Dr Prannoy Roy, Investor Ruchir Sharma On 2021’s Top 10 Trends: Full Transcript



Global investor and author Ruchir Sharma discussed the top ten trends of the year 2021

New Delhi:

Global investor and author Ruchir Sharma discussed the top ten trends of the year 2021 in a discussion with NDTV’s Dr Prannoy Roy. Mr Sharma, in his forecast, said, this year, inflation and interest rates could rise, it might just be the best time to invest in property, and developing countries will make a comeback.

Here is the full transcript of the discussion:

NDTV: Hello and welcome to our annual programme in which we dive deep into the, really what I think is, the brilliant mind of the Ruchir Sharma show that gets more attention, more comments and more response than most other analytical shows that we do. What’s more millions of people say they find the content very useful in their lives, their decision making on what to do and what not to do with the savings and investment in the year ahead.

Ruchir Sharma is a brilliant author, author of several books that have hit the top of the New York Times bestseller list. And he also has his day job. He is responsible for investing funds in developing countries and emerging markets. I can’t tell you the exact amount of dollars he controls, he never tells anybody. He is too modest for that, but let’s say it’s over 20 billion dollars. That may be a terrible underestimation. I don’t know. Ruchir is one of the most respected minds and investors on Wall Street and he invests outside America in emerging markets. Once again today, Ruchir will look at the year ahead and give us a forecast of ten trends of 2021. Now Ruchir before we start can I just ask you, this has been a traumatic year, complete shock out of the blue, how does this crisis compare with 2008, 2001, is this worse than that or about the same or better, not as bad?

Ruchir Sharma: Right, I think that to put this in perspective in terms of the sheer economic effect, because we’re discussing that on the show primarily, the contraction that the global economy saw, this in 2020, of minus four percent was the worst contraction in seventy-five years. So definitely the economic consequences and the economic effect of this has been the worst that we’ve had in post-World War II history. Now Time Magazine went to the extent of calling this the worst year ever. I’m not sure I would go to such an extreme because I think that history is better remembered than it’s lived. The Great Depression, the World Wars, even the 1970s when we had stagflation, Vietnam War, riots and even in places like India, the Emergency, we have had some very difficult periods. But yes, this ranks right up there in terms of, obviously, the number of people who have died because of the pandemic and in terms of economic contraction. That’s the one data which will stand out that this has been the worst economic contraction in seventy five years. But again, as your favourite expression is, it all depends on who you ask, because if you ask people who have been involved with the stock market and in the financial community, they have had a very different view I think, because 2020 ended up being a pretty good year if you are a financial investor and almost did nothing and sat through this crisis.

NDTV: Actually, that is the most shocking part and now I know why you’re smiling, right through the last few days and on this show. Ruchir just don’t smile through this show, don’t smile. Let’s get down to the first of your ten forecasts. This is just what you were talking about. There has been a terrible year, a very contrary year. If we look at the hashtag oen, the first big trend that we’re going to look for, we’re going to look towards the opposite of 2020. We’re going to see a surging economy and a sluggish stock market. By that we mean if we look at the actual figures, there is this great disconnect and the disconnect is really startling in 2020, what you were just talking about. This is all your data Ruchir which I am trying to simplify so please forgive me and interrupt me if there is anything wrong. In 2020, the global economy tanked but the stock markets boomed and let’s look at how contrary they were. The world GDP fell by 4 per cent and the world’s stock markets went up by 13 per cent. You think the stock markets would care about the poor, the dying but no, up 13 per cent and I’m going to ask you and what about India? You know, it’s exactly the same. If we look at what happened in 2020 in India, the disconnect is even more dramatic. India’s economy plummeted by 8 per cent and stock markets boomed almost as much, -8 on the GDP and +12 per cent on the stock markets. That’s a real shocker. Why India’s GDP plummeted so much? If we look at India’s fiscal stimulus, was low and you can see that the fiscal stimulus of India, as these are all your figures, Ruchir, was 2.2 per cent compared to the average among the developing, the economies of 4.7 and developed of 8.5 per cent of GDP was fiscal. But India’s monetary fiscal of two types was high. If you look at monetary stimulus, direct 6 per cent in India compared to just 1.6 for developing economies on average. Of course, the developed 14.2. And finally, if you look at credit stimulus like guarantees, loan guarantees, etc., India very high, 7 per cent, while the average for developing economies 1.9 per cent and the developed, because the developed are in a different league because they can afford it. So finally, just look at one summary what you have done Ruchir, 2021, will the stock market be buoyant still? No, you are saying, the growth in 2021 will be the mirror image of 2020. The economy will bounce back from -4 globally to something quite positive, but the stock market will not be 13 per cent, it won’t be so buoyant. Just explain this in some more detail.

