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10 Reasons to Invest in India by Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

The place to be: 10 reasons to invest in India

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India’s economy and business landscape are changing, ushering in a period of growth, prosperity and investment opportunities. All the ingredients are in place for India to become a world leader investment destination.

Let’s look a little more closely at just a few of the more compelling reasons why investing in India is an opportunity you can’t afford to miss:

1. The Perfect Demographic For Growth: India is the fastest growing large economy on the planet. Its rapidly increasing population is predicted to overtake China by 2022, and become the largest in the world.

2. Exceptional Consumer Led Demand: A large part of the 1.34 billion people are increasingly sophisticated, technologically literate and wealthy.

3. Supportive Fiscal Regime: The government has been making radical changes to create a more business friendly environment. There is now a uniform tax regime (GST) across all 29 states of India, and introducing an affordable housing programme with additional tax breaks.

4. Dynamic Real Estate Market: India is experiencing an unprecedented demand for both domestic housing and commercial property. Real Estate investment in India’s six major cities doubled in the first half of 2017.

5. Vibrant Private Equity Sector: 2017 was the busiest year for more than a decade for private equity deals in India, with total investments of £16.84 billion.

6. Unprecedented Infrastructure Spending: There is a public infrastructure programme of moving scale. This includes 83,677 km of new road being built over the next 5 years (The UK’s motorway network is a little over 3,000 km).

7. Regulatory Certainty: The government has been decisive. Demonetisation has removed much of the ‘black economy’ and over 6,000 companies suspected of improper activities have been closed. Arbitration and court procedures have been overhauled and sped up.

8. Global Trading Hub: Major international companies, such as Virgin and Amazon are now moving to India to invest in and participate in the expansion.

9. World Leading Computer Technology: India is now recognised globally as a technology powerhouse, with an increasingly IT literate population.

10. Stable Federal Structure: India’s federal structure offers highly effective risk management, that helps protect the economy from any unpredictable events. Which means that investors are more than ever protected against localised market risk.

For these reasons and more, India is now one of the most exciting places to invest. At Red Ribbon, we use our expertise and resources to identify the investment opportunities that have the potential of delivering superior returns to our investors.

Nobody understands that potential for growth better than Red Ribbon Asset Management, which has placed India at the very heart of its investment strategies since the company was founded more than a decade ago. With an unrivalled knowledge of market conditions on the subcontinent, Red Ribbon offers a unique opportunity to share in that vast potential.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

India is more than just an exciting investment opportunity, it’s also a driver to global economic growth and that’s why Red Ribbon has long held the view that no investment portfolio can be considered properly balanced unless at least 10% of its holdings are deployed in Growth Markets and, of course, for us that has always meant India in particular.

At Red Ribbon we are very proud to have been playing our own part in India’s economic resurgence over the last decade, investing in just the kind of projects that are at the heart of the interlocking triangle of growth mentioned in the article: everything from the modular construction technologies now being developed by Modulex so as to deliver affordable housing at the pace demanded by the subcontinent’s urban expansion, through to innovative sustainable energy infrastructure investment. And to see India now firmly established at its place on the economic top table, uniquely well placed to move further forward still is, of course, a particular source of pride for us.

We look forward to continuing to play our part in India’s future, participating to the utmost in the opportunities the subcontinent’s explosive growth has to offer and at the same time providing above market rate returns from our investors in what I am convinced will continue to be one of the world’s most exciting markets for many years to come.

The Eco Hotel Phenomenon and Donald Trump’s observations- Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

The Eco Hotel Phenomenon and Donald Trump’s observations

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What turns a run of the mill, resource hungry hotel into an Eco Hotel and why does it matter? Well, the clue lies partly in the question: an Eco Hotel isn’t resource hungry at all. Instead of gobbling away at all before it, an Eco Hotel sips and nibbles at its key resources: energy, water and raw materials. Eco Hotels are hard wired to save water and minimise on energy and waste material usage. But what about the second part of the question: why does any of this matter? Look no further than last week’s US National Climate Change Assessment, the work of 300 scientists and 13 Federal Agencies which concluded that “ Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilisation, primarily as a result of human activities…” Donald Trump may have dismissed the three-inch thick report out of hand as “largely based on the most extreme scenario”, but virtually nobody else is.

And for a President so intent on wrapping himself in a mantle of economic competence (and hotel owner to boot), the supreme irony is that key policies at the heart of a concerted response to adverse climate change are now proving to be drivers of commercial growth too. Eco Hotels are a case in point.

By definition, a non resource hungry hotel will also have reduced operating costs: it’s also likely to have reduced liabilities, will generally produce a higher return on relatively low risk investments and also deliver greater profitability across the board than its more resource hungry counterparts. Those are the hard conclusions arrived at in the seminal sector report for the subcontinent “Green Hotels and Sustainable Hotel Operations in India” and, perhaps inevitably, the markets haven’t been slow to see their potential either. Green hotels are more popular than ever on the subcontinent and if you need solid evidence of that, look no further than the explosive growth of Lemon Tree Hotels after the company’s successful IPO earlier this year.

