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The place to be: 10 reasons to invest in India

December 10, 2018

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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.

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The Eco Hotel Phenomenon and Donald Trump’s observations

December 10, 2018

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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.

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

December 10, 2018

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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.

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

December 10, 2018

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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.

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Better Smart than Big: India’s Eco Hospitality Sector

December 03, 2018

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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.

 

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

October 08, 2018

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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.

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The Economic Legacy of Atal Vajpayee: A Solid Foundation for Growth

September 14, 2018

Asset Growth(41), BRIC(27), Eco Hotels(23), Ecological(14), Economic(31), Economical(15), Economy(48), Emerging(42), Environment(23), Fast Economic Growth(46), Foreign Direct Investment(34), Fund Management in Gibraltar(27), Growth Market(44), Growth Markets(55), Impact Investment(35), India(67), Indian Economy(45), Invest In india(50), Investment(46), Red Ribbon(42), Red Ribbon Asset Management(50), Red Ribbon Fund Management(46),

The boy from rural Gwalior had given up studying Law during the turmoil of the Partition Riots, but Law’s loss proved to be India’s’ gain because Jawaharlal Nehru quickly spotted something special after listening to his maiden speech in Parliament House a dozen or so years later: “This young man will be our Prime Minister one day”. And of course Nehru was right, because that boy from Gwalior was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who died last week at the grand old age of 94. History has rarely given one man an opportunity to shape the economic future of a nation, but the modern Indian economy was to take root under Vajpayee’s three periods in office. The fact that India is now an economic super power owes a great deal to his foresight.

Vajpayee became Prime Minister in 1998, immediately after the seminal administration of Narasimha Rao, which had taken the first faltering steps towards opening India up to the new global economy. After decades of Central Government stasis and only six years of economic reform, small wonder that most of the subcontinent’s business community were initially sceptical about Vajpayee’s ability or appetite to continue to roll out the Rao inspired anti-protectionist and anti centralisation initiatives. Not least because the Mandarins running the BJP’s parent body, his own party were pretty much protectionist and statist to a man (and they were all men).

But Vajpayee had never been a subscriber to Protectionist Politics, and he defied all expectations by not only continuing with the Rao agenda but expanding it with all the enthusiasm of…well, with all the enthusiasm of a politician used to getting his own way despite established party orthodoxy. Think Margaret Thatcher in a dhoti.

Vajpayee laid radical foundations for modern and deregulated Insurance and Banking sectors in India and for increased foreign investment in India’s real estate markets. He had also removed all quantitative restrictions on imports by 2002, replacing them with a framework of domestic tariffs referable in particular to the all important agricultural sector (Brexit minded politicians in the United Kingdom care to might take note). In a few short years his Administration had also radically extended capital markets and significantly reduced the State’s involvement in public sector banks. But most of all, perhaps more than any of his other contributions to India’s economic resurgence Vajpayee totally revolutionised the subcontinent’s Telecoms Sector in ways that we are still coming to terms with today.

In short…no Vajpayee, no Flipkart.

Vajpayee set up a National Task Force on Information Technology and had the foresight to bring onto it pioneering entrepreneurs including N.R. Narayan Murthy (now of Infosys) and Azim Premij (now Wipro): people, in short, who actually knew what they were doing. How’s that for revolutionary? And the result was the New Telecom Policy of 1999, which introduced new licensing protocols making it easier and more attractive for private interest groups to enter the market, at the same time deliberately backing the State away from crucial decisionmaking. Can you imagine that ever happening on the subcontinent before 1991?

And from the perspective of 2018 we can now see the true scale of these changes. In 1991 only a little over 2% of India’s population had access to telecoms technology, that figure is now over 90%. The fastest growing large economy on the planet also has one of the most fluid and innovative technology markets anywhere in the world, driven by an increasingly urbanised and youthful population that views the mobile phone and the tablet as their shopping instruments of choice. They have Bill Vajpayee to thank for that.

