Saturday, June 3, 2023

How to Exit the Polycrisis the World Walked Into

Until now, more often than not, economic crises were all singular and well defined. The world will either have slowing down demand with its side effect of lower inflation, or the world will have high inflation with its side effect of a surge in demand.

But this time around, things are slightly different. Confusing even many economists, the world is witnessing high inflation but with a slowdown in demand. Now, this is something not only pretty strange, but something that leaves not many levers for the governments and central banks to act upon.

This is one reason why many thought leaders are citing that the world is in a polycrisis. To add fuel to this fire, are the various global developments like the unprecedented war by Russia in Ukraine, the equally unprecedented economic slump in China, the very much anticipated but unprepared-for population degrowth in Europe, and the disruptive advent of generative AI like ChatGPT, to cite just a few.

While many factors are behind all these diverse challenges, for the highly observant mind, it can easily be seen that one social trend is behind it all. In fact, it is not just a social trend, but something that runs deeper, with its roots in the human psyche itself. It is nothing but the human tendency to deliver excesses, in both committing an act and in later correcting that act.

For those who know human physiology in some depth, parallels can easily be seen in how the cells and systems of our body react to various stimuli. For instance, the much discussed dopamine cycle. There is a baseline dopamine level, but achievement, rewards or euphoria spikes dopamine, but it cannot stay there forever. 

Soon it will be time for a fall, and when dopamine levels fall, it will not stop at the baseline level, but plummet sharply below it. In fact, higher the rise above baseline, higher will be the fall below it, sending happy and euphoric people to sudden gloom and doom, within a matter of hours. People who don’t realise this mechanism, often go after reward-seeking behaviour again and again, be it partying or drugs, to get a new high, only to fall even more deeper, and thus maintaining this vicious cycle of addiction.

Eerily, almost the same thing is happening in global economics too. The world went through a sudden demand slump due to Covid, and central banks responded with easy liquidity by way of lower and lower interest rates. And the otherwise smart companies like the tech majors started thinking that this will remain the new normal forever, and invested more and more into a digital future and in the engineers needed to run that future.

And tech majors alone were not to blame. Some of the otherwise most prudent investors and lenders, like the PE and VC funds, imagined that profits in their funded startups are not important anymore - in this new normal - but that valuations or marketcaps are enough to sustain operations forever.

But inevitably, like the dopamine slump, everything has to correct deeply for the economy to find itself in a stable ground again. Take the recent failure of Silicon Valley Bank in the US that started the most recent leg of the ongoing contagion. SVB was the lender of choice for startups, and the collateral was often the share pledges by promoters of these startups. 

Even more seriously, these young millionaire and billionaire promoters also parked much of their funds in SVB. But when the inevitable correction in the markets came, and the mass layoffs started, the outlook turned suddenly dark, the value of the pledged stocks became only a fraction of their peak values, and the promoters couldn’t take back their deposits in time, and everything came crashing down like a castle of cards.

The world had seen this coming, yet walked into it, mainly because everyone else was doing it. Yet, there have been notable exceptions to this trend across the world. Quite a few companies stood their ground and focused on growing their bottomline along with their topline, paid generous but prudent dividends, and kept aside much for a challenging phase that they saw coming.

There are quite a few measures that governments and companies can take to avoid such excessive behaviours. Firstly, it is important to realise that valuations can never substitute for profits. Secondly, it is important not to over anticipate the durability of an ongoing trend, especially if it feels too good to be true. Such a timely realisation would have been enough to avoid the kind of mass layoffs being witnessed now.

Last but not least comes an objective called sustainable and inclusive development. Governments should realise that the per capita income of their people is way more important than the GDP. Companies should realise that a mindless hiring and firing culture would gradually result in top talents not willing to work at all in their sectors. It doesn’t make sense for the companies themselves to always aim for aggressive valuation growth or even profit growth, but to always choose inclusive and sustainable growth for all stakeholders.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Invest MP 2023 Starts with Virtual Address by PM Modi

Invest Madhya Pradesh 2023 - Global Investors Summit - has kicked off to a majestic start in Indore with a virtual address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the presence of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and several international and national dignitaries, including topmost level leaders from the leading industrial houses of India like Aditya Birla, Tata, Bajaj, Piramal, Godrej, Lulu Group, Dalmia Bharat, JK Tyres, Reliance, Adani & JSW.

Invest Madhya Pradesh - Global Investors Summit is the flagship biennial investment promotion event of Madhya Pradesh, the Heart of India. It provides an important platform to engage and connect with potential investors by showcasing and promoting the state's growth potential, investment climate, infrastructure and other advantages of Madhya Pradesh.