Donald Trump could usefully brush up on his bedtime reading before leaving the West Wing to resume control of his own hotel chain …

The travelling public (business and leisure) is now increasingly aware of the importance of environmental compliance when it comes to choosing a hotel room, and the current surge in demand on the subcontinent is running well ahead of supply: not least because India’s tourist numbers have reached unprecedented levels in absolute terms as well.

But when it comes to meeting this burgeoning demand in practice, something much more is required than simply re-branding an existing hotel with “green credentials”. Key consumption variables have to be built in from the very beginning of the construction phase: making water saving devices and waste reduction part of the DNA of the hotel from the outset of the project. That’s why Eco Hotels are being built with solar tubing that reflects light across the hotel day and night, resulting in electricity bills that are roughly half those of a conventional hotel and its properties also has a single kitchen which dramatically reduces the carbon footprint. All those savings go straight to the bottom line.

Red Ribbon is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral hotel brand which offers “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India designed to take advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand meets all key sustainability criteria without compromising on either quality or standards of hospitality and is designed to cater for commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

The boom in Indian tourism (both domestically and internationally) is currently playing a huge part in driving forward the subcontinent’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector, and as the article says eco credentials are playing a bigger part than ever in determining where this burgeoning tide of travellers are deciding to stay. Recent surveys confirm so called “green credentials” are high up on the scale of priorities when they come to make their choice.

And as the article also says, meeting that demand is certainly not just a matter of a last minute rebranding. To deliver properly on green credentials, the hotel has to be built with eco compliance as part of its structure (from the ground up). Only by doing this will cost savings and sustainability criteria properly come together in the future operation of the hotel, delivering the range of benefits described in the article.

I’m proud that Eco Hotels have done just that from the very beginning of the project, and proud too of the part Red Ribbon has played in developing the brand and its ambitions in the succeeding years, spearheading an environmentally friendly response to India’ resurgent tourism demands.

India Real Estate - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Time matters with India’s Real Estate revitalisation

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KPMG reported last month that Indian Real Estate Sector has now entered a “revitalisation mode”, with aggregate growth projected to reach $ 650 Billion by 2025 and topping $850 Billion by 2028: the average yearly contribution of real estate to the Indian economy will more than double from its current 7% by 2025. And CBRE India are equally optimistic: in their own quarterly report, snappily titled “India Real Estate: Variance in Construction Costs”, they forecast 17 Million new jobs will be added to the sector and an additional 8.2 Billion square feet of space released by 2025.  It all resonates well with the ambitions objectives of Prime Minister Modi’s Affordable Housing Programme, with Real Estate now set firmly in growth mode, and growing stronger every year. But there’s a dark shadow in the garden…

Each of these influential reports has highlighted a potential issue relating to construction costs on the subcontinent, capable of acting as a brake on growth and with no less than six major conurbations (Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi) causing particular concern. Perhaps predictably, Mumbai tops the list of areas where unit construction costs have spiralled over recent years and show little sign of slowing down despite the broadly stabilizing effect of GST legislation introduced by the Modi Administration which helped smooth out some of the worst supply and pricing differentials across the country.

The average cost of construction for a residential apartment in Mumbai is now Rs 3,125 per square foot, compared to the Rs 2,375 per square foot the same apartment will cost in Hyderabad. At one (macro) level the reason for all this is obvious: an increasingly urbanised population pushing up demand for units in the largest conurbations as part of a gradual drift away from the land, but the disparity in relative costs between conurbations is still striking. Inter market differentials of this kind are likely to be caused primarily to an uneven distribution of construction skills, with highly skilled workers drawn to areas of greater demand so increasing the unit cost of labour in specific areas of the subcontinent. Certainly we might expect other variables such as recent sharp rises in the wholesale price of steel to be more uniformly spread across the country.

In short, construction is becoming progressively more expensive in the very areas where more housing and commercial units are likely to be needed most…and that’s a real dilemma.

One answer is to make greater use of just in time delivery systems which are capable of dramatically reducing overall construction schedules: simple maths tells us that if an expensive worker is on site for a quarter of the normal building phase, costs will come down no matter how prohibitive the daily rate. And of course we have now grown used to the significance of just in time methodologies because of the prominence the issue has assumed as part of the current Brexit debate. Just as any significant inhibition on frictionless trade has potential to throw the UK economy into chaos after Brexit, so too the same frictionless technologies can help address systemic cost differentials across the Indian construction sector as well.

Modular Construction prefabricates all of the essential components of the building off site, everything from exterior walls, ventilation systems and internal wiring networks with the parts then arriving on location only when they’re needed: meaning field workers aren’t left waiting around (expensively) for the next phase of the project to get underway. Research has shown that through a combination of just in time delivery techniques and modular technology, otherwise complex units such as student accommodation blocks or hospitals can be erected on site in days rather than the months and sometimes years of conventional technologies. And an added advantage is that Modular Technology also reduces the potential for human error and snagging in the final building which can also be a major but hidden expense on any project.

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, setting out to meet the challenges posed by India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and dynamic manner. The company is at the heart of a project established by Red Ribbon to harness the potential of India’s markets and delivering opportunities for investors. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India and its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Prime Minister Modi has successfully appealed to the youthful and increasingly urbanised population that is currently driving India’s economic growth, not least through his Government’s re-energised Affordable Housing Programme the scale and scope of which has at times been breathtaking. So it should come as no surprise to learn that such an increasingly mobile population is also creating real estate hot spots (and cost differentials) through being attracted to a number of specific locations: by definition, a mobile population is difficult to keep still.

