Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions

Investing in megatrends in India Looking at the factors that will drive India's growth over the next decade

Investor's Notebook

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Stock markets in India have been soaring as the economy enters a prolonged period of political and economic stability. At elevated valuations, near term returns seem uncertain but investors should focus on riding the megatrends.

India’s per capita income has grown by 300% in rupee terms in the last decade, creating an aspirational consumer of goods and services. This, coupled with government policies, has kickstarted megatrends that will drive India’s growth story over the next decade, creating massive investment opportunities.

1. Formalisation of the economy

The unorganised sector accounts for nearly 75% of trade and 90% of employment in India. With initiatives like GST, the tax arbitrage available to the smaller traders will slowly erode increasing addressable market for the organized companies. The opportunity for established players in the consumer, healthcare, textiles, and jewellery industries is immense.

Organised hospital and diagnostic companies control only 10% of the overall market which is growing at mid-teens every year. With only three to four large players in the country, they are expected to catapult five to six times in the next decade.

Dr. Lal Pathlabs is the second largest pathology service provider growing at an impressive 27% revenue growth in the last five years, 11% above the industry growth. It generates a healthy cash flow and has seen a PE contraction recently to 30x against 45x historically providing a good entry point to long term investors.

2. Housing boom

Low cost housing is the focus area of the government and the best way to play this is through housing finance companies (HFC). Mortgage to GDP is less than 10% in India versus an Asian average of 20%. Owning a house is still a dream for most Indians, hence most home buyers are end users, resulting in this sector delivering the best risk-adjusted returns. Consider this: HDFC, a blue chip industry leader, has delivered a compounded annual return of 23% in USD terms for the last 15 years.

Recently, my favourite has been Canfin Homes, the fastest growing mid-size HFC focused on lending to salaried class first time homeowners. Canfin’s USD 2 billon balance sheet has grown its loan book by 30% annually and stock price at 100% (USD terms) every year in the last five years with a NPA of just 0.2%!

3. Physical to financial savings

Demonetisation may not have achieved much on black money, but it did put money to work! Banks received USD 230 billion of new deposits and a major portion of the same has stayed in the banks. Falling currency holdings and low deposit rates are pushing more savings into capital markets chasing better returns. Household savings percentage in mutual funds and equity markets have increased fourfold since 2011. This is another megatrend which will reshape the financial services industry.

The direct plays on this theme would be capital market oriented companies like IIFL Holdings, and Edelweiss which have been doing well. Since their model is more cyclical in the long run, I prefer a pure play on this theme, the recently listed Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL).

Investor's Notebook

About Himanshu Khandelwal

Himanshu Khandelwal is Managing Director of Asas Capital. Prior to this, Himanshu worked as a portfolio manager in India’s largest financial services company, Kotak Securities, with assets of over US$400 million under management. He also held analyst roles in reputable firms like CNBC and Bank of Baroda. He is a CFA charter holder and holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from IBS Hyderabad.

Articles by Himanshu Khandelwal

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