The central government has complete power with a clear mandate, but directives from the Centre have to be executed well at the state level. So, there are many things that are still not in Modi’s hands, says Raamdeo Agrawal, Joint Managing Director, Motilal Oswal Financial Services in an interview with Narendra Nathan and Sanket Dhanorkar.
Are we looking at a multi-year bull run?
I think the market has not yet priced in the full potential of the economy. For the first time, a true nationalist has come to power with a clear majority. There is a new-found energy across the nation. My sense is that the market has not yet understood the difference between 300-plus seats for NDA and 272-plus seats for BJP alone. Look at how the cabinet posts have been assigned — BJP allies have got limited posts and their negotiating power is diminished. Complete power is in the hands of the government. The political scenario is drastically different now. The economy is on the cusp of a historical positive change.
It is the same vehicle, but the driver has changed. It is now being steered by a formula-one driver. So, the acceleration will be dramatic. It will become visible very quickly. Today we are growing at 4.5 per cent. Growth is likely to pick up pace rapidly in the next few years. A lot of things will happen in five years. It will be interesting to see the index level at that time. In the process, investors will make tons of money, because the market will discount that growth two years in advance. It will not wait for the fifth year. If all domestic and global factors align, markets will go through the roof.
Are there challenges to the fragile economic recovery?
The current optimism is because a major variable — the shambolic political setup — has been corrected. There is no doubt that the new government has been fully empowered in this election; the mandate has been given to an extremely competent individual. Right now, everybody is bullish. But one must have tempered expectations. Finally, directives from the Centre have to be executed well at the state level. Otherwise it will be a waste. There are many things that are still not in Modi’s hands.
A lot of other factors will also play a role. Good monsoons, favourable global environment, peaceful borders, etc., can change the entire scenario. But, only time will tell how many stars will align. So, a lot will depend on external factors. I am also keenly watching how the new government tackles inflation, which is just a symptom of a much deeper problem somewhere else. The government has to address supply-side bottlenecks. A weak currency cannot make a strong country. That is why, inflation must go down. It will be the beginning of development, investments, and so on.
The rally, so far, has been driven by hope. When will fundamentals take over?
News headlines, and making money are two entirely different things. We should not get carried away by the headlines. The focus must be on who will actually make money. In most cases, it will be a company which is making money right now. Very rarely will a company that is broke today make money tomorrow, unless there is a complete change in business dynamics. Today, we do not have anything to go by. So, wherever there are anomalies in the economy, these will come back to normal levels. Right now, it is only about the promise of a better tomorrow. Some of these promises will have to take shape in the budget.
What should be the first priority for the new government?
India has to become much more business friendly. Finally, the country needs to create jobs for its rising young population. Who will create these jobs? More than the government, it is the businesses which will create jobs. Businesses can create jobs only if the business environment is friendly. They also cannot sustain growth without creating jobs. So, the government has to become business friendly. All hurdles should be removed. We need businesses to take more risks as it will result in more jobs.
Will mid-cap stocks continue to perform better than large-caps for now?
It really depends on the company. Mid-caps were lagging for quite some time; smallcaps even more. Eventually it has to converge. Large-caps are now looking highly priced. Investor appetite is limited at these levels. Most of the action is in the low-quality, low-priced segment. Smaller investors are clearly buying low-quality stuff, thinking that the price is low. But, even if it moves into high valuation territory, low quality will remain so. This is where the entire game ends. Sure, high quality stocks are expensive now. But that doesn’t mean you should have junk in your portfolio. If you find quality at a reasonable price, buy with modest expectations. Such names are few and far between. But, even if you get 3-4 such ideas over one year, you can make money. The challenge is to have patience and hold on to the investment. Filling with junk will be a disaster, but if it works, you get a multi-bagger. Investors in high quality may underperform in a rallying market, but will emerge better off over an entire cycle.
Can we expect an earnings upgrade anytime soon?
A 12-15 per cent earnings upgrade is definitely possible this year. As the economy recovers, sectors, such as cement, steel and automobiles, will pick up pace. Oil & gas can also contribute to earnings growth. Right now corporate profits are contributing around 4 per cent to the GDP, which is near the bottom of the band. At the peak of a cycle, this can go upto 7-8 per cent. Assuming 13-14 per cent nominal growth in GDP, it will double in rupee term to Rs 220 trillion in next six years. Now the question is whether the current profit of Rs 4 trillion will move up to Rs 8 trillion or Rs 16 trillion. If it maintains the current ratio, it will go to Rs 8 trillion. If it touches the upper end of the band, it will go to Rs 16 trillion. If this happens and the PE multiple remains the same, the market will go up four times. Profits will zoom the moment the economy moves from 5-6 per cent to 8-9 per cent growth. That is why there is a potential for the market to go up to the stratospheric levels from here.