“This is India! The land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants , of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations – the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien persons, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. Even now, after a lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay has not left me and I hope it never will.” – Mark Twain, American author, 1897
For a literary giant so expert at distilling complex ideas into words, it’s revealing how awestruck Twain felt when he visited India. The color and contrast of his language tell you all you need to know about this most mystical and beguiling of countries. From Goa to the Ganges, and from Kashmir to Kerala, the vivid intensity of India’s colors, smells, tastes and sounds all conspire to create a sensory overload. The rich choreography of Indian life makes you feel like you’ve lived your entire life in black and white, to be suddenly dazzled with color. With a long and rich history, India’s roots stretch out through the ages. Pre-Hindu Vedic scriptures, among the oldest religious texts still in use, date back to the 12th century BC and four of the world’s 12 classical major religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism – all originated in India. What’s more, the Indus Valley was one of humanity’s first urban civilizations – arising 3,000 years before Christ. Given India’s sheer vastness, it has often been likened to a continent, and it’s easy to see why. Home to 29 states and seven union territories covering 3.3 million square kilometers, it is 13 times the size of the UK.
Market Realist – Not long ago, India was one of the Fragile Five: an unfortunate club of troubled emerging markets (FEO) (VWO) that were the worst hit by the 2013 taper tantrum. The group comprised of Brazil (EWZ), Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia (IF), and India (IFN). But India is now one of the engines of global growth in 2016. The country sure has come a long way.
While global growth (FAM) is hard to find, the Indian growth story looks stronger than ever. Backed by robust manufacturing growth, India’s GDP growth for the March 2016 fiscal year came in at an impressive 7.6%. The GDP growth rate for the quarter ended March 2016 came in at a whopping 7.9%. The country has overtaken China (FXI) to become the fastest-growing large economy in the world today. The International Monetary Fund estimates that India (EPI) will grow 7.4% in both 2016 and 2017. China (GCH), on the other hand, is estimated to grow at 6.6% and 6.2% in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
In this series, we’ll explore how the Indian growth story is set to take center stage, the reform measures the current government proposes, and other challenges that may arise as the giant awakens.