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Can India Be The Next China?

To me, India is a contradiction. So many of the Indians I have met have been some of the brightest, coolest and most cultured people I’ve known. Indians at school and at university study and work harder than anybody else. There are so many brilliant Indian authors from V.S. Naipaul to Salman Rushdie. And I think Indian cuisine is the best in the world.

Yet the India I remember from my visits to the country in past years seemed to be a bit of a mess. It was dirty, polluted and the infrastructure was terrible. Indians tended always to be late, and rather disorganised.

India is changing. And fast.

But this is changing. And fast. How quickly is apparent when you visit the country today. The infrastructure is already being transformed. A growing and young population means the economy is booming. Indian movies are now on a par with Hollywood. After I and my wife watch Hindi serials on TV, Western programmes seem to pale in comparison.

India owns Jaguar-Land Rover, Mittal Steel, Infosys and a host of other companies. But insiders will tell you that this is just the beginning.

30 years ago, China was seen as a backward nation whose economy was mainly based on agriculture, with very little in the way of manufacturing or services. At the time a round-faced politician with an endearing smile called Deng Xiaoping realised that China should become more like the West, and that you could still have a Communist political system alongside a capitalist economy.

You don’t need me to tell you the transformation that this nation has undergone since then. It is almost a cliché to say China will soon be the most powerful nation on earth.

This is why I have started to buy into India

Today India is run by a man in a neat white beard with glasses called Narendra Modi. He is a Hindu from Varanasi with a degree in political science and a (well-known) penchant for yoga. And I think he is India’s Deng Xiaoping.

I’m a firm believer that it would be naïve for investors just to buy shares in UK-based companies. After all, shares prices depend upon the profitability of companies. And that profitability will depend upon the strength of the nation’s economy, and it’s competitiveness. Right now, and for decades to come, India and China will be the strongest and most competitive nations on earth.

To me, it’s a no-brainer, and I plan to invest an increasing proportion of my cash in Indian shares.

Because this is the type of market which requires a lot of in-depth research, I would invest in unit or investment trusts rather than individual shares. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many good India-focused funds around at the moment, but my picks are J.P. Morgan Indian Investment Trust (LSE: JII), which is currently trading on an attractive 12% discount, and Jupiter India.

You see, a good investment story is all about excitement and hope. And there is no more excitement in the world right now than in India.

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Prabhat Sakya has a holding in Jupiter India. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.