So as it seems to me the resulting cost differentials in construction across the subcontinent are likely to be a fact of life for some years to come yet. But that’s certainly not to diminish the problem, and cost disparities are a problem in India’s most expensive real estate markets, Mumbai in particular. They have real potential to distort the market.

In delivering a workable solution to that challenge most expert commentators now agree that Modular Construction is simply inescapable. No other technology offers the pace and scale of delivery needed to meet India’s housing needs and, as the article points out, it is the perfect corollary for just in time delivery systems. That’s why Red Ribbon was committed to Modulex Construction from the very beginning of the project and we remain committed to it today. I’m convinced it is not only a vital element in meeting market challenges but will also deliver on the unprecedented opportunities currently presented by the subcontinent’s burgeoning economy.

India Mid Market Hotels - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

How and why mid-market hotels are taking over India’s branded sector

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In the late 1980’s Esso commissioned a survey of its UK customers and found less than 7% travelled onto Mainland Europe with their cars. Why this reticence on the part of families clearly capable of making their way from Poole to Provence in an overcrowded Metro? And no, it’s not what you think: back in those days we hadn’t even thought of Brexit. As Esso found out, there was a more homely explanation: the Continent simply had far fewer automated pumps on its forecourts, so drivers were in danger of having to talk with an attendant and you know how the English are with languages. Better leave the car behind than risk the unseemly spectacle of sign language on the forecourt with a Frenchman.

And when you think about it, that’s all quite interesting. It’s the reason petrol stations have gradually come to look exactly the same all over the world: with the pumps all roughly in the same place, all self service and roughly the same kind of shop to pay in. It’s why you can now buy a burger (from a screen) in identical McDonalds outlets from Vienna to Vladivostok without once having to speak a word of German or Russian, and it’s why Esso long made sure you can buy your petrol the same way. There’s simply no need to leave the car at home anymore…so we don’t. We buy more petrol instead and everyone’s happy.

Economists call this phenomenon Brand Synergy and until recently India’s mid-market Hotel Sector was widely perceived to be more or less dead to its charms. A senior analyst on the subcontinent memorably (and anonymously) put it as follows: “…it was like an airline that uses a Boeing 747 for travel between Delhi and Mumbai, a Dakota for Kolkata-Delhi, and a Dornier for Bengaluru-Pune”. The poor old travellers never knew what to expect when they got there. Just like trying to buy petrol by word of mouth.

But not anymore…

The subcontinent’s mid-market Hotels including Ibis Styles, Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels have all made progress over the last decade in adopting a much more uniform approach to product profiling, achieving a consistency in specification that has now seen the mid-market secure nearly half the branded hotel sector: spurred on, no doubt, by an increasing number of private equity investors, none of whom are noted for being slow in recognising brand synergies when they see them.

All of which has made the mid-market uniquely well placed to take advantage of the surge in India’s middle class and increasingly urbanised travellers that has doubled airline occupancy rates over the last seven years.  And with the average cost of building a mid-market room coming in at between Rs 3 Million and Rs 7 Million, breaking even within six years, it all makes bottom line economic sense too. Compare that with the larger branded chains where average construction cost for each room is Rs 15 Million and break even takes 15 years: more than twice as long.  In the past 10 years alone the mid-market has expanded at more than 15% annually (according to Howarth HTL) and now accounts for 43% of total branded stock.

Having got away its successful IPO earlier this year (raising Rs 311 Crore from key investors), Lemon Tree Hotels last week took the trend a stage further by launching its brand overseas: signing a deal for the first of its hotels to open in Dubai next year. It will be the first mid-market hotel on the luxury studded Al Wasi Road, sitting literally in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab and Al Waleed Real Estate’s CEO didn’t miss the significance:  “There was a need for a mid-market hotel of this calibre in this location and India has been the largest source of tourists into Dubai, as well as the UAE as a whole, for over three years now.” To save you Googling it up, the exact figure is 13%: India now accounts for a whopping 13% of total tourist numbers into the Emirates, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody given the subcontinent’s wealth and proximity as well as the population’s found mobility.

And now they’ll recognise at least one familiar, distinctively Indian hotel brand when they get there…Plus ca change.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid-market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Working as part of the Eco Hotels Project has certainly taught me the importance of branding and product profiling in the hospitality sector, so I was pleased to read about the renewed emphasis on branding generally and unsurprised to see that it has now increased the mid-market share to just shy of 50%. Monolithic 2000 room hotel chains are no longer the first choice for travellers, especially given all the evidence suggests they are increasingly looking for accommodation that also complements their preference for sustainability.

And that’s important because the boom in Indian tourism (domestically and internationally) is playing a significant part in driving forward the subcontinent’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector. It’s certainly an area that cannot be overlooked when seeking out the best investment opportunities over the coming years.

That’s why I’m very proud that Red Ribbon has played such a significant role in the creation and development of the Eco Hotels Project, spearheading the response to that demand in an environmentally friendly manner.