Ruchir Sharma: Right. First of all these numbers that I am talking to are in dollar terms and for the calendar year which is 2020 and then calendar year 2021. Now let’s step back and see why did we see such a great disconnect? In fact, never before in History have we had such an instance where the economy has contracted and the stock market has gone up by this magnitude or has gone up at all. Why we had such an instance? Now, I think there are three reasons why this happened. One, as you pointed out, has been the incredible amount of stimulus that governments and central banks across the world have put in effect this time. In fact, by some estimates the total amount of stimulus that the governments put to effect for the 2020 crisis was around five times larger than what was done during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. So, a massive increase in the stimulus, not just in the US and developed economies, but even in places like India and other emerging markets especially compared to 2008-2009. So, when you have that amount of stimulus, you’re really protecting a lot of people, but in this crisis in particular, given the nature of this crisis, a couple of things happened. A lot of people who were just sitting home and when they were sitting at home they were not spending that much and a lot of the stimulus money went straight into their bank accounts, the savings rates increased and we had a lot many more people using that money to play the stock market, to invest in the stock market. So, a huge amount of stimulus, some of it finds its way into the stock market through this channel where people’s savings rates go up and they’re not spending as much because they’re sitting at home, not being able to spend on travel, leisure, other items and the extra savings is making its way into the stock market.

The other thing I think is that the markets do tend to be a bit anticipatory and I think what the markets were doing here was saying that this is going to be a one-off. It’s a one-time big hit. But there is nothing structurally wrong with the global economy and the moment a vaccine comes through people will get back to normal and a sense of normalcy will return. And in that regard, you can argue that the markets did have a better foresight, that a lot of pessimists who were feeling very bearish about how long this could last and what would happen. I think you win, with ingenuity in coming up with a vaccine has been pretty remarkable this time. As we have seen the efficacy rates that have been published for the vaccine are very high. So, the markets are looking a bit ahead and they’re forecasting that this is a one-off event and in 2021 things will get back to normal, there are all sorts of projections as to when that could happen. In countries like Israel as you know, we have already begun a very aggressive rollout where everyone above sixty has already been vaccinated. And in places like the US people think that by the summer you’ll pretty hit rates of 60-70 per cent of herd immunity because of the vaccine and people have already been infected. So, I think it’s that foresight that markets are showing here. ‘

Now in 2021, I think it’s the opposite, the economy surges back because of the fact that you have people with so much pent-up demand, because they’ve kept away these savings, they’ve kept away all their habits and now they want to put that back into motion. So, you have a lot more spending in the real economy but not that much money left to put in the stock markets. And also, the stimulus that the governments have put into effect, you don’t get that kind of stimulus that you got in 2020. And the third reason as I said is that the market has already forecast what’s going to happen. So, it has already priced in a lot of the good news which may come in 2021.

NDTV: I think that is a really, really interesting forecast that you’re making, that the stock market will not be as buoyant this year, that is a big message to everybody. You’re not saying it’s going to go negative or anything, you’re just saying it won’t be up to 13 per cent. But have the markets, and I won’t say this again, the markets taken to the fact that Trump won’t be, finally, the President? Maybe that’ll make it bump up again. It’s a major forecast, but you’re not saying negative but not as upbeat, not as much as 13% perhaps, right?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, I’m trying to say that the very factors that propel the stock market to do so well in 2020 in the midst of the devastating pandemic, those very factors now go into reverse. So, unless something else happens, which we don’t anticipate at this juncture, to expect that in 2021 the economy will surge back and the stock market will keep doing well I think is a bit of a disconnect. So, I do think that the fact is that interest rates will also go up or the liquidity conditions may not be that abundant, something that we will discuss in our next segments of the show. But I think that it’s very important to analyse why did the stock market do what it did in 2020 and how those factors will not play out in 2021.

