Person of the year 2013

By: Navneet Munot, CFA, CIO SBIMF & Director IAIP

Like every year, there were many contenders.

Last year, this award went to the Higgs Boson (God’s particle) symbolising ‘mankind’s spirit of curiosity’. Kudos to those scientists for a Nobel prize this year. But, the award for diplomatic chemistry this year can be claimed by Vladimir Putin to ensure it was UN inspectors and not US soldiers that entered Syria. Obama had a battle at home with Republicans who termed Obamacare a weapon of mass fiscal destruction.  When ‘tea party’ was cheering the government shutdown, the veil on the statue of liberty shamed the crown. But, then, the hand shake and the phone call to Iranian President Rouhani raising hopes for peace in the Middle East shows, Obama cares.

I thought of Merkel, the angel of Euro zone for winning German hearts a third time. ‘We will do whatever it takes’, thus spake Draghi of ECB. And vroom, even PIIGS are flying! Hedge funds are eyeing an ’emerging’ Greece. It’s party time for investors in Europe. Though not for Berlusconi’s bunga bunga types.

In Asia, the structural reforms announced by Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping  have raised hopes about these two giant economies while the Pacific is witnessing 4-D effects better than ‘Gravity’. A thundering Debate and a grand Deal in Bali  for global trade, the Dangerous Dispute over Senkaku Islands between Japan and China, the Demonstrations in the streets of Thailand and the Devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan. Nature’s fury in Uttarakhand and the Philippines has sent a strong message on climate change; is the jury still out!

We weren’t part of the era when Mahatma Gandhi lived but were lucky to have Nelson Mandela. He was the pinnacle of patience and the most enduring icons of peace and equality. Mandela in his signature style printed shirts is the ultimate symbol of the power of hope. We love you, Madiba.

Wankhede stadium cried along with a billion fans when Sachin Tendulkar walked out. Viswanathan Anand remains my Bharat Ratna despite losing the championship to young Magnus Carlsen. I like what the legendary manager of Manchester United Alex Ferguson said, “as long as there are games to play, it is not over”.

It’s time for samba with Grand carnivals of the FIFA and Olympics coming up. Hope they add some spice to the Brazilian economy.

While the debate on Scotland continued, Andy Murray’s victory got UK its independence from a long jinx at Wimbledon.

I thought of Ben Bernanke who moved global markets with mere words during his tenure (green shoots, taper). Will Janet Yellen retain Ben’s helicopters near Fed’s printing machines? Amidst the noise on QE taper, emerging markets witnessed a roller-coaster and gold lost its glitter. Maybe, the gold bugs are bedazzled by the Bitcoin mania. The virtual world has voted with quantitative clicking against the fiat currencies.

The developed economies might be facing an anemic growth, but stock markets are singing, ‘We can’t stop. It’s our party, we can do what we want’. Only time will tell if this is the beginning of a ‘great rotation’ or another bubble in the making. Interestingly, the Nobel for economics this year has re-ignited the debate whether markets are ‘efficient’ or ‘deficient’. 

I thought of visionary business leaders working on ideas like drones for delivery, commercial space shuttles or wearable computers. A manufacturing renaissance due to new sources of energy and innovations in materials and process, big data and cloud computing were other contenders. While technology and sustainability will remain the biggest buzzword for business and society, the oriental effect is visible with meditation and mindfulness gaining prominence everywhere.

Verizon made the biggest pre-paid call to Vodafone shareholders. Twitter allows limited words to its users but gave unlimited returns to its investors as internet and biotech stocks are soaring. With millions of Indians joining the online world, watch out for this space. Here. After the success of JustDial.com, for all you know, someone’s working on a “Just-Buy, Just-Tie, Just-Try” or JustAnything.com. Piece of advice though, beware of unjust valuation. 

Diageo, Etihad, Unilever, GSK and FIIs are coming with money bags while Indian entrepreneurs and investors stand in the exit queue. Foreigners may well have the last laugh.

It required a “R… Rajkumar” (Raghu-ram Rajan) to save Indian markets from getting rupeed (new verb meaning a steep fall).  His “100 small steps” could well be a giant leap for the Indian financial system. P Chidambaram has done a herculean task to ensure India remains a respected BRIC and not a club member of ‘Fragile 5’.

Excess grains are rotting in the government warehouses while food inflation continues to run faster than ‘Milkha Singh’. How India got into such a stagflation is a million onion question.  Politicians on the couch were busy cooking a food security bill while our “Lunch Box” got lighter with fewer potatoes. Battered bond traders are now mostly seen in vegetables markets for clues on policy rates!

India sent a rocket to Mars while putting some mighty politicians, journalists and gurus with criminal charges behind bars. The institutions are coming of age. The stupendous rise of Aam Adami Party, judicial activism, a watchful media, enthusiastic participation from young voters for a decisive mandate in favour of Growth and Governance (2G) indicate the silent transformation underway in India. Incidentally, the ‘Power of people’ was my person of the year in 2011.  

His journey from a ‘tea stall boy’ to a most favorite PM candidate through sheer passion and perseverance shows the power of India’s democracy. He comes across as a tiger amid minnows in the political jungle. For catching the imagination of people, unparalleled in recent history, makes Narendra Modi a strong candidate for the award.

I thought of crowning “the spirit of doing good”. One may argue about merits of compulsory CSR spending by corporates but thousands of NGOs are sprouting with lots of innovative ideas and the likes of Bill Gates and Azim Premji are inspiring hopes. The spirit of contributing is surely gaining momentum.

In Pran, Bollywood lost one of the most versatile actors this year. One of his hit movie “Love in Tokyo” had a song, “mujhe tum mil gaye, humdum (I have got you, my companion). It’s a coincidence that Manmohan Singh extended his official visit by a day while visiting Tokyo this year. Maybe he was singing another famous song of this movie, Sayonara… kal phir aungi, meaning, “good bye for now, but I promise to be back tomorrow”. The Japanese emperor and her majesty re-visited India after 60 years. Prime minister Shinzo Abe is likely to be a special guest on India’s Republic day. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor will not only be the poster boy of the next phase of India’s economic development but also of the extensive collaboration with Japan. India needs finance as well as technical expertise to meet its humongous need for infrastructure. Japan can offer both. India has a great demographic dividend while Japan has an ageing population. Strategically, the world needs Japan and India to be together to counter-balance China’s rising influence in the region. Over centuries, India never attacked anyone, and Japan would have hardly spared someone. So, this partnership will surely be an interesting one. Take my word, seeds of partnership between these two powers will be remembered as one of the most defining moment in the political and economic history of Asia in this century. ‘Love in Tokyo’, a new script of India-Japan partnership is my “Person of the year 2013”.

Wish you a great year ahead!

– N M 

About IAIP

India Association of Investment Professionals (IAIP), which is established April 2005 and located in Mumbai, is an association of local investment professionals. As one of the 136 CFA Institute member societies, IAIP connects members to a global network of investment professionals. Consisting of portfolio managers, security analysts, investment advisors, and other financial professionals, IAIP promotes ethical and professional standards within the investment industry, facilitates the exchange of information and opinions among people within the local investment community and beyond, and works to further the public’s understanding of the CFA designation and investment industry.
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