Modular Construction India - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

Modular Construction: the answer to the shortage of skills in India

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Most Indians work in agriculture but next comes construction, and according to the latest Economic Survey the subcontinent’s real estate and construction sector is likely to create more than 15 Million jobs over the next five years, that’s three million every year. To put that in perspective less than 3 Million people are currently employed in the entire UK construction industry. And of the 52 Million building workers employed by Indian companies, 90% are involved in on-site construction with the other 10% busily painting, plumbing and wiring the finished product. It’s fair to say all these painters, plumbers and electricians are skilled workers…but not so the other 90%.

Because the vast majority of India’s construction workers are either minimally skilled or have no skills at all: an astonishing 97% of them aged between 15 and 65 will receive no formal training of any kind before starting work on site and, plumbers and painters aside, most of the skilled workers won’t be getting any cement dust on their boots because they’re probably office based clerks, technicians and engineers. And that’s a real problem…

It’s a problem, because coming the other way down India’s infrastructure and logistics superhighway is an unprecedented surge in demand for urban housing, fuelled by an increasingly urbanised population projected to become the biggest on the planet by 2022. India’s National Skill Development Council predicts that by then the real estate and construction sector will require a workforce of more than 66 Million, so without any obvious core of skilled workers currently able to sustain anything like growth it’s no wonder the sector is starting to show signs of stress.

Of course all this was supposed to be addressed by 2016’s Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act which was intended to act as a platform for local, State driven planning capable of creating an appropriate environment for improved training and regulatory structures, but so far six States out of 29 have failed to produce any plans at all under the legislation which means finding workers with the right skills in the right place will continue to be a source of real concern.

Billionaire developer Niranjan Hiranandani, head of Hiranandani Construction, has a simple enough solution: just pay unskilled workers less and reap the savings while you can. But that’s not a particularly attractive solution for anyone buying one of his apartments 76 floors up in the Mumbai skyline where quality assurance is far from being a dispensable extra. The behemoth that is Hindustan Construction Company perhaps takes a slightly more realistic approach, going on record last week to say that skills shortages have become a huge problem for the sector: 50% of its workforce needs advanced training just to use the complex machinery now prevalent on most modern building sites. With a heavy tone of understatement a spokesman for the company announced grandly that given these skilled workers are not available, “the only option is to train them”.

Well, it’s not quite the only option…

With no actual shortage of workers seeking employment in India’s urban conurbations, particularly in the light of a seemingly inexorable drift of former agricultural workers from country to town, what if the physical construction process itself could be de-skilled? Why not make a virtue of necessity and draw on this pool of former agricultural labourers to release the margins of between 20% to 70% that Deloitte India predict would follow from a wholesale deskilling initiative? These savings would go straight to the bottom line without endangering the quality and safety of the finished building. Skilled construction workers earn Rs 1,000 a day as opposed to their unskilled counterparts who earn an average of Rs 200.

And there is just such a business model on the market right now, a model with the potential to uncouple construction projects from a seemingly insoluble skills conundrum: it’s called Modular Construction.

Modern Modular technologies allow all of the building’s key components to be put together off site by specialist workers and then assembled locally at the same time as the site works are completed, not only reducing overall completion schedules by as much as 50% but also significantly reducing the need for skilled workers in the construction phase. All of the design and engineering disciplines are instead concentrated at the offsite manufacturing facility leading to labour, financing and supervision costs. Which will all be music to Mr Hiranandani’s ears…

Modulex Construction is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Construction Company, meeting the challenges of the subcontinent’s current urban housing shortages in a practical and focused manner. The company was founded by Red Ribbon as part of an innovative project to harness the potential of India’s dynamic and evolving real estate markets whilst at the same time delivering opportunities for investors through Red Ribbon platform. Because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows India’s markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Delivering on India’s stringent housing targets over the next five years presents an enormous challenge for the subcontinent, and that challenge is likely to get more testing still given the underlying demographics of a rapidly increasing and ever more urbanised population. Existing skills shortages within the construction sector have the potential to be a crucial block to meeting these targets, especially given the scale and scope of the training programmes necessary to release a further 3 Million workers into the sector every year for the next five years: never mind the attendant costs which are likely to be eye watering on any basis.

That’s why to my mind the answer has to be Modular Construction. No conventional technologies can beat it for sheer pace of delivery and, with a centralising of skilled labour in the offsite manufacturing facility, it will beat conventional construction methods hands down on overall profitability too.

Crypto Regulation - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

A Crypto Kind of Year: Regulating India’s e-Retail Markets

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Arun Jaitley is having a crypto kind of year. First he popped up with dramatic effect in this year’s Union Budget Debate, sending the price of Bitcoin spiralling worldwide, and the Finance Minister had barely sat down at this week’s meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council when the “B” word came up again. Sir Humphrey Appleby (of “Yes Minister” fame) would surely have been proud of the gloriously opaque press release issued after the meeting: “The Council has deliberated on the issues and challenges of crypto assets and currency and was briefed about the deliberations in the high-level committee chaired by the Secretary of Economic Affairs to devise an appropriate legal framework to ban use of private crypto currencies in India”. That rarest of political beasts: a limp statement with a punch.