7th edition of “Invest Madhya Pradesh - Global Investors Summit” is scheduled on 11th – 12th January 2023 in the commercial capital of the State, Indore. Theme of the event is "MADHYA PRADESH - THE FUTURE READY STATE", the Programme scheduled in the cleanest state and cleanest city of India, will be ‘Carbon Neutral’ and ‘Zero Waste’. 

Over 5000 industrialists, representatives of various industry associations, foreign delegates including more than 500 international delegates from 80+ countries and representatives from all G20 Countries will participate in the event. The event will also witness participation from Central and State Government Ministers/Officials.

The main objective of this two-day event is to showcase the industrial ecosystem of the state, promote state policies, consultation with industrial organizations to Formulate Industry-Friendly Policies, Collaboration Opportunities, Promote Export Potential, Buyer- Seller Meets and Vendor Development. 

The event will be a platform where global leaders, industrialists and experts come together to share their narratives on emerging markets & trends and ways to harness investment potential of Madhya Pradesh.

Summit will have various important segments. On 11th January 2023, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi virtually addressed the inaugural session. H.E. Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the President of Cooperative Republic of Guyana, H.E. Mr. Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname, Shri Piyush Goyal, Hon'ble Minister of Commerce and Industry & Textiles, GoI, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh & Shri Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon, Hon'ble Minister, DIPIP will grace the event. 

All Leading industrial houses like Aditya Birla, Tata, Bajaj, Piramal, Godrej, Lulu Group, Dalmia Bharat, JK Tyres, Reliance, Adani, JSW will be on the dais.

Along with the Inaugural session, other key highlights of the summit are Thematic & Sectoral sessions, One-to-One Meetings with CM, Industry Ministers and other State Officials, Exhibition & Cultural Zone. 

Session on various Themes & sectors such as Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices & Healthcare, IT & ESDM, Automobiles & Auto Components, Textiles & Garments, Agriculture, Food Dairy Processing, Logistics & Warehousing, Natural Gas & Petrochemicals, Tourism, Renewable Energy, Urban Infrastructure & Mobility, Fostering Exports from MP, Social Infrastructure Financing, Access Madhya Pradesh, International Business Opportunities,I2U2 (India, Israel, USA & UAE), MP contribution to 5 Trillion Economy, Aerospace & Defence, PLI- Boosting Manufacturing in India and Role and MP, Education & Skill Development, MP Startup Ecosystem. 

Business to Business meetings have been organized to provide a platform to industries for collaboration, business-related partnerships, product exchange, different services and related information. Through G2B meetings, private sector industries will be able to discuss various opportunities and collaborations with the government.

Buyer Seller Meet and Vendor Development Program is being organized to help the MSMEs of the state to reach the global market and to promote exports from the state. This mainly includes buyers from USA, Canada, England, Japan, Israel, Netherlands, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh and African countries. 

More than 1500 exporters of the State from different sectors such as pharmaceutical, textile, engineering, agri and IT services have confirmed their participation.

During the two-day summit, 20 different sector-specific sessions will be organized with industry captains & industrialists from different fields and, senior officials of the concerned ministries of GoI & MP shall be brainstorming in these sessions. 

To protect the environment, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan has pledged to plant a tree every day and multiple kiosks have been placed within the Convention Centre and Exhibition to enable the participants plant a tree with Hon’ble Chief Minister. With the contribution of participants through this initiative, plantation of different varieties of trees will be done at Global Park by AQI Warriors.

More than 100 industries will display their products related to various sectors such as Pharma, IT, Automobiles, Textiles, Garments, Chemicals, Cement, Food processing etc. 

In the exhibition, a dedicated Madhya Pradesh Pavilion showcasing the industrial infrastructure, existing and upcoming industrial parks, major investment projects, flagship government schemes which are planned and are under implementation in the State. State’s various aspects such as Heritage, Culture, Wildlife, Natural Resources etc. will be showcased along with Digital Exhibition, Industrial Exhibition and a Cultural Zone in which One District One Product (ODOP) & local arts such as Gond paintings, Bhil paintings, Zari-Zardozi, Jute, Bagh print, Dolls, Bamboo Art, Bell Metal Craft and handlooms such as Chanderi & Maheshwari etc. will be  displayed by the artisans.

The 7th GIS holds significance as it is being organized when India has taken over presidency of G20 and the State is looking forward to a proactive participation from the Investors interested to Invest in Madhya Pradesh – The Future Ready State.

The event will be streamed live through DD news, and Jan Sampark, MP through the following platforms: FB - @jansampark.madhyapradesh, Twitter- @jansamparkMP, Youtube- JansamparkMP.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Bangalore Airport To Be India's First Listed Airport?

