If you're an investor, you need to know about India. Unfortunately, before Riding the Indian Tiger came out, snappy, all-in-one primers on India's past, present and future had been hard to come by.
The list of companies that do business with India includes the likes of
But the list of investors with experience in India, who know its regions, tendencies and opportunities, is short. And much of what is written about the country falls into one of two unhelpful categories: political bombast declaring that India is ever-powerful and will sink America, and the business hype jobs that call India a source of evergreen profit for the average investor.
What has seemed lacking, until now, is a balanced and digestible overview that tells a bit about India's history, a bit about its regions, a bit about how it compares with China and thoughts on its future.
Riding the Indian Tiger: Understanding India -- The World's Fastest Growing Market
, (Wiley) by William Nobrega and Ashish Sinha is a must-read and earns a coveted Business Press Maven "Help" label, granted with great ceremony to books that help advance investor understanding. It is not a thrilling read, but the prose isn't wooden, and it's less than 250 pages. That means no excuses.
And here's the beautiful part: Place your finger down at random at almost any point in this book, and you'll learn something important, thought-provoking or, at the very least, interesting about a country that stands as a contradiction in a myriad of ways.
Where to start? Well, anywhere. How about page 12, part of the opening section that gives an economic tour of India's different regions? Haryana, close to New Delhi, is an agrarian state with a dairy bent, a fast-growing economy and an essential long-term challenge: With an underdeveloped supply chain and little of the milk pasteurized, potential lost revenue abounds.
Or, read any of the pages between 67 and 92, where the authors compare India and China, point to any number of examples of the free press in India leading to better oversight and less corruption or the overwhelming demographic advantages enjoyed by India.
The authors also argue that fashion apparel will thrive in the near future in India because of the nation's cotton production, technological advances of its textile industry, and increasing disposable income. National fashion producers are not sufficiently up to the task; the authors smell big opportunity. For some similar reasons and others quite separate, the hotel industry also is ripe for growth, according to the authors.
Skip to page 203, in a section on understanding Indian business culture, and you'll learn about the Indian businessman's disinclination to say "no," which often causes disappointment when deadlines pass. This, the authors say, is changing. The introduction, an overview of India's history, which has lurched between colonialism, socialism and now capitalism, is a bit less subjective but probably just as important for anyone who needs a quick sense of this emerging economic behemoth. Don't skip it.
As for the authors, Nobrega is the president of the Conrad Group, an emerging market consulting firm, and Sinha is the COO of RocSearch, a research firm. Together, they haven't put together a perfect book. It's a quibble, but you will read "when I first visited the country," without an indication of which author "I" is. I have no problem with that, but to start the comparative chapter on China and India, there is an anecdote about dinner party chatter, with this line: "Recently I (William) attended ..."
No matter. The book, while not a scintillating read in terms of structure or prose, is filled with insight and factoids that will help you emerge, after less than 250 pages, far more knowledgeable about India than you'd be from reading what else is available on the topic.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page. For his "Business Press Maven? column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Fuchs appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.