One way or another, it was certainly all a very long journey from Gwalior.

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

 

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I have often thought that an economy opens out fully over a thirty year cycle, beginning with the removal of barriers to trade and expansion of domestic markets from central government control; moving into a second ten year period of market adjustment and recalibration as those changes take root, and then into a third decade of explosive growth. We saw that happen in Russia and in China and now we are seeing it happen in India: we are now living through this third decade of explosive growth on the subcontinent which has seen it become the fastest growing large economy on the planet.

But we should never forget the importance of those first two decades, laying a solid foundation for what comes after is a key part of the process, and neither should we forget that in India’s case the guiding hand for most of this period was the hand of AB Vajpayee. We have a lot to be grateful to him for.

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Eco Hospitality as part of India’s Climate Change Agenda

September 14, 2018

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What exactly do we mean by Eco Hospitality? McDonalds has its own unique take on things, announcing plans to serve rice at tourist resorts on the subcontinent: rice with extruded cheese or spicy packet sauce. Take your pick. And PepsiCo India has a global sustainability agenda as well, planning to reduce the size of its Lays and Kurkure snacks in a valiant effort to “limit the company’s global footprint”. No sign yet of any plans to reduce the price of the smaller bags though. But beneath these slightly risible gestures there is a serious point. We have all witnessed the cruel after effects of the recent monsoons in Kerala, which have displaced hundreds of thousands and claimed the lives of hundreds more. And global warming is widely identified as a key factor behind the unusually heavy rainfalls.

So its welcome news that with or without extruded cheese on our rice and smaller bags of crisps, the subcontinent is already working at the forefront of global climate change policies, especially since the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords last year, and India certainly knows what Eco Hospitality means because Eco Tourism is now an integral part of its economy.

Take one small example: operating at the epicentre of this month’s flooding in Kerala, the Tourism Department announced an initiative last month which will literally light up tourist spots by installing solar powered street units, including along the entire length of the beautiful Kovalam Beach where LED lighting systems link the seashore to local thoroughfares. The solar units are also hooked up to the Internet through a mobile app that will monitor power usage and report in if units are damaged or tampered with. It all costs Rs 31 Lakh but will save the State much more in electricity costs and, much more importantly, will help preserve the State’s precious environment for the future. There are also plans to extend the project to Varkala and Akkulam.

It might seem slight and insignificant given the scale of the recent disaster, but when Kerala recovers (as it will), it is one step further forward towards addressing the environmental issues that contributed to last week’s events. And on any basis it’s a lot better than extruded cheese and a bag of crisps.

Another good example of an Indian business looking to work in harmony with its environment is Lemon Tree Hotels where every hotel in its chain on the subcontinent will now adopt a stray dog from the local area and give it a home in the lobby. As history tells us, small steps can make a difference if we take them together. And as Eco Hotels has also demonstrated with its innovative “green hospitality” brand, the concept doesn’t just make environmental sense: it makes good commercial sense too, with lower operating and capital costs factoring into a leaner business model. Lemon Tree’s shares jumped 2% in a single day on 17th August, so the model is obviously working.

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 is designed to build and expand on economies provided by the platform in conjunction with explosive growth in the Indian tourism sector (and mid market hotels in particular). The brand offers sustainable living without compromising on standards of hospitality and will cater for commercial and recreational travelers alike.

 

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

I think we were all shocked to witness the scale of the devastation that has unfolded in Kerala this month, and our best wishes and sympathies go out to all of those who have been so severely affected. But it is right too that we try to understand the reasons behind this, the worst monsoon flooding in India for more than a hundred years and its difficult to resist expert suggestions that global warming and avoidable harm to the environment could well be a major cause. So it is obviously important that we should try to do something about those long-term trends as well.

