As emerging markets become increasingly affluent, many opportunities exist for western industries, especially those reaching maturity, to achieve considerable growth.
Take India. There is no doubt that India has been affected by the global and financial crisis but not even the most pessimistic commentator expects the growth rate to fall below five per cent over the next couple of years before it settles down at a higher level when markets begin to revive.
So, the medium to long term drivers that make India an attractive investment destination remain intact.
When you look at their population, it is obvious to see there is a growing demographic with increasing amounts of disposable income and ambitions to continue their climb the social ladder. It is, therefore, clear that opportunities exist for businesses that can provide services or products to this group.
The insurance sector is one such example. The Indian insurance market is seeing significant deregulation of products and pricing. Newer market segments are emerging and growing competition is resulting in massive network expansion – commission agents are giving way to direct channels.
Take life insurance in India: penetration is four per cent – small in context of the addressable market. While premiums have grown 33 per cent over the last five years to some $44 billion, the per capita spend is very low. Young savers are showing a marked preference for products with a risk element and the demand for single premium products is shooting up. So, we are gradually seeing an increase in equity and insurance-related products in the market.
The Life Insurance Co of India was by far the most dominant in a two-to-three player field. Today, while it continues to dominate the ‘renewal’ business, it has slipped down the league where ‘new’ business is concerned. New private sector participants have emerged and most of them have tied up with a large global brand – and very successfully.
The general insurance market is also growing although admittedly at a slower pace. However, the non-life segment – health insurance – is growing the fastest and has the most potential.
There is a cap of 26 per cent on the extent of foreign shareholding in an Indian insurance company but a higher cap has been under consideration for some time. Maybe after the next election we’ll see some moves which will further please foreign players.
In the meantime, however, western businesses should look on with interest as opportunities increase as a result of populations with growing disposable incomes.
* Ian Gomes is chairman of KPMG’s High Growth Markets practice