By February, I will have closed up shop at home in Washington, D.C., packed my bags, and headed east -- far east. My destination will be the explosive metropolis of Mumbai -- home to India's burgeoning financial markets, many of its largest conglomerates, and, of course, its increasingly well-known film industry. My purpose will be to evaluate India's long-term economic opportunities on an extended, first-hand basis.
Why India? Why now?
The rationale behind this exploratory mission of mine is quite simple. India's economy is growing at near double-digit rates. Its budding middle class is multiplying at incredible speeds. IPO markets are hot. Internet literacy is catching on quickly. Consumers are craving Western-style products.
Twenty years from now, the Indian equity markets are likely to be some of the largest and most dynamic on Earth. This in part explains my motivation behind wanting to be there, on the ground, learning as much as possible while this economy is busy establishing itself. But there's more to it than that.
The real opportunity
Like the United States, India suffers from no "official" shortage of stock research. But the country does appear to manufacture very little trusted, well-articulated, and independently sourced stock research -- a problem the USA once had.
Those unfamiliar with financial markets in India should know that even while Indian companies are emerging as global leaders, distrust is pervasive, particularly in the financial sector. Conflicts between buyers and sellers of stock information are as widespread as they were here in the states in the days before Regulation FD and the Internet.
The type of information that we like to provide (and use) at the Fool -- intelligent, independent, and ideologically accessible -- simply isn't available on many of the promising and not-so-promising Indian companies out there. This is essentially why I'm so drawn to the place.
The game plan
Assuming all goes well, I'll be moving to India for a few months -- perhaps longer. During that time, I'll be spending a good portion of my time writing for the Fool, hopefully providing the type of on-the-ground content that many of our readers find quite valuable.
I'll be paying particularly close attention to Indian companies that U.S.-based investors can invest in. For example, I'll be examining native firms available via American depositary receipts, such as Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM ) . I'll be looking closely into whether the company's infamous $2,500 Nano is selling as well as the company claims it is. I can easily do channel checks, talk to customers and auto dealers, and get a feel for whether the car and the company have serious prospects for other emerging markets, outside of India. At the same time, it'll be very easy to examine Tata's booming competitors, including Ford (NYSE: F ) and Honda (NYSE: HMC ) , on the ground in India. In 2010, for example, Ford grew sales in the country by a whopping 184%.
I'll also be paying close attention to more familiar state-side names that are trying to build a long-term foothold in the Asian subcontinent. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) , for example, has only two stores in India. But the company could easily open several hundred if restrictions on certain foreign retailers are lifted -- and it plans to. If and when that happens, I want Fools to be among the first state-side investors to know.
These are just a few of the missions I intend to tackle while I'm there. But in a country as complex as India, I suspect most of my efforts will be educational in value. Even after numerous visits to the nation, India still proves a most mysterious place.
A call forward
Now that you know why I am setting my sights on India, let me take this opportunity to reach out to you. I'd like to capitalize on the brilliant minds prowling around this website and invite any Fools with something intelligent to say about India to step forward. I humbly invite you to share your wisdom.
If you'd like to dish on India, please comment below or email me personally at NKapur@fool.com. Your insight and knowledge will help fuel one Fool's understanding of an emerging powerhouse.