But what does it actually mean, and what does it mean in particular for the future of e-retailing in India?

The subcontinent’s lawyers are already enjoying a feeding frenzy on crypto currency regulation (more of that in a moment), so this type of woolly language is unlikely to stifle further legal challenges. What, for example, does “use” mean? Will it be acceptable to hold a crypto currency if you don’t actually use it? Will it be like having a gun under the bed with a vague intention of using it to shoot ducks out of season, or more like having a gun in a holdall on your way to rob a bank? Nobody knows.

What we do know for certain though is that India’s financial sector is unlikely to be comfortable with this level ambiguity in such a key policy area where, like their counterparts worldwide, the subcontinent’s banks have for some time been edging closer to accepting (and investing heavily in) a Blockchain based e-retail market, and crypto currencies are an integral part of the Blockchain platform. That’s why Bank of America’s Kash Rangan stated last month that Blockchain technologies will eventually be embedded into every software platform globally; and its why IBM and Microsoft already have Blockchain offerings on the market, and why in India the likes of Apurva Enterprises (a building supplies company lets remind ourselves) is following their lead and investing heavily in its Tradescrypt affiliate.

And its also why the Reserve Bank of India (along with everyone else) has been expecting the subcontinent’s Crypto Currencies Panel (“CCP”) to come up with a workable regulatory regime for the sector by its (self imposed) deadline of July this year. That’s why in February the Reserve Bank restricted future crypto dealings engagements in the firm belief that the CCP would have done something by the beginning of August. In fact it has done nothing and this bewildering inactivity seems to the real behind this week’s consignment of crypto fudge from the Financial Stability and Development Council.

But don’t bet against the fudge melting away as quickly as a Chequers Brexit.

First of all, the simple fact is that Blockchain and Crypto Currencies now have too much potential simply to be ignored which is the reason why IBM and Microsoft have been investing so heavily in the technology, and India alone has more than 6 Million crypto currency users: all of them ready and willing to deal with more or less whatever platforms these behemoths have to offer. The market is simply way bigger than any quick political fix (whatever its flavour), and as Milton Friedman so ineloquently put it: you can’t buck the market.

Secondly, the very public failure of the CCP to come to a conclusion by July rapidly caught the attention of all those voracious lawyers (acting for Indian Crypto Exchanges), and they’ve brought an action before the Supreme Court asking for an order that the Reserve Bank of India should “clarify its position”. The Court ordered last week that the Minister should file an affidavit doing just that by the end of next week. This is most likely the real reason behind the statement issued from New Delhi.

The deliberate vagueness of the statement’ language seems not so much intended to be market resilient as to buy the Government more time to arrive at a final position before going back to Court. Not only that, the more astute observer may already have spotted that the Securities and Exchange Board of India has now dispatched delegates to Japan, Switzerland and the United Kingdom to study and make recommendations on regulatory structures relating to cryptocurrency trading. Why do that if crypto currency trading is never going to happen?

And finally, just take a look at the sheer scale of e-retail markets on the subcontinent: projected to have more than 50 Million trading participants by the end of 2018 and with sales in the two weeks running up to Diwali alone running at over $2.3 Billion. Between them Amazon and Flipkart have spent £54.01 Million on Diwali related promotions, Amazon has invested $79.8 Million this quarter in its digital payment arm and Flipkart invested $65.8 Million in its own payments wing (PhonePe). Amazon has also sold well over 1 Million mobile devices in India in the last six months, not just to the urban middle class but in rural and semi rural areas as well, helping fuel the rise of an entirely new electronic economy on an entirely new scale. As Milton Friedman would probably say, that’s an awful big market to buck.

It might just be unbuckable…

Nobody understands this market potential quite like Red Ribbon, which has placed India at the heart of its investment strategies since the company was founded more than a decade ago. Drawing on a pool of established expertise on Indian market conditions, Red Ribbon Asset Management offers a unique opportunity to share in that potential.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Whatever the virtues or otherwise of Bitcoin, and everyone has their own views, the role crypto currencies will have to play in the development of future Blockchain technologies is something regulators simply cannot ignore. And that applies particularly to India, where the opportunities offered by its rapidly expanding e-retail markets are likely to be exponentially greater than in most other economies worldwide. Together Blockchain and e-retail combined are a formidable agent for growth.

So I have no doubt that Blockchain technologies will ultimately change the way we all do business: it’s a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. And on that point I agree with Kash Rangan of Bank of America, at some stage these technologies will become embedded in every software platform so India is now in an almost unique position to take a lead in its global regulation. I will be looking with interest to see what happens next…

An Ambition for Growth - India Economic Miracle - Red Ribbon Asset Management

An Ambition for Growth: The Roots of India’s Economic Miracle

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Currently locked in a peculiar species of death roll with her backbenchers, Theresa May still (to her credit) seems intent on securing an orderly exit from the EU by 2020, but most economic commentators are forecasting a long term decline in UK GDP however “soft” the exit terms might be. Price Waterhouse for one are predicting that within a decade of exit, by 2030 the United Kingdom will have fallen to tenth place in Global GDP, behind Mexico and Indonesia and a whisker ahead of Turkey and France (which has a certain irony in the circumstances). And the same survey predicts that by 2030 India will have risen to third place in the global league, treading hard on the heels of China and the United States in first and second place respectively. But unlike the former mother country there is no suggestion that the subcontinent’s remorseless ambition for growth will lose any of its momentum over the course of the next half century.

