4 November, 2005

indian consumer spending

The Indian Economy Blog points to a commentary by chief Morgan Stanley economist Stephen Roach on India’s development. AsiaPundit has made no secret of his admiration of Roach, he is one of the more energetic of the big investment bank economists and not afraid to break from conventional wisdom. As Reuben notes, “in case you’re wondering why an article by Roach matters, you certainly are underestimating the man’s influence (for better or for worse) among the movers and shakers in finance and industry in the US.”

Here Roach notes one of the weaknesses of China’s boom - the absence of domestic demand - and discovers an opposite situation in India.:

The consumption story — the organic sustenance of sustainable growth and development — casts India in a very different light. Don’t get me wrong — the Indian consumer is hardly a powerful force on today’s global stage. As the accompanying chart shows, India’s per capita income and consumption levels are about half those of China’s. But it is growth at the margin that always drives powerful macro and market trends. And the Indian consumption story is, first and foremost, one of accelerating growth off a low base. The potential comes from the structure of the Indian economy: Private consumption currently accounts for 64% of Indian GDP — higher than shares in Europe (58%), Japan (55%), and especially China (42%). India’s transition to a 7% growth path in recent years is very much an outgrowth of the emerging consumerism of one of the world’s youngest populations. The increased vigor of private consumption provides a powerful leverage to the Indian growth dynamic that is rarely found in the externally-dependent developing world.

This came through loud and clear on my recent travels through India. Over a span of four days, I met with a number of corporate executives, investors, and senior government officials. Everywhere I went, the focus was on the Indian consumer. I met with the managements of a good cross-section of India’s major consumer companies — Hindustan Lever (softgoods), Pantaloon (retail), Raymond Textiles (clothing), and McDonald’s (fast food). I also spoke with executives from banks and drug companies — all of whom have important consumer businesses. And I met with leading industrial companies such as Reliance, where a major five-year initiative has just been announced for the development of nationwide chain of hyper-stores and super-markets. I even went to the Phoenix shopping mall in Mumbai, which was bustling with activity. I have made similar trips to malls in China. There was one key difference between these two experiences — the locals were buying in India. This is consistent with what I heard from most of the consumer companies I saw — solid acceleration in same-store sales comparisons over the past six months.

AsiaPundit has not yet visited India, although the differences between shopping centers in mainland China and elsewhere in East Asia are striking. The upscale shopping centers in Singapore, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur are invariably packed with consumers. But in relatively wealthy Shanghai, upscale shopping centers such as Times Square and Grand Gateway are so empty it’s easy to forget you’re in Asia.

It took most of Asia’s developed economies decades to build a consumer culture - if India has built one before its major development spurt starts, it isn’t unreasonable to argue that leap-frogging is possible.

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by @ 11:07 pm. Filed under China, India, Asia, East Asia, Economy, Northeast Asia, South Asia

chinese take over diwali

China has taken over Diwali/Deepavali, the Hindu celebration of lights. At least they’ve cornered the market on festive supplies, Neelakantan notes from Mumbai.:

DiwaliThe Chinese have taken over Diwali well and truly. Houses all over Mumbai have Chinese lights in their balconies ( a very Bombay thing to hang glittering lights in balconies during Diwali). Dirt cheap and almost use and throw (you wont meet anyone who has had these lights for 3 years). They are cheap LEDs, I think and in any case quite unlike the bulbs we owned in our house for 15 odd years when each Diwali meant a few trips to the electrician apart from some of our own pottering with testers and wires.

Visit any mithaiwaala and you will see a range of items. Many of them have stopped making samosas, dhoklas for the diwali festivities. Why would they. These are items with low margin. When they can sell Kaju Katli for 500 bucks a kilo, who will spend time making Dhoklas which sell for less than 100 a kilo!

I’m not surprised. China cornered the Christmas ornament market quite some time ago. About 80 percent of lights and decorations In the AsiaPundit household are made in China. I’m now curious about China’s menorah and dreidel production capacities.

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by @ 9:38 pm. Filed under Culture, China, India, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia

bai ling sings

Spirit Fingers alerts us to a video that should prove once and for all time that not everyone from Northeast Asia can sing! Though AsiaPundit agrees that Bai Ling would be a keen addition to the Olympic ceremonies.

What could she contribute to the opening ceremony, you ask? There seems little scope for a 5-minute segment where she stands around dressed inappropriately while blithely posing for pictures. While she has scored many bit parts in movies, I used to think her talents were limited to showing off body parts in men’s magazines, body parts that we were all already too familiar with. Then I heard her sing "Like a Virgin (Owwwww)" and I knew that this was an opportunity the Beijing Olympic Committee couldn’t pass up.


