We investors know BRIC stands for Brazil, Russia, India, and China. This BRIC label clubs all four distinct but emerging markets into a single entity. Based on this acronym there are many different mutual funds, closed-end funds, and ETFs. Each of these countries are different in many ways such as different governance structure, different governance policies, different types of economies, different strengths, different financial markets, different values, etc., Even with these differences they are clubbed together and viewed as single entity for investing in emerging markets.
To me, it does not make sense to club BRIC together for investing purposes. Each country should be looked at individual entity. China continues to receive most attention in the press, however, I believe its India that provides a much better option for small individual investors. Following are three reasons I believe India has relatively more fundamental strength than other countries.
- Inward Consumption Based Growth: India’s economy is consumption oriented when compared to other emerging markets. India’s export contributes less than 15% to its $1.2T GDP. The IT outsourcing services and back office has garnered most of the business media coverage; however, these industries have less than 8% contribution to the GDP and employ less than 5 million people. This is an indicator of growth by internal production and consumption. It is less reliant on exports. Quite contrarily, these technology services perform better in recession, because it is all about optimizing operational cost.
- Conservative Central Bank: Its Reserve Bank (a.ka. central bank) has very conservative monetary policy, which is why we did not see failure of the banks (or banking system) during recent financial melt down. There were no widespread bank bailouts.
- Transparency: It has democratic governance which on many occasions slows down the decision making progress, but provides better transparency (relative to Russia and China). As of today, its currency is freely convertible for trading goods and services, but there are certain restrictions for international asset acquisition. However, it has a pragmatic roadmap to allow its currency to fully float with market dynamics. In 2007 and 2008, when Dollar dropped against Indian Rupee, Indian export started becoming uncompetitive.
- Government Stimulus Driven Growth is Less: The Indian market has rebounded in line with other emerging markets like China or Brazil. An earlier fear of bubble seems to be a just – a fear. It’s economy indicator suggest it is back of growth. The key in this rebound is; not much is being supported by government driven expenditure or public infrastructure projects. In fact, it continues to stumble on its infrastructure.
Finally, India can boast that its government is run by a bunch of prominent economists (with political and public support). The architect of Indian economic reforms, who laid down the path for reforms 18 years ago, is now at its helm as a prime minister. It is always good to have a non-political leader who is not only an economist, but someone who knows how to execute it in the complex state like India. Therefore, I continue to believe that on long 10+ year time horizons my dollars are (a) relatively safer; and (b) provide above average returns in Indian markets. I do not expect to be a smooth ride. There will be time period when markets will crash, but it will eventually come out stronger.
Having said that, I believe, individual investors should use ETF based investment vehicles for India (or any other emerging markets) which invest in array of companies and have less fees and commissions. Keeping with this thought process, I use Wisdom Tree India based ETF, EPI. You may read more about my reasons for selecting EPI for this objective.