China had better watch out…

The subcontinent’s economic ambition has been powered by a combination of progressive (some might say revolutionary) economic policies on the part of Prime Minister Modi’s Government (think demonetisation), coupled with a burgeoning and increasingly middle class population fuelling an unprecedented surge in consumer demand. But in a subtle and complex take on that dynamic, McKinsey this month published a fascinating report concluding that India’s explosive growth has just as much to do with interlocking trends in agriculture, urbanisation and mobility.

Take the first element in that triumvirate: agriculture. For decades now (at least the last thirty years), India has pursued an aggressive policy of agricultural self-sufficiency which has not only made the farming lobby one of the most powerful political forces in the country but has also delivered growth rates in the sector that are the envy of most of its near neighbours (indeed, the envy of most farmers anywhere in the world). But despite this, as McKinsey also point out, Indian agriculture still faces a spectrum of uniquely local challenges: severe water shortages alternating with devastating monsoons, combined with often antiquated supply structures and what McKinsey quaintly call a “limited exposure to high productivity practices”: in other words, a lack of investment in the latest farming technology.

That’s where the subtlety comes in…The Indian Government has re-calibrated its agricultural policy to shift the emphasis away from output targets, replacing them with a system of local subsidies designed to buttress farmers’ income (a policy that roused the never less than exuberant President Trump to bring proceedings against India again before the WTO). It was a smart shift in direction too because the new policy will almost certainly double agricultural wage rates by 2022 and, in a characteristically Keynesian frame of mind, the Modi Government are betting that with more money in their pockets India’s farmers will now start investing more in new technology. It can’t do much to stop monsoons but it can, as McKinsey would no doubt put it, “increase exposure to high productivity practices”.

That same factor feeds into the second limb of McKinsey’s triumvirate: urbanisation. More than 200 Million of India’s rural population are expected to move into its urban conurbations over the next 15 years and for those with the instinct to move rather than invest locally, improved agricultural subsidies are giving them a store of money to do it with. And, the Modi Administration is playing to its strengths on this too with a new Smart Cities Mission designed to meet the additional, affordable housing required to cope with resulting surges in demand, reducing urban pollution levels and increasing resource productivity and economic development through enhanced infrastructure programmes. You don’t need to look any further to find the real roots of India’s economic miracle.

And what about mobility: the third element of the McKinsey triumvirate? Well, that’s coming along nicely too with India now expected to become the world’s third largest passenger vehicle market by 2021. It’s not just that the subcontinent offers the same, parallel opportunities and challenges as other western and developing markets, it is offering them with a turbo charger attached. Many of those 200 Million people who are moving from village to town over the next 15 years will want (and get) a car, paying for it with the increased wages earned from working on all those new infrastructure projects; and their family and friends who stayed in the country and invested in new agricultural technology will probably want (and get) a new car too. You need to keep up with your cousins in town!

That, in essence, is what we mean by an interlocking economic structure, and it’s here that we can find the real roots of India’s explosive growth. Just wait to see what happens next…

Nobody understands that potential for growth better than Red Ribbon Asset Management, which has placed India at the very heart of its investment strategies since the company was founded more than a decade ago. With an unrivalled knowledge of market conditions on the subcontinent, Red Ribbon offers a unique opportunity to share in that vast potential.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

At Red Ribbon we are very proud to have been playing our own part in India’s economic resurgence over the last decade, investing in just the kind of projects that are at the heart of the interlocking triangle of growth mentioned in the article: everything from the modular construction technologies now being developed by Modulex so as to deliver affordable housing at the pace demanded by the subcontinent’s urban expansion, through to innovative sustainable energy infrastructure investment. And to see India now firmly established at its place on the economic top table, uniquely well placed to move further forward still is, of course, a particular source of pride for us.

We look forward to continuing to play our part in India’s future, participating to the utmost in the opportunities the subcontinent’s explosive growth has to offer and at the same time providing above market rate returns from our investors in what I am convinced will continue to be one of the world’s most exciting markets for many years to come.

Smart Eco Hospitality - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc - Eco Hotels

Better Smart than Big: India’s Eco Hospitality Sector

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The problem with global conglomerates is that they have global reach but monolithic thinking. Look how long it took Facebook to respond to high profile data breaches, with the hardly media shy Mark Zuckerberg virtually disappearing from the ubiquity of his own platform for weeks on end. Think of IBM: slow to the point of near extinction in responding to software innovations in the market, and poor old Kodak, slow to the point of actual extinction in meeting challenges posed by a blizzard of new, digital based technologies. So it should be a sobering thought for our current crop of global empire builders that big certainly doesn’t always best, because all too often great size comes with an inbuilt decision making stasis …in business, it’s always better to be smart.

Even so the thickest commercial hides can sometimes let in a little oxygen, which is why economists still like to look at the interesting conundrum of scaled decision making: big companies deluded into thinking they are fleet enough of foot to react on time to critical and fast moving trends, rather like an elephant finding a discarded pair of tweezers and thinking they must be good for something.