NDTV: That is really fascinating and that kind of mirror image you’re talking about. Let’s quickly move on to the second trend you are looking ahead in the top ten. One we saw the mirror image, the second you’re saying inflation after many, many years could come back again, set to rise. Now by that you’re looking at the trends so far. If inflation’s set to rise after 20 years of low, stable inflation you say, could prices rise in 2021? Just look at that. This is global inflation from the data; it dropped from around 15 per cent in 1990 for the last 20 years averaging around 2.8 per cent and now it could come back again. That is an important factor to take into account in anybody’s planning. And what are the reasons for inflation returning? You mentioned four D’s, depopulation, labour shortages; deglobalization, especially when Trump was there; declining productivity, which means higher costs and the 4th D is debt, so much money being printed. So, these are the factors Ruchir that could lead to a worrying fact and everybody must take this into account in their planning, that prices may start rising around the world again.

Ruchir Sharma: You know the surest way for an economist to get discredited is to talk about higher inflation, because that has been such a losing forecast for the last thirty-forty years. Really since 1980s you have had lower and lower inflation around the world, many people keep calling for higher inflation. It just never seems to show up. But I think what has happened now is very interesting. One, that in 2020, despite such a horrible economic contraction that we got in the global economy, inflation did not fall that much. It fell even less than compared to 2008-2009 when you had the global financial crisis. And I think there are some structural changes which are underway in the global economy. The same structural changes which kept inflation so low for so long I think are one by one slowly beginning to reverse itself. Why was inflation so low for the last thirty-forty years? One was because you are this incredible era of globalization. You know where much more competition was entering the global economy. More and more people were joining the global workforce. More and more goods and trades and services, everything was booming in this era of globalization. That’s changing. Many governments around the world are becoming more protectionist. Also, the population growth rate is slowing down and you don’t have so many new people entering the workforce as you did with China, India, even in these countries the population growth rates are slowing down. In China, in fact, the working age population growth rate has now turned negative.

And then this entire factor of more and more government involvement in the economy, has led to lower and lower productivity, so something which I think is also likely to lead to higher inflation going ahead. And the most important factor which I mention is just the incredible amount of stimulus that has been put to work this time. The order of magnitude is so great and even though the stimulus effects will begin to fade in 2021, there is no appetite amongst policy makers to do anything to withdraw the stimulus or tighten. So, I think these factors could slowly contribute to inflation bottoming out and to inflation rising. Now these are very slow changes. It takes a long time for this to happen. Remember inflation peaked in the

global economy as you pointed out in 1919, the US even before that. But it took 10 or 20 years for people to really appreciate that trend. And, that similarly now these are the very incipient signs that inflation could begin to rise, prices could begin to increase. We will go through the subsequent segment about commodity prices which have been solo for such a long period of time contribute to higher inflation. But I think this is something that the seeds are being sown for inflation to gradually turn higher across the globe after this extraordinary period of very low inflation.

NDTV: You talked about global, lets also look at India, but you talked about inflation coming back to India. And yes, India’s inflation is likely to get worse. First of all, already is worse, global ranking of India’s inflation is worrying. Up to 2010, we were 88th worst in the world up to 2010 and now we’re 140th. Ruchir, that’s a huge drop. That’s almost like the bottom of the worst record of inflation that India has gotten around the world and you’re saying that could carry on.

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, I think that this is a very worrying sign for India, that why is our inflation so sticky, that yes, inflation today is not as high as it was five-seven years ago when we had double-digit inflation, so that has been brought under control. But remember, globally inflation is very low. India’s inflation rate continues to be about three-four percentage points higher than the global average. And I think that is something that we need to think harder about. So, the ranking, that’s what they show that of the 180 odd economies in the world today, India’s inflation ranking is at 144. I think this has to do with the fact that India’s growth model over the last decade has very much been driven by more and more consumption and not enough investments and savings. And this very consumption-oriented economy is something which has contributed to higher inflation. So yes, inflation is well off its peak in India, but it is still three-to-four percentage points higher than the global average. And in fact, among the major emerging markets, India’s inflation rate is the second highest, behind only Turkey. So, this is something which we need to think about and possibly a reason why India’s central bank may have to start raising interest rates faster than let’s say other central banks in the world and possibly as early as the second half of 2021.

