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This article has been adapted from our sister site across the pond, Fool U.K.
India has one of the world's fastest-growing economies, so it's no surprise that it has been featuring in the news these past few weeks, more so since it has just finished hosting the Cricket World Cup, which the Indian team won convincingly.
We've published a few articles about investing in India here on The Motley Fool in recent months, both for and against, including this one, which examines the recent entry of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway into the Indian insurance market.
I'm firmly in the pro-India camp, having been an investor there for several years. Even though India has to deal with many social problems, a seemingly never-ending torrent of corruption scandals, and a Maoist insurgency in the east, I believe that it will still produce excellent returns for investors over the next two or three decades.
History tells us that as countries become richer, these kinds of problems tend to become far less significant. And India has certainly learned how to become richer in recent years.
The three-hour telethon
If you want a concrete example of how far India's economy has come in the past few years, just look at the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's premier cricket competition.
Starting this Friday, cricket fans will be treated to the seven-week sporting extravaganza that is season four of the IPL. It's only a mild exaggeration to say that India shuts down during a big IPL match and that cricket is the one thing that unites Indians, particularly its rapidly expanding middle class, whom advertisers are targeting through the IPL.
The demand for television advertising has grown strongly in the past year, especially after India's World Cup win, with the advertising rates for some matches rising by as much as 100% compared with 2010.
Wearing my investor's hat, I'd say the thing about the IPL that stands out is that one of the richest leagues in global sport is now supported by what used to be one of the poorest countries in the world. It's all been made possible because the Indian economy is booming, thanks in large part to deregulation, and this portends well for the future.
Overvalued? Possibly, but …
Indian shares have had a bumpy ride over the past year, but some commentators say that the market is still highly overvalued, with this year's falls putting the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensex index on a prospective price-to-earnings ratio of around 15 for 2011 and 13 for 2012.
Given that investors are buying into an economy that's currently growing at around 7.5% to 8.5% a year and looks set to do so for some time, I think that the market is cheap provided that you're prepared to take a long-term view (a decade or two).
If you are interested in India, but are put off by the relatively high valuation, you might wish to consider phasing in your investment over several years.
My major Indian investment is a fairly substantial shareholding in the JPMorgan Indian Investment Trust, which I've held for several years. Its shares are up by 55% over five years and around 570% over 10 years.
My money's on the Mumbai Indians, led by Sachin Tendulkar (the greatest batsman currently playing the game), to go one step better this year and win the league.
More on emerging markets:
Tony owns shares in Berkshire Hathaway and the JPMorgan Indian Investment Trust.
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