Interview with Vice-chairman & MD, Kotak Mahindra Bank
On the biggest issue of concern for 2013.
The good news is Indian banks are still adding jobs. Having said that, the most important part of our mission is ensuring the quality of assets is in good shape. A few sectors in India have pressure on on the asset side of the balance sheet. In general, banking continues to grow. We are growing credit at about 25% (a year)at our bank.
On why investors should be so bullish on Indian stocks.
The indian market is still at a level which is below its peak in 2008. Second, many companies have gone through significant levels of getting themselves sharper. There are at least 40 to 50 high-quality companies with cutting edge.
On whether now is a good moment to buy stocks on the cheap.
I think there is a significant change in the mindset of policies. The Government of India is making a lot of changes on cutting the fiscal deficit. We expect a good budget in February and we think it will be focused on cutting the deficit. Combine this with the fact that you have some very high-quality stocks. Do not buy only from the point of view of what is cheap. India offers growth. The right companies on the bottom-up bases will grow despite the constraints.
On how bad corruption is in India.
It was a very big deal in 2008, when a lot of companies were focused on infrastructure, including telecom. We have seen significant action by the state on that, including pretty active judicial intervention. Corruption is not gone but i think the needle on corruption has moved. The society expects a cleaner government and business.
On new banking licences and how this will change the way the banking system operates.
The Indian banking industry is into a little more competition. The key issue is when you issue licences, you want to make sure they're issued on ensuring the stability of the banking system. The number one debate is whether corporate houses should be given entry into banking. Many policy makers and bankers have said the government and regulators should be careful.
On what his number one concern is in the sector.
The focus and concern for the banking system is breaking bad loans. Particularly in mining, where we saw lots of cronyism as well. There are banks and banks. Some take a bigger exposure and some will not.
On where he would invest $1 million today.
I love my company a lot, so I would not put it anywhere else. We would basically focus on Indian consumption stories. We think it is the strongest story anywhere in the world. Assets have a challenge. All the problems have been on large-scale investments. India continues to grow. It continues to spin. That is where I would put my own money.
L&T Finance, which acquired two lending companies in the current financial year, plans to become a comprehensive financial services company.