The latest example is Hilton Hotels, which this month unveiled its “Travel with Purpose Campaign” designed to reduce the group’s global carbon emissions by, wait for it, reusing old bars of soap left behind by its guests. Good luck with that: the Hilton Hotel chain on the subcontinent has properties with in excess of 1000 rooms pumping out as much carbon as a Victorian glue factory, so you might be forgiven for thinking the odd bar of soap is unlikely to make much of a difference. But the Hilton monolith is simply reacting (monolithically) to the unsurprising revelation that most of its guests are now placing environmental concerns at the top of their list when deciding where to stay. Hilton knows this because it conducted an expensive survey of 72,000 of its guests in May this year.

Of course it could have saved its hard earned cash and had a look instead at earlier newsletters on this site (amongst other places): sustainability concerns have been a key trend in the Indian Hospitality sector for at least the last decade and are becoming progressively more important. Hilton’s laborious, too little too late response is yet another example of big not being better. Big, in this case, is positively bad.

The companies that are instead best placed to make the most of eco trends are not operating out of densely occupied concrete blocks. They are strategically positioned in India’s mid market hospitality sector, with Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels being prime examples: smaller in scale and with sustainability ingrained into the fabric of their buildings (rather than in last minute memoranda urging staff to pick up discarded soap). As a result Lemon Tree Hotels is currently valued at 17 times EV/EBITDA and since completing its successful IPO in March of this year the company’s shares have risen in price by an impressive 28 per cent.  

Both companies find themselves carried forward by a relentlessly upbeat market outlook, typical of which is JLL India: “The hospitality industry is witnessing a new buoyancy” and Anarock Capital, where Shobbit Agarwal had this to say: “Stocks of listed hotel companies are on a new high due to improving fundamentals increased occupancy levels, higher revenues and average room rates seeing 5 to 6 per cent year-on-year growth”.

Quite so, we don’t need an expensive survey to tell us that.

And it also has a great deal to do too with a recent surge in India’s domestic and overseas tourist numbers as well as an increasingly affluent middle class demographic prepared to put their money where their heart is…Hilton Hotels might take note.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, offering “green hospitality” as part of a progressive roll out across India which intended to take full advantage of current market opportunities on the subcontinent. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and is designed to cater to commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I’ve always believed in the essential flexibility and virtue of smaller business platforms, capable of responding quickly and effectively to market opportunities as well as medium term market trends. Because, to paraphrase Keynes, over the medium term a business that finds itself rooted in a fixed strategy can also all to often find itself dead. Just look at the object lesson provided by the once all powerful Kodak Corporation.

And the sheer pace of change and market innovation in the subcontinent’s hotel and hospitality sector at the moment makes that lesson all the more compelling. Mid market groups like Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels are quite simply better placed to respond successfully to rapid innovation and key demographic changes. Not least because they have both been positioned from the outset to anticipate a sustained and progressive move towards sustainability based tourism and business travel. Sustainability is built into their DNA.

That’s why I’m particularly proud of the part Red Ribbon has played in founding Eco Hotels and helping with its strategic development, anticipating exciting developments in Indian markets capable of generating above market rate returns for our investors. So, whilst like the Hilton Group, I’m sure Eco Hotels will be encouraging guests not to waste soap, the company has a lot more to offer in the future.

Hospitality with Responsibility - The Explosive Growth of India’s Mid Market - Eco Hotels

Hospitality with Responsibility: The Explosive Growth of India’s Mid Market

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Jawaharlal Nehru famously championed “hospitality with responsibility” and riding high as it is on the crest of an unprecedented surge in tourism, India is holding hard to the father of the nation’s message. Not least because public awareness of environmental imperatives has never been higher on the subcontinent, leading Prime Minister Modi’s Government to respond (characteristically) with a programme of market driven “green hospitality” initiatives that embrace everything from streamlined Visa procedures through to water sustainability programmes and everything in between. The result is a striking pattern of explosive growth in India’s important mid market sector where the bulk of those initiatives are currently taking root.

And it’s not all about the environment either, with most analysts also pointing to the importance green hospitality is having on financial performance as well, and not just on the bottom line either where reduced energy costs and leaner waste targets have an obvious potential to cut operating costs. Environmentally friendly policies also have an almost unique potential to attract the new generation of business and social travellers who are placing sustainability at the top of their checklists, with even the hardest nosed business travellers supporting the trend: Deloitte’s, scion of the pinstriped traveller, has published polling results taken from 1,000 businessmen and women, no less than 95% of whom wanted more green initiatives with 38% admitting to checking whether their chosen hotel was sufficiently green before deciding to book.

Put it another way, in less desiccated language not favoured by Deloitte, Eco Hospitality has now become an essential part of Mid Market’s success story on the subcontinent… and there’s no sign of it losing any of that importance any time soon.

Just look at Lemon Tree Hotels and Eco Hotels both of which are blazing a trail in making the most of the opportunities India’s mid market hospitality sector has to offer, each of them pursuing ambitious expansion programmes and delivering above market rate returns for investors.

