Some crystal ball gazing for the next year

If you are an Indian then you are probably seized of the importance that the next 12 months, or even 11, have in store for the country. It is not easy to predict the outcomes in different aspects of life as much of these issues are quite complex in nature. However, it will be safe to say that whatever the outcomes, they are likely to change things for the country in a significant manner. In this post, I will try to do some crystal ball gazing into 4 important areas, namely Society, Politics, Economy and Markets.

Let us look at society first and, I think most of us will agree that we live in very divisive times today. Whether it is division along class lines or on community lines, there is a lot of basic mistrust that people have for each other today. This is manifested in the bitter invective political parties come up with, in communal skirmishes in several parts of India, lynchings on suspicion of kidnapping children and so on. The law and order machinery has pretty much broken down with rapes, assault and mob lynchings being a daily occurrence, as opposed to the exception they used to be earlier. The society is also divided along class lines – industrialists perpetrating big financial frauds on the banks seem to get away, while indigent farmers have to commit suicide as they are not able to pay small loans back to the banks. Nothing seems to be sacred any more – army men are pelted with stones, anti national slogans are shouted in the name of freedom and people cynically debate as to whether one needs to stand up to the national anthem.

Unfortunately, over the next 11 months or so I think the society is going to get more polarised along communal, caste and class lines. With the BJP in power, the right wing fringe groups have got emboldened and violence has become a way of life for both these people and the ones they oppose. For the political parties a divisive agenda is the only way to bring out a good electoral outcome and they will not do anything else. The court judgement on the Ram Mandir issue will add to the polarised atmosphere of the country and the movement towards an Uniform Civil Code will heighten communal tensions. The only way is to tighten law and order by being tough to all perpetrators of crime, without fear or favour. However, in an election year that will never really happen.

Politics is, of course, at the core of everything that is happening in our society today. For both BJP and the opposition the 2019 elections will be a game changing one. When BJP lost unexpectedly in 2004, it took them 10 years to come back in power, even though the UPA ran a shoddy and corrupt government. The opposition knows they have been lucky not to have their misdeeds exposed and judged in the current term of the government, but their luck will not hold if BJP gets another term. With this backdrop both sides will do everything possible, both fair and foul, to win at all costs. The by poll results have shown that if the opposition comes together, it is tough for the BJP to win in today’s scenario. However, a lot of this can change in the next 11 months, BJP will hope it does.

My assessment is that the opposition will never agree to the simultaneous election idea that BJP is so keen on. Congress knows that it has chances in MP and Chattishgarh, with Rajasthan almost certainly going to them. It therefore makes sense for them to show BJP on a losing wicket when it goes for the Lok sabha elections. The only way BJP has out of this is to hold elections in January or so and get these 3 states as well as Andhra Pradesh and Telangana clubbed. This has a definite element of risk as Bajpayee had found out in 2004 and many in the BJP will remember that lesson. In any case, BJP will probably have to bite the proverbial bullet as the alternative is certainly worse. Whichever way it decides to go, I cannot see it getting anything more than 250 and anything less than 200 seats. If it is the former then there will be enough parties who will tag along for them to form a government. However, anything less than 230 will really mean a Karnataka like situation where everyone will come together to keep the BJP from power. I think 250 is a possibility but for that to happen large sections of the society will need to support the BJP as they did in 2014 – the health program, MSP pricing, Kashmir having President’s rule, possible solution to Ram Mandir are all geared towards this.

What of the economy then? It is now clear that the corporate results are on the way up, though in a slow trajectory. The tax collections are fairly robust and the initial glitches with GST are improving now. Good measures like the bankruptcy code and declaring absconders as fugitives will make sure that people do not take banks for a ride. However, the expenses of the exchequer have increased manifold due to the Universal health scheme as well as the MSP increases. This, along with the refusal to reduce taxes on Petrol/ Diesel will unfortunately create an inflationary impact in the economy. The RBI may well be forced to increase the interest rates and coupled with the depreciating Rupee against the US Dollar, there is a good chance that the economic recovery might get stymied. The government is hoping that the effects of this will be only visible after the elections but people who know will be able to see this portent quite clearly.

