December 10, 2004

What an Indian Investor can learn from a US visit

I work in the IT industry and keep travelling to US and other countries.

There is lot one can learn as an investor during one's visit to these countries. Some of them are like

1. Power of brands / ideas
2. Intensity of competition
3. Pace of change
4. Level of innovation and impact on value creation
5. Consumer orientation towards 'value for their money' ( not limited to indians alone )
6. Trend in various industries like telecom , retail, Entertainment which could play out later in india Let me share what has been my observations till date.

1. Power of brands / ideas - The first thing that strikes you is the presence of brands in almost all sectors of business - industrial, consumer etc. Now one may say , that we have brands in india too whats the difference ..well branded goods occupy a much larger share of the market than india where the unbranded / unorganised sector is equally prominent in several categories. So what does this signify - a) as an economy develops the share of branded goods increases as competition forces out the generic products b) powerful brands create a strong competitive advantage in most industries and high profit margins.

2. Intensity of competiton - What the developed countries like US are able to do is ensure that there level playing field, good infrastructure and open competition. This benefits the consumer but not an investor as high profit margins are rarely sustainable . So think about our current market favorities like auto component, IT, Pharma . If you think that their profit margins (and high return on captial ) is garunteed , then better think again. Not only is competition high , but the goverment does not interfere in closure of companies. So the inefficient die and the efficient survive. That is good for the society and also for an investor .An in-efficient competitor on subsidy can be really bad for the other companies

3. Pace of change - You literally see the business landscape change . In india the same is happening but in select industries . In the US it is pervasive. Is it good for an investor. Difficult to say , but generally too much competition and change is not good.

4.Innovation - Look at google . need i say more. In india telecom is a good example. What ITC is doing is a good example too. FMCG industry claims too be innovative , but their innovation are limited to buy one get one free schemes. So low innovation , low returns.

5.consumer orientation - This is same all over the world. People over the world want value for money. So if a company wants to make money they have to define and deliver value to the consumer. so watch out companies which work on cost plus pricing 6. Trends - This is very intresting. A lot of trends in US occur in india with time lag. For ex : growth of discount retailers, movement of the consumer to VOIP telephony ( this could impact the cellular industry ), trends in music retailing etc. The list is endless and a subject for another day.

i will come back again with more details on the points i have listed above.

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