NDTV: That is worrying and very important to take into consideration in anybody’s planning in their lives. The first implication of this you immediately come to is that it could affect interest rates. Let’s have a look at your third trend

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, I think that over the last thirty-forty years, the biggest beneficiaries of lower and lower interest rates and by some measures in fact, nominal interest rates around the world today, are at five-thousand year lows. You know like Bank of England, other people have tried to do data on this going back centuries. So, this is the lowest interest rates have ever been. In fact, today we have 18 trillion dollars of 27 per cent of all investment grade debt today in the world has negative interest rates, like around the world. It is just unprecedented in terms of what’s happening. Now one consequence of this is that a lot of the money has flown into financial assets, stocks and bonds, so, as you rightly point out that today the value of the financial economy, which is mainly stocks and bonds, is four times larger than the value of the underlying economy and this is a major reason also for rising income and wealth inequality, because the people who own these financial assets tend to be the rich, even in places such as the United States, about 80% of all the stocks there are owned by the top 10-15 per cent of the people in that economy. In India, it’s even more extreme. So, I think they have been the big beneficiaries of this incredible stock market boon we have seen, by very low and falling interest rates. So, if you get a turn in interest rates, and particularly in long-term interest rates, I think it’ll be difficult for the stock market to keep doing as well as generally it has done around the world. Now, as we’ll discuss in the subsequent segment, I think emerging markets such as India are better poised to deal with higher interest rates, because I think that emerging markets are much more undervalued, cheaper. But in general, for the global economy and global financial markets, if interest rates begin to increase, a very powerful tailwind that has propelled stock prices higher turns into a headwind.


NDTV: On India?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, that’s correct, that’s exactly the impact. Of course, we have to take into account drive faster than inflation or less than inflation. So that is to take into account. But the way you have put it is exactly how it is and I think that anyone needs to think is that what is the inflation adjusted return that they will get on their savings to know that what’s the best place to channelise your savings.

NDTV: If inflation also begins to increase, will interest rates in India on property?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, I think India in this way has had its own cycle. As we know that there was a big property boom in India in the late 2000 that led to a massive amount of oversupply, and then you had all sorts of problems which came up in the real estate sector and there has been a clean-up operation which has been going on for a while; there have been massive regulatory changes which have taken place. As a result of this, what we have in India is that in the last few years property prices in India, really as it shows, have gone nowhere, yet people’s incomes have kept going up. So now it’s become much more affordable for people to buy homes. This is the most affordable that’s ever been to buy homes and I think it’s also a great time to buy a home taking a fixed rate mortgage, because interest rates are likely to go up over the next few years, I think. And so, if you can lock in a fixed rate mortgage, which banks typically don’t like giving, but you can try to get that, especially for the first few years they’d be happy to do it, I think. I think that this is a great time to buy a property in India and links to my earlier trend, across the world what we’ve seen is, a property does well as a hedge against inflation. When inflation goes up, property prices tend to do well. So I think that if inflation does begin to inch higher, as I have suggested, that’s another reason for buying property. So, this is a place where a lot of people still don’t own a home and the affordability matrix now are nudging them to buy a home and in the rest of the world, we have already seen that. After the housing bust of 2008-2009, it took a while for things to recover, but home prices from China to the United States have been surging over the last few years. And I think that India too could join this trend in the years ahead.