Finally, how will the markets fare in all of these. Right now, I see the Nifty being in a range of 10000 to 10800, with a possible negative bias. If elections are held separately and BJP loses the assemblies then a fall to 9000 and below is quite feasible. In the event of BJP losing in the Lok Sabha and being unable to form the government, a 20-25 % downside from the 10000 figure is reasonable to expect. On the other hand the relief will be palpable if BJP somehow comes back to power and a rally to 11000 plus, maybe nearing 12000 can be expected.

So there you have it – a swing of 8000 to 12000 is possible. This is the kind of excitement that many expert investors seek in the markets in order to make money. For most of us though, such volatility is really not desirable. How should they deal with their investments in this turbulent period?

I will write about investor strategies in the next few posts.

Building an Equity Mutual fund portfolio from scratch

In some of my blog posts this year, I have written about how one can build a Mutual fund portfolio with the new categories that SEBI has come up with. However, I still get a lot of enquiries on how investors, especially new ones, should go about building an MF portfolio. In this post let me show you how to build one from scratch.

Before we get into looking at the types a starting investor should invest in and what funds he can look at, let us first recap the types of equity funds SEBI has come up with.

  • Multi cap fund
  • Large cap fund
  • Large & Mid cap fund
  • Mid cap fund
  • Small cap fund
  • Dividend yield fund
  • Value fund / Contra fund
  • Focused fund
  • Sectoral/Thematic fund
  • ELSS

For an experienced investor all of these fund categories may have some use or the other in their portfolio. However, if you are at the starting point of your investment journey then my recommendation will be that you only look at 3 fundamental categories along with an ELSS fund for tax saving for the first 5 years or so. In fact, I will want you to forget the ELSS if you have enough money to invest in your MF portfolio and some good debt investment like PPF separately.

Ok, so without further ado, here are the fund types you need to have in your portfolio and some of the schemes which you can choose from.

  • Large cap fund
    • HDFC Top 100
    • ICICI Prudential Blue chip fund
    • ABSL Front Line Equity fund


  • Mid cap fund
    • HDFC Mid cap opportunities
    • Franklin Prima fund
    • DSP BR Mid cap fund


  • Small cap fund
    • DSP BR Small cap fund
    • Franklin India Smaller companies fund
    • HDFC Small cap fund
 Let us now see how you can create a portfolio from scratch. I will only outline the process here and if you are interested you can go through the various posts in my blog to get more details on the concepts and reasoning behind those.
  1. Based on your life goals, identify the time line for each major goal and understand how much of financial commitment they would require at those times. For example the college education of your son may need an amount of 40 lacs in 10 years.
  2. Once you know the time lines and the amounts, look up an SIP calculator and calculate the SIP amount you will need to invest every month. Use a return of 12 % to be on the conservative side. In the above example, to get 40 lacs in 10 years time at 12 % XIRR, you will need to do a monthly SIP of 17388 Rs.
  3. Do the above for all your goals and add up these amounts. This will give you the total monthly investment you need to do all your financial goals comfortably.
  4. Now look at your age to decide on your risk taking ability and therefore the ideal asset allocation. My suggestion will be the following :
    1. If you are less than 35 years old put 40 % in Mid cap funds, 35 % in Small cap funds and 25 % in Large cap funds.
    2. If you are between 35 and 45 years old put 30 % in Mid cap funds, 25 % in Small cap funds and 45 % in Large cap funds.
    3. If you are above 45 years old put 20 % in Mid cap funds, 20 % in Small cap funds and 60 % in Large cap funds.
  5. Once you have decided on the allocation, just pick out one fund out of each category and start investing. Do not worry about which fund as all of these are good and in the long run it does not really matter which one you have chosen. However, try to make sure that you have funds from at least 2 fund houses, preferably 3.
  6. A sample selection can be ICICI Prudential Blue chip for Large cap, HDFC Mid cap Opportunities for Mid cap and DSP BR Small cap fund for Small cap.
  7. Once you have decided on the monthly amounts, just set up an automated SIP and let the money get invested every month.
  8. You will need to do an annual review but that is a different story altogether.

