For the past couple of decades, the biggest single economy driving worldwide growth has undoubtedly been China. Annual GDP growth rates in excess of 10% fueled an economic boom and high demand for commodities like steel, copper, and many other metals while the rising Chinese tide helped to lift other countries along with it. But China’s reign has come to an end. Growth has been decelerating, now estimated to be around 6.5% to 7%, and the Chinese stock market crash drilled those realities home for investors who refused to see the downward slope.
In the absence of a global economic giant, the world has struggled to fill in the demand gaps left by China. As that country slips from its previous highs, though, another front runner is picking up steam: India. A number of factors are helping India rise up, and some investors are betting that India could be the answer for shoring up the global economy.
Making a Case for India
Three of the BRIC economies – Brazil, Russia, and China – don’t yet have what it takes to become the world’s most important developing economy, but there’s a lot of evidence that India could. Massive political reforms have led to a splurge of foreign investment money pouring into India, and low oil prices have helped the economy gain traction.
The long-term scenario for India looks good, too. The average birthrate is 2.5 children per woman and is estimated to contain about 20% of the world’s working population. Education standards are high as well. By 2020, India should have 12% of higher education graduates – higher than the U.S. Demographics are just one of the factors that India has going for it.
Much credit has been given to India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who’s pro-business attitude is helping shape the country’s future. Policies focusing on building up infrastructure, creating jobs, and reducing inefficient bureaucracy should help shore up India’s weak areas. Hopefully, the change will be a lasting one because India has a lot of ground to cover before it can legitimately challenge China’s previous station.
One of the challenges India faces is the lack of capital deepening compared to China, and the industrial sector requires a massive overhaul to be competitive on a global scale. It may have difficulty achieving the desired rate of economic growth until structural reforms take root and revitalize industrial activity. Still, India’s economy looks very similar to China’s several decades ago, before the explosive growth of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Mutual Funds That Invest in India
One of the best ways for investors to gain exposure to India is through diversified mutual funds. U.S. companies like General Electric (GE) and General Motors (GM) are establishing a large presence there.
Matthews India Fund (MINDX)
- Year to Date: -5.9%
- 10 Years Annualized: 9.8%
- Fees: 1.12%
- Top Holding: Taro Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TARO)
Eaton Vance Greater India Fund (ETGIX)
- Year to Date: -7.8%
- 10 Years Annualized: 3.1%
- Fees: 1.88%
- Top Holding: ITC Ltd. (ITC)
Franklin India Growth Fund (FINGX)
- Year to Date: -6.5%
- 10 Years Annualized: N/A
- Fees: 1.65%
- Top Holding: HDFC Bank Ltd. (HDB)
The Bottom Line
India’s annual GDP growth rate right now is greater than China’s, at 7.3%. The manufacturing sector is the largest contributor to GDP growth and it could go higher as India’s infrastructure is modernized and industrial activity rises. If India follows the same path China did, then investors could reap outsized gains over the next few decades.