Red Ribbon Asset Management is the founder of Eco Hotels, the world’s first carbon neutral mid market hotel brand, which has “green hospitality” built into its genetic structure. The company has embarked on an ambitious programme to roll out a chain of new facilities across the subcontinent, designed to take full advantage of market opportunities currently available in India’s mid market segment. The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on quality and will cater for commercial and recreational travellers alike.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

India has become something of a crucible to test out trends in the hospitality sector. As most of us will have observed over recent years “green tourism” and “green hospitality” have become increasingly dominant in determining the choice of hotel for business and recreational travellers alike: part of a global environmental trend that seems, ironically, to have picked up pace even more following Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate accords.

But what makes India different from other bellwether economies worldwide is the sheer pace of the change that is currently taking place on the subcontinent. Number of travellers choosing to travel to and across India has reached an all time high, carriers are reporting exceptional volumes and occupancy rates and the mid sector is picking up a larger percentage of these travellers than ever before. I’m sure that will all in lead to an acceleration of the rate at which the trend for “green tourism” evolves in India as opposed to other markets across the world, meaning we can expect to see green tourism’s importance on the subcontinent before anywhere else.

As the article also points out, Eco Hospitality is an essential part of this trend so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how things develop, especially with Red Ribbon’s Eco Hotel project playing such an important part in the market.

Indian Real Estate and Modular Construction - Red Ribbon Asset Management Plc

A Sense of Understatement: Modular Construction and Indian Real Estate

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A Sense of Understatement: Modular Construction and Indian Real Estate

Mitsubishi Corporation announced this month its first ever investment in Indian Housing: it will invest $25 Million in Chennai through its subsidiary DRI India and plans to build 1,450 new homes on a 186,000 square meter site. And as if you needed any reminding of the buoyancy of Indian real estate, three quarters of those units have already been sold. Mitsubishi expects to earn more than 10 Billion rupees on the project within four years so it was probably with a sense of understatement that a Mitsubishi spokesman told the press last week that: “…middle-income earners (in India) are expected to expand, boosting housing demand.”

No prizes for original thinking there.

The United Nations has repeatedly forecast that the subcontinent’s current population of 1.3 Billion will overtake China by 2022, making it the most populous in the world so yes, middle-income earners on the subcontinent are indeed “expected to expand”…and how. Added to which India is already the fastest growing large economy on the planet, with an increasingly urbanised population so the demand for new homes will indeed be “boosted”. Look no further than the burgeoning conurbations of Mumbai and Bangalore. Mitsubishi might not be winning any prizes for economic analysis anytime soon but its decision to invest in the subcontinent’s real estate sector makes perfect business sense.

Of course, in the overall context of the economic phenomenon that is India, 1,450 homes is a drop in the Ocean. Just to keep pace with current housing demands, the subcontinent needs to build 856 new homes every hour (using up Mitsubishi’s contribution in less than two hours).

And that provides a graphic illustration of why Modular Construction is now at the top of the subcontinent’s political agenda.

Modular Construction is literally changing the shape of the world we live in: not just for homes but hospitals, bus stations and offices too…if it can be built at all, it can be built quicker and more efficiently in a modular format. So if, like India, you need to build nearly 900 new homes an hour, it should be obvious where to look for the solution. Indeed, having announced this week that the United Kingdom Government will commit an additional £2 Billion to affordable housing projects, Theresa May could usefully take a leaf out of Prime Minister Modi’s playbook.

And that’s not the half of it…with recent concerns over air quality in India’s conurbations also making the news recently, modular construction technologies also provide a ready answer to environmental concerns. Its technology eliminates high moisture levels occurring in traditional building materials, with units being constructed off site and indoors well away from adverse weather conditions. That not only protects the integrity of the structure but prevents excess moisture building up in the wooden framing too.

Modulex Modular Buildings Plc is the World’s largest and India’s first Steel Modular Building Company, working to meet the Challenge of India’s urban housing shortages in a practical and focussed manner. It was established by Red Ribbon to harness the full potential of India’s dynamic and fast evolving markets, delivering exciting opportunities for investors because, when it comes to investing on the subcontinent, nobody knows its markets better than Red Ribbon.

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Mitsubishi’s entry into the Indian Real Estate sector should come as no surprise to anyone: major Japanese consortia have been leading the wave of inward investment into the subcontinent in the wake of key initiatives such as Delhi’s high speed rail system. But the article is right to characterise Mitsubishi’s commentary on the strength of the sector as a wild understatement. India is currently the fastest growing large economy in the World, with a burgeoning and increasingly urbanised population that is projected to be the largest on the planet by 2022. That will inevitably make the subcontinent’s real estate market an attractive proposition for any investor.

But none of that should beguile us from forgetting the sheer scale of the housing challenge India currently faces, in common with other leading global economies. Traditional construction technology simply can’t deliver to the scale and pace required by projected demand on existing governmental programmes. No wonder then than Modular Construction is a policy priority for Prime Minister Modi’s Government. It’s only a question of time before others follow suit…

Red Ribbon

At Red Ribbon we understand that the transition towards a resilient global economy will be led by well-governed businesses in mainstream markets, striving to reduce the environmental impact of their production processes on society at large and on the environment as well.

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