NDTV: That kind of supports this, why should the US dollar lose its dominance is because the massive, massive, printing of the US dollar in 2020, it could be printing too many dollars in 2020 threatened the US dollar as a global reserve. You’re saying that in 1990 to 2010 years the US printed about a half a trillion dollars per year. Then in 2000 we move on to 2020, those 20 years America was printing new dollars of 1 trillion a year and in this year printed 5 trillion dollars, that’s five years average of the last 20 years, the entire amount printed in 1990 to 2000. What this sounds is a bit kind of distant, but you brought it down to what is an alternative. One could possibly think of a booming Bitcoin, could that be a possible investment and should one look at that as a possible change? Because this distrust you say in the US dollar is boosting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies amazingly, and if we go through each point Bitcoin market, you say is now 700 billion, that value is, it was like up 300 per cent in one year. Nothing has gone up that fast and if we move on volatility, which always was terrifying about the Bitcoin, up down, up down, that key problem you’re saying is now coming down and more and more people are accepting payment by Bitcoin, which was really hesitant earlier. And interestingly young people in their 20s and 30s, 27 per cent of that is almost one in three owned bitcoins; above 55 only 3 per cent. So you know almost 110th it’s a new thing which young people are taking up so it could be a whole new trend now and that could continue into 2021 and onwards, is that what you’re saying?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, I think the data here for me is very fascinating because 20 per cent of all the dollars that is circulation in the world were printed in just one year, 2020, but issue is that many of the central banks have also been printing a lot of money. The Indian central bank. nearly 10 per cent of all the rupees in circulation were printed in just one year, 2020. So many central banks have been doing this now. Historically, as that graph of mine showed, that when one currency would become very extended to there be too much central bank printing of that currency and the country would take its reserve currency status for granted, some new alternative would emerge in terms of a different currency. The problem today is because all central banks have been printing so much money, particularly 2020, something different had to come up. Nature abhorred the vacuum, something different had to come up, and cryptocurrencies as they’re called, with Bitcoin being the leading example, is emerging as some sort of an alternative. Now I know there’s a lot of speculative mania around Bitcoin and the prices doubled over the last month, which makes me a bit wary about how fast it is rising, but this is a shot across the bow. It’s telling central banks around the world that if you keep printing this much amount of money there will be consequences, there will be growing distrust in currencies and there will be a yearning for an alternative, as that’s what explains this massive increase in Bitcoin. And I find this generational gap to be stunning, which is that a lot of the older people dismiss Bitcoin as being some speculative tech investment, whereas the young people are much more passionate about it you know, like for them this has almost become a tool, like a populist revolt, against government, against too much government interference, too much government printing of money. So that would become like a popular revolt of investing in something like Bitcoin. So, I think that this is significant. I’m not sure that Bitcoin is the final answer, but something is coming up to tell you that there is growing distrust in the traditional currencies such as the US dollar, and also, I think that why Bitcoin is doing well is because its supply is limited, it is decentralised, there’s nobody out there you know, like to completely control, it is very decentralising, its supply is limited, which is what makes it a store of value. So, the older generation still likes to buy gold because gold is in fact, we spoke about last time and gold did do relatively well over the past year, it went up about 25 per cent or so. But nothing to beat what’s happening in Bitcoin. So, in many ways Bitcoin is emerging as the new goal for many investors.

NDTV: Actually, you connected distrust with governments and the printing of money and the fact that Bitcoin just can’t be printed, there’s a fixed supply and people are shifting. Really, really, interesting because five years ago Bitcoins or that’s wacky, now it’s real mainstream. 700 billion dollars worth, wow, that’s amazing. Moving onto your sixth point you know, hash tag number six of the top trend trends, if you look at that we saw the decline of the US dollar and what it meant. Now you’re talking about what could be a revival of commodities and commodities you mean oil, you mean steel, you mean that that’s sort of those sort of things, some minerals as well and if you look at your data on commodities it’s really interesting. The goal is going past situations, so every time there’s been a boom in commodities, they’ve been a bust after that, then a boom, then a pass, then a boom and the last 10 years has really seen a real decline or commodity first. And if it goes by the pattern of history, you see the dotted line on the extreme right, if it follows history it could commodity boom time again, really interesting to see that. You are not this pattern over the years now so you think commodity prices could rise in 2021, you also say that historically, when the US dollar weakens, commodities prices rise, that’s another pattern that you unearth with your data, that’s been the US dollar up and down since 2000 and what happened with this is even goes back earlier. And look at commodity prices when the dollar went up, commodity prices down, when the dollar went down commodity prices up and so on. And what is happening if the US dollar keeps going down you could see if the same pattern of history continues, commodity prices going up and that that could be good news for emerging markets, because a lot of commodities are produced in emerging markets you say. So, supply shortage of commodities is also going to affect the price. If you have listed a few commodities where you’re forecasting a supply shortage, if you look at shortage, cotton a 2 per cent, sugar one just over 1 per cent. These are not, they look small, but they are significant and supplies shortage in oils and metals that also may go up, gas is going to be a 4 per cent shortage, crude oil at 2 per cent shortage and copper almost a 2 per cent. So Ruchir, both the shortage and the dollar falling and the history of boom bust amazing combination of factors that could be a revival of the commodity markets, that’s what you’re saying?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, now this is something which I’ve been very, very, shown in fact, we’ve done this show for many years and at some of the earlier shows I would always speak about why I don’t like about it, these, because that long term chart is so instructive that if you look at the charts, the last 100-200 years’ commodity prices, I’ve really done nothing. They tend to just go up and down, but it’s punctuated by these cycles and I think we could be at that very important juncture just now, and these cycles are the same thing which is, that when you have low commodity prices people cut their supply and eventually that leads to shortages and when demand revives, it leads to a big increase in commodity prices, something we saw in the 2000s. Not every cycle may be as powerful or play itself out in a similar way. But I think that the seeds again being shown or commodity prices to do well in the years ahead, because of the way the supply has been cut after an extended period of low prices and demand is showing some signs of coming back, and of course the dollar weakness is something which has always been conducive for commodity prices doing well, because they’re all denominated in the US dollar. So yes, I think this is a major change in view, because a decade ago we were saying the opposite. My thesis back then was that commodity prices are set to go bust and therefore was very bearish on many commodities including oil and countries, that produce the commodities from Brazil to Russia, and now a decade later I feel very differently, thinking that a lot of the supply has been cut from these markets and so therefore it could be a better time for commodities in the years ahead, with a weaker dollar being the propellor of higher commodity prices.

