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India’s feeling immune to the gloom

Arun Mandal is a master of the universe, masala style. At 28, the New Delhi resident has a well-paying job in finance, a car of his own, a flat-screen TV and an expensive cellphone. Global economic contagion? The way he sees it, India is pretty much immune.

With each passing year since India opened its economy in 1991, it’s been more exposed to international downturns. But it’s got some pretty good trump cards to counter the overseas turbulence right now, including the muscle of 1.2 billion increasingly monied people with a taste for shopping. Add it up and you have a far more buoyant mood among Indians these days than among Americans and Europeans.

“I’m pretty content,” Mandal says. “In India, people are more ambitious and optimistic, our demographics are better and people are out buying more.”

Some analysts agree.

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“We’ve become more linked to the global economy,” says Gurcharan Das, an author and former head of Procter & Gamble India. “But India’s growth fundamentals have their own dynamic.”

India’s Achilles’ heel politically and economically is inflation, which is running at a rate of about 8% and hits the poor hardest. Exporters are also hurting as foreign buyers hibernate.

But the services and information technology sectors should continue to grow, says Karina Yana, 26, who was out shopping for fabric with her mother. “I’m not worried,” she says, purchasing a tablecloth. “I don’t think all this bad news will affect India.”

Mandal sees a bright future. “If we have smart people at financial institutions, we can learn from the mistakes of the West and avoid them,” he says.

Even the 15% drop in India’s main Sensex stock market index since April’s high is a blip, as he sees it. “It’ll jump back,” he says. “People are pretty happy. It’s a buying opportunity.”

mark.magnier@latimes.com


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