I am proud that India is working at the cutting edge of climate change policies across the globe and, in however small a way, those policies will I am sure help to make Kerala a safer and more secure, even more beautiful place to live in the future. Eco hospitality is a vital part of that equation for an area which is so heavily dependant on international and domestic tourism. As the article says, small steps taken together can change the world.

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Sustainable Tourism: Balancing the needs of the fastest growing hospitality market in the world

August 16, 2018

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The World Travel and Tourism Council predicted this month that within the next decade India will be the fourth largest tourism economy worldwide, snapping at the heels of China, the United States and Germany. The Report makes a particularly interesting finding that this trend is not just driven by increasing numbers of international business and tourist travelers: significant growth is being driven from within the subcontinent itself, fueled by India’s rapidly expanding middle class and an increasingly technology literate young population who are quicker than ever to reach for their smartphones to book a holiday. Domestic travel is now the real catalyst for change in a burgeoning hospitality sector with a striking 90% of travelers being Indian Nationals.

No surprise then that In May of this year domestic airlines on the subcontinent reported a 16.53% growth in passenger numbers compared to the same month in 2017, with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation confirming that Indian carriers had transited no less than 11.9 million passengers during that single month. Across the board scheduled carriers flew to an impressive 80% occupancy with Spicejet leading the way at a 94.8% load factor.

These are hugely significant trends for the future of India’s economy, with the hospitality sector having already accounted for more than $230 Billion of the subcontinent’s GDP in 2017 (up from $209 Billion the previous year) and no suggestion that current unprecedented rates of growth in the sector are likely to slow anytime soon.

This pattern of exponential growth shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone: India has 36 world heritage sites, 103 National Parks (with the Taj Mahal thrown in for good measure) as well as Goa’s beaches, the foothills of the Himalayas and an astonishing breadth of wildlife from tigers and elephants to snow leopards. All of that is bound to attract tourists in large numbers, but such rapid tourist growth can of course bring its own problems, as anyone struggling through St Mark’s Square in mid August can testify. Growth of the wrong kind can threaten the fragile ecostructure of the very locations proving to be so popular with tourists, to such an extent that some of India’s tiger reserves no longer have any tigers to see.

More than 30,000 plastic bottles are left behind each summer by tourists in the high altitude Himalayan Ladakh desert of Jammu and Kashmir and on Mount Everest itself eight to ten tons of waste are left behind on the mountain every year: everything from empty oxygen bottles to rucksacks, tents and discarded climbing equipment.

So there is a balance to be struck: recognising the importance the hospitality sector now has for the subcontinent’s economy, but at the same time striving to support unprecedented growth within the sector in a manner that is sensitive to the needs of India’s precious ecosystem. This is the principal reason for the success of Eco Hospitality as a key driver of India’s mid market hospitality sector: not just because it is the only model striving to get this critical balance right, but because the majority of those travelling on the subcontinent now recognise the risks greater tourist numbers are posing to the natural habitat and are actively seeking out accommodation that supports its preservation.

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 is 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 travelers alike.

 

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

No surprise indeed that tourists are flocking in unprecedented numbers to the natural beauties and historic splendorous of the subcontinent, but it is still striking to learn just how significant a part internal tourism is playing in buoying up India’s resurgent hotel and hospitality sector. It’s certainly an area which can’t be overlooked in seeking out the best investment opportunities over the coming years and that’s why I’m proud Red Ribbon has played such a significant role in the creation and deployment of the Eco Hotels Project across the subcontinent.

As the article points out, tourists and business travelers alike are looking increasingly for hotel accommodation that is compliant with requirements of eco sustainability, and as the world’s first carbon neutral hotel brand, Eco Hotels are spearheading the need to meet that demand. It not only makes good sense for the environment, it makes good business sense too.