NDTV: Really, really, significant term and we move quickly onto the seventh of the top ten trends and that you’re saying could be a bit of good news for India, actually that the developing countries, after the commodity revival, developing countries could see a comeback. And why, is that if we look at the factors that you’re mentioning, there are many positive growth impetus factors, the pandemic inspires digitisation and is spreading fastest in emerging countries, emerging economies. So, look at the expected annual growth rate of digital revenues in India is very high, higher than the average of emerging markets, 13 per cent annual growth rate in digitisation revenues from digitalization and developed markets, advanced economies only 6 per cent static, in developed markets, advanced economies only 6 per cent. That is a huge, huge, change and a big boost for developing countries and then your favourite, and if you could just go through this with us, this crisis inspired reform, what you call the cycle of life, it’s a silver lining of the pandemic you say, Ruchir?

Ruchir Sharma: Right. If you look at the history of emerging markets including India, Prannoy, what you see is that we only tend to carry out any economic reform when we have our back to the wall, when we think that we are under siege and we have to do something to get out of trouble. So that’s meant added in India has happened almost every 10 years, right. Since that we’ve had some sort of a crisis, whether it’s global or local, to deal with roughly every 10 years going back to the early 1980s, when we first went to the IMF; the early 1990s when you’re the major economic reforms; in 2000 2001 following the cheque; past then of course in 2011-12, when you had the massive inflation and currency depreciation, which led to the 2013 onwards, corrective measures that India took, and now similarly, I think it’s very important that in this crisis it again showed that to get growth going we need to focus more on carrying out economic reforms. So that’s what we’re seeing across many emerging markets also, because as we showed at the outset of the show that many emerging markets just don’t have the financial wherewithal to spend on stimulus the way the developed economies have, so you have much greater push for carrying out economic reform, which will hike productivity higher and therefore be too much higher economic growth and of course the problem with many emerging markets, including in India, is that when you end up getting economic reforms you end up getting a revival. That revival shows the seeds of complacency and then you end up getting another crisis and so therefore the advance stores. But at least for now the silver lining, the pandemic, is that whether it’s Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, all these countries, Brazil, they are all carrying out economic reforms to try and revive foreign interests and foreign capital to come back into the country and this is something we are seeing. As far as India is concerned as well, I felt quite fascinated here that like even in India is such a big disconnect between how foreigners perceive the country, another, domestic businesses do that, in the last year India attracted 23 billion dollars of foreign investor flows and that was the second highest for any emerging market after China. So, I think that you like, it’s to try and sort of get more foreign investment is see much more effort being made now because of the crisis that the economy had to endure. So, this is a major reason why I think better about emerging markets today, because it takes you to go. We all had become too complacent after the growth boom and the second reason also, but we pointed out there, the digitisation that’s taking place in places like India and in other emerging markets. And remember this is a very important point, which is that so far, a lot of technological advances have happened in the developed countries. The US’s obviously been at the leading edge of that, but what we are seeing now is that these advances are spreading to the emerging markets as well, in fact emerging markets are better at adopting new technology compared to the Arab countries, because they don’t have legacy issues. There are many people in India or China, but you know that I’ve never had a bank account, so they can move directly to a modern payment system rather than being ready to having a bank account and using a bank account for transactions. So not having Allegra infrastructure means that you can do much more new technology without the burden of the past. And so therefore missing rationalisation digital revenues right much more sharply in emerging markets in the developed world, which is a big boost for emerging market growth rates in the years ahead.