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by @ 8:43 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

malaysian triads

Lucia Lai stumbles on to a disturbing interview with a Malaysian Triad member - disturbing for the most part because of the alleged friendliness the gangster has with local officials,:

Ahhing“If someone betrays me personally… I will get a few gang members together and beat him up until he’s paralysed or he’s a vegetable, but if the matter is really big then they’ll be brought before my tai ko for a trial,” he said.

“If my tai ko asks us to deal with someone, even if we kill that person, we won’t be worried, because if the police arrest us, my tai ko will get me out,” he added.

“Last time I was taken in the front door of the [police] lock-up, and right away I walk out of the back door.”

This comes from a man named ah hing, a person like me who is out to make a living… but as a ‘bad businessman’, otherwise more known as a triad member, or gangster.

jonathan kent from BBC, had an interview with ah hing and discovered that gangsterism in our country is like running a business. however, that was not the interesting part. the interesting part was that the government ‘runs his world’, so as admitted by ah hing when he was asked who runs his world.

“If I want to operate on a particular street and ask a politician to ask the authorities not to disturb me, the politician might say: ‘It’s impossible to have zero arrests, so you can operate on certain hours and we will patrol after those hours’ - so it’s a win-win situation,” Ah Hing said.

“If my tai ko asks us to deal with someone, even if we kill that person, we won’t be worried, because if the police arrest us, my tai ko will get me out,” he added.

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by @ 8:10 pm. Filed under Malaysia, East Asia, Asean, Southeast Asia

import opportunity

Wanbro brings us news of the low quality of Chinese sex products.:

Chinese Sex DollSurprising what you stumble across on the China Daily, isn’t it?

An innocent search for childrens’ toys in Beijing sent an eye-catching article to my screen, complaining about the quality of sex products in China. It details the trials of Li Jinfa and his substandard ‘toy woman’:

Despite all his care in using “her”, she burst from time to time. He went to the designated repair shop to have his “woman” mended three times in the first six months but that didn’t help much.

Supposedly the Food and Drug administration had been responsible for sex products, but shirked such an onerous task a year or so ago.

Sex toy users now complain of ‘inadequate supervision’. (ho ho)

Well-heeled Chinese often prefer foreign brands to local ones, out of concerns over both quality and prestige. Given the news that the quality of domestic sex dolls is of enough concern to get mention in the official press, AsiaPundit believes there could be an import opportunity for some high-quality Japanese luxury products.

Latex Lover

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by @ 8:02 pm. Filed under Japan, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia

empirical firewall testing

Via 读 书 学 习, Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society a hyperlink-rich empirical analysis of internet filtering in China.:

Having requested some 204,012 distinct web sites, we found more than 50,000 to be inaccessible from at least one point in China on at least one occasion. Adopting a more conservative standard for determining which inaccessible sites were intentionally blocked and which were unreachable solely due to temporary glitches, we find that 18,931 sites were inaccessible from at least two distinct proxy servers within China on at least two distinct days. We conclude that China does indeed block a range of web content beyond that which is sexually explicit. For example, we found blocking of thousands of sites offering information about news, health, education, and entertainment, as well as some 3,284 sites from Taiwan. A look at the list beyond sexually explicit content yields insight into the particular areas the Chinese government appears to find most sensitive.

This report is intended as a milepost, part of an ongoing empirical investigation documenting filtering levels and methods over time. As we continue to collect data on the evolving accessibility of a diversified “basket” of web sites, we will seek to say more about overall trends in Chinese web filtering, and further see if such trends are credibly linked to government statements of Internet policy and, for particular categories of sensitive sites, whether shifts in the Chinese government’s substantive policy (for example, a noted change in tension levels with Taiwan) are reflected in levels of web filtering. This, in turn, can shed light on how important a priority web filtering is to the government.

In other work, the authors will expand analysis to Internet filtering systems in other countries and will generate additional URLs to test based on queries invoked in the local language. Sign up to receive updates. The authors are also developing a distributed application for use by Internet users worldwide in testing, analyzing, and documenting respective Internet filtering regimes. Get more information and sign up to get involved. The authors previously provided access to a web-based system to test web filtering in China which remains available. Finally, the authors prepared documenting the September 2002 redirection of requests for google.com to other search engines.

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by @ 8:08 am. Filed under Blogs, China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, Web/Tech, Weblogs, Censorship

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