investment themes: Milind Karmarkar on the theme of consumption and the art of long-term investment

“Railways can be a big opportunity, but right now I can’t find any company that can deliver that kind of growth. PSU defense companies are also a big opportunity, but they haven’t delivered yet. the numbers, so we are also looking at defense companies,” said Milind KarmarkarThe head of finance, Portfolio managers Dalal & Broacha.

It is said that in the markets, wealth is not created by looking at the rear view mirror, you have to look at the windshield.
That’s right.

What is your rearview mirror or windshield telling you?
The rear view mirror tells me that India will grow at a rate of 6.5% to 8%; add to that an inflation of 4 to 5%; so a growth of 13% for the next five to six years is probably given and that would lead India to achieve the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy. In all likelihood, per capita income could also more than double over the next five years and if that happens then, of course, there will be a tremendous drive to boost consumption.

When I say consumption, I include the hospital side, the pharmaceutical side, the insurance companies and I also include banks and NBFCs. It is therefore a somewhat wider consumption range because everyone benefits from the increase in per capita income and that is where I will focus, with the exception of industrialists.

You had two insurance companies in the past – life insurance and general insurance. Given that it is now listed and there are new entrants into the health insurance industry, have you revisited insurance stocks? It was and if my memory serves me right, isn’t it?
You are right and both have been underperforming.

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Do you mind?
No, it’s not, because I see long-term potential for 18% to 20% growth in most insurance companies over a longer period. As long as these companies can generate a growth rate 30-40% above GDP growth, the stock price will start producing, maybe not in six months, but in two or three years.

The challenge with ICICI Lombard is that they are still living on the float and still not a profitable franchise. Other health insurance companies are profitable. Does this change the company’s argument in terms of viability?
No, it doesn’t change my thought process because I see ICICI Lombard as a great opportunity. There is enough space for all general insurance companies to grow. All these businesses in the field of insurance can grow very quickly and very well. So, especially after the pandemic, I expect health insurance business to pick up. During the pandemic, there were also issues regarding passenger vehicles. Now passenger vehicle sales have also started and four-wheeler and two-wheeler insurance should also do well. As a result, the general insurance sector as a whole should do well.

Also Read: Why Milind Karmarkar Hasn’t Changed the Top 3 Stocks in Her Portfolio Since Covid

What do you think of defense, railways, crafting, atmanirbhar theme? Long-term investors like you are looking at the size of the opportunity. In consumption, you are excited about the size of the opportunity, but if defense opens up or rail investments start up, aren’t they big profit pools to participate in as an investor?
Railroads can be a great opportunity, but right now I can’t find any company that can deliver that kind of growth. PSU defense companies are also a big opportunity, but they haven’t delivered the numbers yet. So we also look at defense companies; we will probably buy them at the right time because Make in India makes a big difference. We already have positions, but on defense we are looking at these companies and will likely buy a few of them in the near future once we are confident that the growth is sustainable over the longer term.

You’ve been investing since 2000. Trent has never been a value stock; it was still trading at PE multiples that were higher in terms of the market benchmark. When you invested in Trent, they had sold Lakme, after which they moved to a grocery store. Now there is a Zara interaction coming. Did you anticipate this kind of foresight from management?
When I looked at Trent, I was looking at all the retail businesses, actually Trent and

came because of it. I realized that in the United States, from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, the greatest growth was in retail businesses, whether it was Walmart or many others. That’s the reason why I started looking at retail in India because I thought that over a longer period of time people will be used to going to mall and hypermarket and to do their shopping for a week or a month.

At that time, no one wanted to believe him and everyone thought that the Indians would only stick to the neighborhood grocers. Even now, people worry that online businesses like BigBasket or many others could disrupt the kind of growth these businesses are showing, but my view is slightly different. If you go to the US you still see most people going to buy stuff from Walmart because you can get a glimpse and then buy it.

I think that will continue to happen in India as well and that was my opinion earlier.

Going back to my thinking or my interactions with management at the time, when I asked them how big can you get, they said we could get to about 90 stores in 10-15 years. It was also a big growth because from two to 90 is 45 times. Not only did they ship it, but now they’re adding over 100 stores – including Zudio – every year. Even now, the type of growth that can occur in these stores is phenomenal. This is why I have continued to buy into the portfolio for a longer period as we have had an opportunity and will continue to do so across all retailers.

What industrial stocks have you invested in?
I can’t tell you what industrial stocks I’ve invested in, but they’re generally stocks where we see decent growth in the coming years and we’ve already seen some growth coming in the last two or three quarters. I can’t disclose, but we’ve been buying these stocks for a while now and will continue to do so. These are not routine names, let me put it that way.

A big merger that is approved and planned in the banking sector is the merger of HDFC Ltd. A different balance sheet size is being created. What would be the implications for HDFC Bank shareholders and the mortgage market?
In the end, both will benefit due to sheer size. It is possible that HDFC, the home financing business, will start to obtain funds at a lower rate and this will be a new engine of growth for HDFC bank.

So I continue to be optimistic about this merger although some people say it will create a large entity, but it’s at $2,000 per capita. When you have $5,000 per capita, the possibilities continue to be extremely large.

(Disclaimer: The recommendations, suggestions, views and opinions given by the experts are their own. These do not represent the views of Economic Times)