting. Subsequent to demonetisation, a series of further disruptive policy measures such as the introduction of the Goods & Services Tax (GST), the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act (RERA), attack on shell companies, and resolution of non-performing assets (NPAs) under the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC) have combined to deal a deathblow to human psychology and confidence. Taken together, they have created a doubt and an uncertainty that business abhors. It has not helped that major scandals such as the Punjab National Bank (PNB)-Gitanjali Gems and other bank scams have come to light, denting confidence even further. 
 
The current government has displayed a tendency to control and direct rather than enable and encourage. It likes to bulldoze, a term popularised by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari but aptly reflective of the attitude of the Indian government towards its people. It behaves like a child with a hammer to whom everything appears to be a nail and the child keeps hammering all the time at whatever catches his fancy. The government has made it a habit to come down heavily on various issues of misdemeanors, perceived or real, with all its might.
 
The result is there for everyone to see – suppression of animal spirits in the economy. If I am unable to use money that rightfully belongs to me because 85% has just become illegal with one wave of NAMO hand, why will I take the risk of investing? The rules of business keep changing; there is no certainty about the future. Irrational and retrospective taxes have always been a real threat to the business community. Predatory pricing by a large corporate house may change the dynamics of the entire sector, as has happened in telecom. The dairy and the leather sectors find themselves unable to carry on normal business due to what can only be termed as ‘cow politics’. Real estate, already suffering for years, finds it difficult to conform to new regulations under RERA. Sector after sector are in bad shape, mostly induced by policies that fail to take into account the intrinsic nature of business. 
 
The resultant lack of private sector investment is not surprising, apprehensive as the industrialists are of possible whimsical action on the part of the government. Any semblance of a stable, steady and supportive business environment is missing. The confidence of the business community is marred by a patronising attitude and an intrusive behaviour that kills animal spirits. 
 
If we wish to boost private investments and the growth rate, it is imperative that we reignite the animal spirits in the economy. Governance is not about sermonising, telling people what to do and how to behave but of creating an environment of hope and expectations. There needs to be certainty about policies, economic or otherwise. Industrialists are partners with the government in this endeavour and not adversaries to be treated with suspicion. An appreciation of the animal spirits and its role in unleashing investments and even consumption, is essential before Indian economy can revive.
 
Without that, I am afraid, the drought in investments will persist for a long time to come and economic growth in India will continue to struggle as it has been doing. Any hopes to the contrary are misplaced.
 
(Sunil Mahajan, a financial consultant and teacher, has over three decades experience in the corporate sector, consultancy and academics.
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    COMMENTS

    Mahesh S Bhatt

    1 year ago

    Sir investment becomes Non performing & Non paying then who shall pay there global local glut of easy money no business bloated stocks ghost properties empty for decades corrupt Businessmen Partner Politician Delayed Justice State Goon support screwed up Common sense & Common Man God also cannot bless Mahesh Bhatt

    Amit Kumar

    1 year ago

    BJP itself is getting more investments than before. That's all that matters for most in the current context, I am afraid.

    India will keep fiscal deficit target, oil to jack up CAD: Moody's
    Moody's expects the Indian government to meet its fiscal deficit target of 3.3 per cent of GDP for the current fiscal based on its commitment to gradual fiscal consolidation and budget assumptions, even as the US rating agency's Indian affiliate ICRA said that high global crude prices threaten India's current account deficit (CAD), according to reports issued on Thursday.
     
    Moody's Investors Service has rated India's sovereign credit rating at Baa2 stable. 
     
    "Although Moody's sees some downside risk to budgeted revenue and expenditure targets, it expects that the government would cut back on planned capital expenditure, as has occurred in past years, if it is needed to offset any slippage from its fiscal targets," said Moody's Vice President William Foster.
     
    "On the revenue side, Moody's sees some downside risk to the government's assumptions on the collections from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and petroleum products excise duty," he said.
     
    The ICRA report said that high crude oil prices are likely to widen India's CAD and points to slowing foreign portfolio investments as an area of concern.
     
    Moody's said that the credit quality of Indian non-financial corporates will remain supported by a robust growth outlook for the domestic economy and a benign outlook for global economic growth. 
     
    ICRA believes the non-infra corporate sector has seen some revival in growth and margin expansion over last 2-3 quarters.
     
    The American agency said, however, that given their international revenue base, many rated Indian non-financial corporates remain exposed to increasing protectionism and tighter monetary policy in the US.
     
    Moody's feels domestic bank funding availability could weaken as the banking system struggles with fresh asset quality and governance issues.
     
    ICRA said that with the accelerated recognition of stressed assets during 2017-18, the asset quality problems of the banks peaked in March 2018 and further additions to gross non-performing assets (GNPAs), or bad loans, will decline with fresh slippages falling to around 3 per cent during the current fiscal, compared to 7.1 per cent last year and 5.5 per cent in 2016-17.
     