NDTV: And you make a distinction of very connected to revenue growth from digital payments and digital transactions. Is the digital kind of revolution that your eighth point, if we get to your eighth of the top ten. Eighth point is that, okay with clear developing country come back, but we are also seeing digital revolutions spreading rapidly across the world and that that haven’t got to have a major impact. We quickly go through these trends, eighth big trend the digital revolution. China is real, it’s a big surprise, eight per cent is their lead; Korea is about five; Japan around about three and India around about 2.5. These are the kind of top countries where you’re seeing digital revolution taking place. This is the percentage of the GDP that depends on that and if we move on, emerging markets are ahead. But what is interesting is that the digital revolution is still young so there’s a lot of potential still. Previous revolution lasted 50 years on average and the digital revolution, especially in developing countries, is only 10 years. We look at that, you know ICT is information communications and technology, it’s really, really, 2010 to now and look at the other big revolutions that have taken place, they’ve lasted 50 years; the age of steel, age of oil, the age of steam and the industrial revolution, so there’s still a lot of potential there, Ruchir, is that what you are saying?

Ruchir Sharma: It has to be China, because just look at how big a role the digital economy now plays in China. This is an economy that I was very worried about because of the incredible amount of debt that China had taken to keep its growth going. But, the big surprise in the last three to four years it’s just how China has climbed up the technology ladders. If you go to China today, the last time that I was there before the pandemic broke out over a year ago, yes, it is a fascinating to see in terms of that. Robots serving you drinks in restaurants is a very real experience in China, drone delivery of goods, all this is happening out there and they moved to a completely cashless society in all the major cities. So, China has really shown that you can keep aside the old economy and build a new economy based on technology, and other emerging markets are increasingly following that lead in terms of popping their digital game. So, I think this digital revolution is still young and emerging markets, you have many new companies that are rising to play that game and China has been at the leading edge of it. But even in India I think that a lot of the growth prospects, a lot of the optimism has to do with the increase digitization that we’re seeing in such countries.

NDTV: Actually, that’s just the point that you just mentioned, is your next point the ninth of the top ten. We’ve just been through the digital revolution and spreading, but now we’re going to, you’re talking about the rise of new challenges, so you know we see Google, Facebook, we see all these big companies, but you’re saying generally don’t expect that they could last because new challenges are likely. In the digital world the best companies of one decade tend to perform poorly; in exactly the following decade, if you look at the top ten stocks of any decade there, they would grow at over 2000 per cent in a decade and the next decade they would fall to just 65 per cent growth. That’s a dramatic change and if we look next at the companies that the current top ten, you think oh they’re all going to be around, but none of these except for one Microsoft, wasn’t in the top ten 10 years ago. Apple 2.1 trillion, Ramco Microsoft that’s the only one that is on two decades. Amazon didn’t exist in the top ten. Google didn’t exist in the top ten. Facebook, Tencent, Tesla, Alibaba, Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett, were not in the top ten. Will they be in the top ten in the next decade? Don’t be so sure according to recruit cheese research. So why do these giants stumble, Ruchir? If you could take us through this description, you say they sow the seeds of their own demise?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, that’s correct. This is the law of creative destruction which is that that the companies which are great today, which are seemed to be doing really well, very, very, few of them tend to do well after they become extremely large. Because then they’re not that nimble, they’re not that innovative, they’re not able to cater to increasingly local space, because they become so centralised and so therefore, they begin to falter. And also because consumer tastes change, consumer habits change, so that you know like it’s really fascinating that we had a tech boom in the 1990s and just like you showed in that table of the top ten companies in the world today, eight out of the top ten companies in the world are in some way tech oriented companies. We had a similar instance in 1999 two 1000 and of those companies which were there in the top ten, which were new age tech companies, Microsoft is the only company which is still there today. For many other companies, which were in the top ten of that era, the Cisco’s of the world, now Nokia’s of the world, they’re all, they’ve all become much smaller companies today relative to these new Giants that have emerged. So that’s what really happens. If I were to put any capital to work, I would not enlist any of these topics. In the next five pounds slow down and even disappoint very excited levels that we are here and also because new challenges are rising very rapidly. New challenges, which are more local in nature, that able to cater to more local’s domestic base. Armour, clear rising very rapidly; there’s a Shopify coming up you know, to almost challenge Amazon. Baby Amazons coming up in different parts of the world that you, like in places like Poland, in places like South East Asia, it is baby Amazons that are coming up which are much more local in nature and therefore able to give Amazon a much greater fight than would have been the case five or five years ago. So, this is the law of creative destruction as to the rise of the challenges and how the incumbent giant companies are once again showing signs of slowing down. The user growth that you see is slowing down of the giant companies, so yes today they appear invincible, but in every which way the pressure on them is increasing including increased regulatory pressure and that expired ten years. If I’m repeating, personally I would say that these companies will fade rather than grow rapidly from here.