Indian listed companies have had airport subsidiaries before, but Bangalore International Airport Ltd (BIAL), the owner of Bengaluru's Kempegowda International Airport may become the country's first directly listed airport company. Its majority owner, Fairfax India Holdings Ltd, belonging to India-born Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa's Fairfax Group, has set the ball rolling on an IPO of between Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 crore, which will value the company at around Rs. 30,000 crore. Airports are profitable entities in India and BIAL has been well managed so far, making this direct listing of an airport, an opportunity to be considered seriously by investors. Led by aviation sector veteran Hari K Marar as its MD & CEO, BIAL has unique claims to its credit like being the fastest growing airport in the world, the busiest airport in South India and the third largest in India.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Hidden Superpowers are Hurting the World

With Meta announcing an 11,000+ layoff of its employees, will the US Federal Reserve finally admit that its policies are hurting the workforce?

All kinds of expert knowledge could do better with a little more common sense, especially economics. Since it is difficult to comprehend for most people, countries have been giving free rein to economists to manage their economies ‘expertly’.

But 2022 was the year in which yet another folly of modern economics was exposed. Modern economic theory had long contended that more and more free market economics will avert war. But it now seems that Putin hadn’t studied his economics well.

Or, maybe he was too brilliant at real economics, and not these kinds of economic theories that lack commonsense. Over the more than two decades he has been in power over his superpower nation, he counted on and exploited to the hilt such foolish Western theories.

Now the West is crying for his blood, for Putin to be prosecuted for his war crimes. He surely qualifies for that, for both the destruction he senselessly unleashed on Ukraine, killing not only tens of thousands of Ukranians but for letting tens of thousands of reluctant Russian soldiers to be killed in a totally unwanted war.

While such damage is limited to Ukraine and Russia, the greater damage inflicted by Putin is now being felt across the world. Yes, the whole world is reeling from the economic fallout of Putin’s aggression, with inflation soaring to levels unseen in recent years.

This is why the very idea of a superpower is potentially lethal for the rest of the world. If in doubt, look at the other superpower. If you thought it is the US of A, you are slightly off the mark. But before explaining this hidden superpower, a word needs to be said about how difficult it is to find something special in the US. It is called bipartisan consensus.

Take gun control, and there won’t be bipartisan consensus ever in the US, between the Right and the Left. Take abortion, and there will never ever be consensus between Republicans and Democrats. Yet, there is an unprecedented level of bipartisan consensus when it comes to someone.

Imagine someone handpicked by the Republican President George HW Bush, way back in 1992 for a key role in his administration. Now, imagine that same person being selected by Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 for a higher role. Strange? Wait till you hear more.

Now, imagine the same person being elevated to a crucial role by Republican President Donald Trump. Stranger? Not finished yet. Now, imagine that same person being renominated by Democratic President Joe Biden in this crucial role. Biden can’t approve Trump ever, nor can Trump ever approve Obama, but when it comes to this guy all these enemies join hands.

Yes, you guessed right, this mighty superpower is this guy called Jerome Powell who has literally brought the world to its knees by his senseless war on American inflation, by repeated and massive interest rate hikes unprecedented anywhere in the world - he did four hikes each of 0.75% in quick succession - which beats even Putin’s senseless bombing of civilian targets in Ukraine.

In the process, Powell has pummelled almost all the world currencies, forcing their automatic or forced devaluation, and ensuring the supremacy of the US dollar. Today, countries across the world and their central banks are running for cover from this relentless bombing, and responding with their own senseless, or more correctly helpless, rate hikes.

It would be interesting to understand why Jerome Powell wields such excessive power in his hands. One just needs to look deeply at the education and career of this synonym or personification of bipartisan consensus to realize the truth. Educated to be a lawyer, and having worked mostly as an investment banker, Powell’s discontiguous public career is filled up with influential private stints at Wall Street majors like The Carlyle Group.

If Republicans and Democrats agree on someone, the outward reason is of course that he or she must be brilliant, but the hidden reason is often that such a person would have the highest backing from the Wall Street majors. Indeed, leading news sources like Time and Bloomberg, which even while backing Powell mostly, have acknowledged that Powell’s controversial Covid time policies were mostly beneficial only to the large corporations in Wall Street.

After the last FOMC meeting and rate hike, while answering a question whether the rates hikes are hurting the workforce, the shameless capitalist he is, Jerome Powell had the nerve to claim that it is not yet happening, as the jobs data is still strong and that workers are still more than comfortable, as they have too much demanding power still, by way of job options and higher salaries. Less than a week later, Mark Zuckerberg said mea culpa and fired 11,000+ of his Meta workforce.

Fortunately, some odd voices have started to appear, calling Powell’s bluff, by pointing out that his rate hikes are not only failing to contain inflation, but taking the American economy and the world economy to a dangerous and long-drawn recession. Powell-style rate hikes are simply senseless as this is an inflation cycle driven mostly by supply side constrictions due to the Covid aftermath, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s once-bitten-twice-shy Zero-Covid policy. How can a demand side tool like rate hike compensate for this supply side crunch?


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