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India’s Infrastructure Partnership: “A Huge Footprint all over Society”

August 16, 2018

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Roger Bootle brilliantly described him (or her) as homo economicus: “a bloodless utility maximising machine, trying to increase pleasure and reduce pain in its own selfish interest…a being that has never set foot on the earth but has left a huge footprint all over society.” But in truth, market economics are not as atomistic as this in practice: major public infrastructure projects, in particular, would never be started let alone completed if commissioning decisions were left solely to the iron instincts of our heavy footed homo economicus. And that’s why a group of economists and market leaders gathered in Mumbai last week to discuss the practicalities of infrastructure planning in India.

Infrastructure is now the engine room of India’s burgeoning economy: enormous projects taking place across the length and breadth of the country that are creating unprecedented levels of wealth and employment whilst at the same time delivering key facilities to facilitate further growth in the future. The Indian Government is now a world leader in both seeing and exploiting this vast potential. Over the last five years it has embarked on a public infrastructure programme on a breathtaking scale: including the biggest highway project in the subcontinent’s history with 83,677 kilometers of new road slated to be built over the next five years (compare that with the United Kingdom’s total motorway network of a little over 3,000 kilometers) added to which there are new port facilities, new airports, new aeroplanes for a newly nationalized airline and even futuristic high speed monorail networks in Delhi and Mumbai.

Our eminent gathering in Mumbai wasn’t slow to see all that potential. They rightly concluded that proper evaluation of the monetary value of public projects of this kind is not simply a matter of short or even medium term cash flow. The projects have an inherent potential to create substantial value through increased connectivity between financiers, communities and the various stakeholders involved in the enterprise and designing systems that are capable of optimising this upside connectivity is of critical importance to effective financing of infrastructure assets.

Governmental agencies, for example, have to work closely in conjunction with Export Credit Agencies, which play such a significant role in easing capital provision by lowering the cost of long-dated debt and responding to funding deficits. Neither party can do both on their own. It is a true partnership of interests and India is providing perfect examples of just how well the process can work in practice.

Take the National Highways Authority and its Toll-Operated Transfer Model, which was run in conjunction with private sector interests and significantly increased the ability to fund new Highway Projects.  Given it has always proved tough to attract long-dated capital such as pension funds and insurance companies, direct government participation in the construction phase has become increasingly important: acting as a honey pot for capital pooling and monetisation and this in turn providing the government with flexible funding sources for new infrastructure investment. Covered Bonds are an important part of that process, just as they have been in Western European and North American economies for the last fifty years and the pooled character of the bonds again provides a perfect example of just how effective collaborative funding can be in the infrastructure sector.

The striking success of this symbiotic and essentially Government driven process is attracting foreign investment as well. ABB India announced this month that it is increasing its railway infrastructure programme as well as stepping up participation in renewable energy. The company already spends up to $100 Million annually on the subcontinent. ABB’s Sanjeev Sharma was in no doubt about the significance of infrastructure projects to future growth: “India has become a global feeder factory.”

India is leaving a Huge Footprint on the Global Economic stage.

Red Ribbon Asset Management has been specialising in India’s Markets since the company was founded more than a decade ago, bringing an unparalleled expertise to its investment policies on the subcontinent with specialist sectoral advisers working from it’s Head Office in London in conjunction with more than a hundred local experts on the ground in the subcontinent itself. And by drawing on that body of expertise Red Ribbon’s Private Equity Fund now offers an opportunity to secure above market rate returns in this, the fastest growing large economy in the World.

 

Red Ribbon CEO, Suchit Punnose said:

Infrastructure matters greatly to any modern economy and, as the article points out, the huge sums currently being invested into projects on the subcontinent are now playing in key role in the explosive growth of India’s economy. But it is fair to ask how a billion dollar project can sensibly be funded if returns in the short term are necessarily limited: investing in a rail network might after all leave capital costs to be recovered over a decade or more.

The answer lies in a new form of partnership between government agencies and the private sector, a subtle model for long and short term pooled resourcing that India is indeed proving to be a world leader in deploying. That can only be good for the long-term health of the economy.

It is, indeed, a huge footprint on the global economic stage and one that we would do well to pay attention to.

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