    The sharp rise in fresh slippages, ageing of earlier NPAs because of limited resolution, and higher provisioning on accounts referred for resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code pushed up credit provisions and net losses for the sector, ICRA added.
     
    "Rural demand, which has seen a recent pick-up, would be critically dependent on normal monsoon, hike in MSPs (minimum support prices) and overall thrust on agri-economy ahead of elections," said ICRA Senior Group Vice President Subrata Ray. 
     
    Moody's has a stable outlook on India's power sector which reflects an improvement in domestic coal availability moderating the fuel supply risk. 
     
    Moody's also said that while distribution utilities have seen an improvement in their liquidity, the extent to which operational efficiency has improved is still unclear.
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
     

     

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    90% of Indian start-ups fail within five years: Report
    India is blessed to be the third-largest start-up economy in the world. Unfortunately, there is a curse that comes with that blessing. That is, as indicated in a 2016 report issued by the IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics, 90 per cent of Indian start-ups fail within five years.
     
    The question is what can be done to reduce the number of failures? What are the secrets to success for India's budding entrepreneurs and its business start-ups? There are many. But, based upon research findings and my own experience as an entrepreneur, I would like to highlight a critical few.
     
    The IBM/Oxford report cited the lack of innovation as the primary reason for failing start-ups. A 2017 report by KMPG India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) cited innovation, along with scalability and digitisation, as one of the three pillars for building a sustainable business.
     
    So, what does an entrepreneur do to innovate? Here is the surprising answer that Vivek Wadhwa, a noted American IT researcher, academic, writer and entrepreneur, gave in an article in the Washington Post on April 30: "In a video-conference hosted by Indian start-up website Inc42, I gave Indian entrepreneurs some advice that startled them. I said that instead of trying new things, they should copy and steal all the ideas they can from China, Silicon Valley and the rest of the world."
     
    Wadhwa goes on to explain that the reason that Silicon Valley is the international leader and hotbed for information technology is that there is considerable "knowledge sharing" as engineers move from company to company. He observes that tech giants such as Facebook and Apple borrow and build on the ideas of others.
     
    The KPMG/CII report makes a similar point on innovation, stating: "Not all innovation is radical or breakthrough. Innovation can also be incremental, yet small materially significant changes to the current operating model or products or services."
     
    I would extend that even further to recommend that the focus for entrepreneurial innovation should be encompassing -- considering potential improvements in the areas known as the 7 P's of services marketing: Product, Pricing, Place, Promotion, People, Process and Physical Evidence.
     
    In addition, based upon my experience as an entrepreneur who took an information technology firm, the QSS Group, that I purchased in 1994 for $45,000 and one employee -- me -- to sales of over $300 million and 3,000 employees when I sold it to Perot Systems in 2007, I would offer the following advice that I gave in the keynote address to the participants at US-India Start-Up Forum sponsored by American Bazaar in Mumbai, in February 2017:
     
    * Believe in yourself and your business. Pursue your end goal with drive, determination and a passion to succeed.
     
    * Find and focus on your niche market. Figure out early on who will be your target customer segments and key customers within those segments and build your business model around them.
     
    * Deliver quality products and services that exceed customer expectations. Merely satisfying your customer is not good enough. They need to receive the unanticipated in order to become loyal. This is as true for the neighborhood kirana stores as for Apple and Google.
     
    * Surround yourself with talented people. Pay them well. Listen to them. Learn from them. And work closely with them. Remember, business is a team sport and not an individual one.
     
    * Have no fear of failure. India is a market where investors have little tolerance for failure. But fear can be crippling. Put your faith in your plan and yourself and carry on.
     
    While the strategies and tactics will differ given the nature of the business, I believe that addressing those five factors, along with the need for ongoing innovation, are cross-cutting and can be used by an entrepreneur to provide the framework for becoming successful in any start-up line of business.
     
    There is no single formula for success, however, and the future is promised to no-one. Therefore, I will close with this final thought.
     
    In a commencement address at Stanford University, Steven Jobs advised the graduates: "Your time is limited; so don't waste it living someone else's life."
     
    For budding entrepreneurs and owners of start-ups, I would modify Jobs' advice and say: "Your time is limited; so don't waste it trying to emulate someone else's business. Don't be a mere 'me too' business. Don't be a clone. Find your inner entrepreneur. Chart your own path. Create a mission, vision and set of values that are unique to your enterprise. In other words, make it your journey. By doing so, you will define those secrets to success that will enable you to grow your small business of today into the big business of tomorrow."
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
     

     

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    COMMENTS

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    1 year ago

    Those who are not Dalits, Moslems etc i.e. Constitutionally and Governmentally preferred for employment, education and doles, have little choice but to survive somehow. Naturally, this leads to mass failures due to lack of God Father, God Money, God Government, God, Influence, God Product, God Uncle and other Gods. Modi however has pushed most of these failures to Tier 2 and 3 cities out of sight of Intneranyional and main Stream media.

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