With a population exceeding 1.2 billion, the emerging market of India is forecast to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. India possesses the youngest population among BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, with a median age of 27, and expects to add 60 million people to its workforce by 2020. China holds a median age of 37 by comparison and the world’s second-largest economy surpassed $10 trillion in 2014. Furthermore, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 7.6% in its 2015 fiscal year. With growth rates predicted to hover around 7%, Indian GDP would soar past $4 trillion by 2025.
India grapples with infrastructure issues. As the nation seeks to extend the grid to non-electrified villages, solar power and reduced dependency on coal figure prominently in the nation’s path forward. A lift on trade sanctions with Iran brings the possibility of a natural gas pipeline under the Arabian Sea. India’s aim at expanding renewable energy sources from 10 to 32% has foreign investors such as Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. (OTC: SFTBF) plunking down $20 billion on solar projects. The following mutual funds present ample opportunity for investors seeking exposure to the Indian economy.
Franklin India Growth Fund
Maintaining a presence in India since 1993, Franklin Templeton Investments draws on strong regional knowledge of the Indian economy. Focusing on companies that project strong free-cash-flow (FCF) growth models, eight-year fund manager Stephen Dover piloted the Franklin India Growth Fund (“FINGX”) to a three-star Morningstar rating for the three-year period ending May 31, 2016. Dover looks to continue the portfolio’s strong performance versus the Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) India Index, a benchmark it has outperformed by an average of 4% annually from May 31, 2013 through May 31, 2016. The fund holds a 5.59% stake in information technology giant Infosys Ltd. (NYSE: INFY), a company whose 2015 revenue exceeded $9.5 billion.
Eaton Vance Greater India Fund
The Eaton Vance Greater India Fund (“ETGIX”) fund focuses on mega-, large- and mid-cap issues with compelling valuations, such as Yes Bank Ltd. (YESBANK.NS), whose 49.17% year-to-date (YTD) return propelled the portfolio to a 3.41% total return through May 31, 2016. Rishikesh Patel, who has managed the fund since December 2014, constructed a concentrated portfolio that holds only 33 issues. With the fund weighted in financials, Patel also anticipates 10.3% annual growth in consumer durables as analysts forecast discretionary spending to contribute 55% to total consumer spending by 2021.
Matthews India Investor Fund
The $1.5 billion Matthews India Investor Fund (“MINDX”) lagged behind the performance of the benchmark S&P Bombay Stock Exchange 100 Index by 129 basis points (bps) in the first quarter of 2016, which also signifies the end of India’s fiscal year. Fund manager Sunil Asnani cited weakness in the financial sector in addition to the portfolio’s overweight exposure to small-cap issues as major detractors from performance. Asnani expects the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to continue incremental reductions in interest rates, stimulating credit growth and subsequent commercial equipment and construction material sales.
Wasatch Emerging India Investor Fund
Markedly geared toward smaller issues, the Wasatch Emerging India Investor Fund’s (“WAINX”) average market capitalization is slightly over $2 billion as of March 31, 2016. By contrast, the MSCI India Index’s average capitalization is about eight times greater than that of WAINX. The flexible all-cap strategy employed by manager Ajay Krishnan since the fund’s 2011 inception has paid off. WAINX has soundly outpaced the MSCI India Index over five years ending May 31, 2016, with an average annual return of 8.31% against the -0.19% average of the benchmark over the same time frame.