I hope most people would have found this useful. Recently I was approached by a reader who wanted me to create a portfolio for him. I will share this in another post.


Close ended NFO’s open now – should you subscribe?

Over the last few years and especially in 2017 and 2018 many of the Fund houses have come up with a slew of close ended NFO’s. These come with a variety of themes and associated terminology. For example ICICI calls them Value Fund series, Sundaram calls them Micro cap series and Axis calls them Equity advantage series. In this post let us look at why these are in vogue now, what are the pros and cons and finally whether it is a good idea to invest in them.

The first issue is relatively simple to answer : new products get developed based on the likelihood of their success. With a lot of retail and institutional buyers pumping in money, there is always a demand for newer types of funds to invest in. For fund houses, it is an opportunity to have a specific charter which may not be possible to fulfil through their regular funds. For example, one of the ICICI value series funds only wanted to invest in Pharma and IT sectors as these were beaten down significantly over the last six months or so. Now this could be done in one of their existing funds too but for a fund manager to churn the portfolio by selling stocks that are doing well is not always an easy decision to take. Using fresh money in taking such calls is relatively simple. The trend started by end 2014 or so with ICICI and has now percolated to several others.

What are the pros and cons of such funds? Well, for one the mandates here have a lot more clarity compared to a vanilla large cap or mid cap fund. The fact that it is close ended, normally for 3 years, means that the fund manager has time at his disposal to take the calls he wants to take. On the flip side you will not have access to your money for 3 years and this is a problem unless you can definitely do without it for this time. A greater problem may be your inability to shift in case you are not happy with the performance. From my viewpoint, I do not see both these issues as a serious one. Firstly, you should be investing in equity for a much longer term than 3 years. Secondly, the Fund manager is way more qualified to deal with short term performance issues.

Let me now give some details of an investment that I made in one such fund. While the experience may not be repeated for all funds, it does offer certain insights:-

  • I purchased ICICI Prudential Value Fund series 2 on 6/12/2013. Invested amount was 2 lacs in the Dividend option.
  • The idea was to get some regular income as I planned to go for my consultancy practice sometime in 2014.
  • Though it was a 3 year fund, it has now been rolled over and will mature on 31/12/2018.
  • So far total dividends have amounted to 2 lacs
  • Current value of the fund is nearly 2.1 lacs

I think it can be said quite safely that this worked out quite well. In fact, I have invested in several follow up NFO from ICICI. Apart from ICICI I have also tried out Axis, Birla Sunlife, Sundaram and UTI for close ended funds. From a personal perspective it works well for me as I got tax free income and also growth from it. With the change in taxation, the returns will be lower but it is still a better bet than most of the other options.

You should be investing in these funds under the following situations:-

  • You have some income requirement every year. Instead of doing FD you can go for close ended funds with dividend option. Note that the dividend is not guaranteed.
  • You have a goal after 3-4 years. This is ideal for such situations. However, in such a case choose the Growth option.
  • You have come into some money and do not want to decide on allocation for 2-3 years as you may need the money then. Go for the growth option here too.
  • Make sure you understand the mandate and therefore the associated risk profile. A micro cap series from Sundaram will obviously be more risky as compared to the Value fund series of ICICI. However, the rewards will vary in a similar trend too.

If you are interested in these funds after reading this post, do consider the following NFO’s that are ongoing now :-

  • ICICI Pru Pharma, Healthcare and Diagnostics fund
  • ICICI Pru Bharat Consumption fund – Series 3
  • Tata Value Fund – Series 1

All of these funds have interesting themes and are likely to do quite well over the 3 year period. Personally I have put 1 lac in each of the ICICI funds.

People having surplus money and waiting to invest in some suitable avenue should take hold of this opportunity.