India: Kingdom of Dreams (Mobius)

At the Kingdom of Dreams

by Mark Mobius, Vice-chairman, Franklin Templeton Investments

Throughout my travels, I have visited some countries that never cease to amaze me every time I go back, and India is definitely one of them. The country is changing and growing at an incredible pace. In 2010, India’s economy grew by 9.7%, and for 2011 the International Monetary Fund projects GDP growth to be 8.4%.[1] However, many people do not realize that this fast pace of growth is not new and looks to be steady going forward. From 2005 to 2010, India’s economy grew around 6% to 8% each year, an impressive feat for such a large economy.[2] Looking ahead, from 2011 to 2030, EIU forecasts GDP growth to average 6.5% a year, which would make India the fastest-growing large economy in the world during that period.[3]

Some of the key drivers for India’s strong growth include rising per-capita income levels, robust domestic demand, more consumption from a growing middle class, and favorable demographics in terms of an increasing working-age population. We try to capture some of this growth through our investments in Indian companies, with an emphasis on commodities as well as consumer products and services.

India’s swift pace of growth means that consumption of commodities is rising fast, and the most crucial commodities are those that produce energy: oil and gas. It is a challenge for India to meet expanding energy demand, since it has less than 0.5% of the world’s oil and gas reserves but is home to 15% of the world’s population.[4] [5] By 2025, India is likely to become the fourth-largest net importer of oil in the world, behind the United States, China, and Japan.[6] An intensive search is underway — oil and gas has been discovered both onshore and offshore, which is a great boon for a country so dependent on oil imports. The search for energy is not limited to oil and gas but also extends to coal, wind and solar-powered sources.

On each visit to India, I’m astounded by the vibrancy of the consumer market, with the opening of new malls, hotels and apartment blocks, as well as an avalanche of advertising on television, billboards, movie theaters and every other conceivable advertising medium. A key driver of the rapid changes taking place in India is telecommunications—almost 706.7 million out of the total population of 1.17 billion Indians own cell phones.[7] [8]

Another indicator of growing consumer demand is entertainment. It is not only evident in crowded movie theaters but also the demand for televisions. Most impressive has been the cultural explosion stimulated by Bollywood films. When I was in New Delhi, I heard about a new tourist attraction that was a “must-see” for tourists – not only foreign but most particularly Indian tourists from other cities. We were driven to Gurgaon, one of New Delhi’s satellite cities 30 kilometers south of the capital. Gurgaon, the “Mall Capital of India”, is one of the richer cities in India with the country’s third-highest per capita income, and it is also home to a number of multinational firms. It is thus a good place to locate the fantastic multimillion dollar Kingdom of Dreams, which is possibly India’s first live entertainment, theater and leisure destination.

Walking up the palace’s giant staircase, we entered the huge 848-seat Nautanki Mahal Theater, one of the two theaters in the complex, to see the Bollywood musical Zangoora – the Gypsy Prince. Zangoora was a classic mixture of Bollywood and Broadway musical. It finished 100 performances in a mere 78 days and was still going strong. Although the songs and dialogue were in Hindi, it was not difficult for us to figure out what was going on, and we loved it as much as the rest of the audience.

After the show we headed to the next building, Culture Gully, through a 20-foot high gateway made with golden lotus petals, glittering with thousands of tiny mirrors. We entered an air-conditioned boulevard with a painted ceiling which was made to look like the sky. We felt like we were walking in the streets outside! Street performers, hawkers, shops, and restaurants recreated the feel and atmosphere of a typical street in India, and we were able to sample different kinds of food and buy handicrafts. It was vibrant and bustling with representative architecture and décor from various parts of India, spread across 90,000 square feet. I’m already looking forward to another trip to the Kingdom of Dreams and most of all, to witness the country’s incredible economic growth and transformation.

[1] Source: International Monetary Fund Survey, India: Rapid Growth with Promising Medium-term Prospects, as of January 5, 2011.

[2] Source: IMF, WEO, as of October 2010.

[3] Source: EIU, as of August 4, 2010.

[4] Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, World Proved Reserves of Oil and Natural Gas, as of March 3, 2009.

[5] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base (IDB), as of December 2010.

[6] Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Brief, as of August 2010.

[7] Source: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Telecom Subscription Data as of October 31, 2010. Press Release No. 66/ 2010, as of December 24, 2010.

[8] Source: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base (IDB), as of December 2010.

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