NDTV: That’s amazing because you’re right, it is like we all think they’re going to be here forever, there the big new thing, but your history shows 2000 per cent, in one decade they go down to just 65 per cent. Now moving onto your last stop then and I almost wanted to censor this, then you said end of television but then fortunately said except in India, that’s what your data showed, otherwise you would have written us off as well. Fortunately, that’s not true, but there is a US decline in TV viewership and that’s very sharp according to you if you look, except for the Trump bump in news, you quoted the Trump bump. Look at that, since Trump came in user viewership shot up from six per cent around about 16 per cent, but that was not enough to, could not save all of TV well. Of course, entertainment, sports, etc, and look at that decline, is now so minus 20 per cent. But what about India is that means the drop in television viewing in India. I remember this would have been censored if you had the wrong data here, but look at that, there’s been increase in television viewing over the last two years in India. Seven per cent but there has been a faster, much faster increase in video streaming, of 100 and thirty’s paid video streaming like Netflix and others 136 per cent catching up, but there’s no decline like you’re seeing or in television as you see in America. Why is this happening, Ruchir?

Ruchir Sharma: Yes, so I think that’s fine as America is concerned. You, like the experience is shifting more and more. Watching television that you really want in a non-linear way sitting at home and I think that that’s a trend that speed accelerated by the pandemic. So, I think what this pandemic has done in many ways for, annoying it is, that it has accelerated many trends that were already underway. That’s been for me the one feature of this pandemic, so much more to streaming. Even theatrical viewing has been declining in America very significantly over the last 20 years. In fact, the box office ticket sales are down by 1/3 over the last 20 years in America. So, we’re seeing this trend where people are moving away from going to the theatre and watching television in a linear way. And there’s much more content now which is coming online and people are watching it up in a far more curated way. So, I think that what is going to happen after the pandemic is that some so much of life is going to obviously come back to normal, I think the buzzword may shift from work from home to return to normal from wfh back to rtn. But I think that for a few trends they’re likely to outlast the pandemic and the decline in TV viewing, decline in theatre viewing is something which I think is going to continue. And once again I wouldn’t look to China these days to like see, watch the future, because in China, where life has pretty much returned to normal following the pandemic, you find that on most counts, think for example if you look at travel it’s back to exactly the levels it was before the pandemic. Domestic travels, restaurant bookings back to exactly where you were before the pandemic broke out, but theatrical viewing is down, still down 20 per cent from where you were before the pandemic broke out. So, I think that these structural trends are underway. With that you will view declining viewership declining, but like India too I think that it is just about holding up. But my suspicion is that very soon in India too, the same is likely to play itself out, given the extremely sharp rise we are seeing now in ott platform.

NDTV: Wonderful, Ruchir, wonderful, wonderful, clarity in your top ten. Thank you so much. Will end now. It’s amazing that you say to look ahead you look at China and we learn a lot, the whole world learns from China and not from America, except that you’re seeing a return to democracy in America. Maybe the world will learn something from that. But thank you very much and we leave you all with Ruchir’s top ten. Here they are and that’s all for now. But Ruchir, thank you, thank you, thank you again. God Bless.


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