The Indian rupee may have slumped to an all-time low against the dollar in recent weeks, but for a non-resident Indian (NRI), there could not have been a more opportune moment to cash in on.
Currently Asia's worst-performing currency and the third-worst globally, the Indian rupee fell to a record low of 54.305 against the US dollar on December 15, slipping approximately 20 per cent this year.
While it spells bad news for the Indian economy, the currency's freefall, according to industry experts, has opened up new investment avenues in India for the NRI community based in the UAE, including real estate, capital markets, earning high interest on pure deposits, infrastructure and so on.
For every dirham, an Indian residing in the UAE currently gets Rs14.23 under yesterday's exchange rate. The Indian rupee fell to Rs53.02 against the American dollar yesterday on fresh month-end dollar demand from importers amidst weakness in local equity markets.
"When the rupee depreciates, NRIs appreciate. The NRIs based in the UAE have gained about a 20 per cent increase in their money due to the rupee's fall. That helps them explore multiple investment areas in India such as real estate, infrastructure and so on," Dr. Bharat Bhutaney, President of the Indian Business and Professional Council told Gulf News yesterday on the sidelines of a panel discussion on the ‘Recent Volatility of the Indian Rupee and its Aftermath'.
"The NRIs are getting more rupees right now in exchange for dirhams, which for the Indian economy might not be good in a way but on the other hand, it is encouraging NRIs to send more money back home," said Bhutaney.
Make the most of it
Supporting his view, Debajyoti Ray Chaudhuri, CEO of the State Bank of India, said: "The NRI based in the UAE should make the most of it. The long-term prospect of the Indian economy looks good. I personally feel that we are looking at a rate of Rs50 or below in the next year or so." He added that in the next two to three months, however, the rupee could face further depreciation.
K.V. Shamsudheen, Director of Barjeel Geojit Securities LLC and a financial adviser to expatriates, lists more than one area for NRIs to invest in.
"There are two factors to cheer for an NRI — one is getting more rupees for dirhams and coupled with that, the interest rate has gone up to nearly 10 per cent for the Non-Resident External (NRE) account. It is a good attraction for the NRI. Also, real estate in all major Indian cities is almost stagnant. It is not appreciating like before, which makes investing in property an attractive option for the NRI," he said.
Tap capital markets
Further listing Indian capital markets as yet another great investment vehicle for the NRI community, Shamsudheen said it is a good time for NRIs to invest in stocks as markets are at attractive levels right now.
"The advantage is that many good companies' current value is less than the book value, which means it's a good time to invest in the stock market," he explained. "It thus makes a perfect opportunity for us NRIs as all these factors came together at one time."
A UAE resident for 41 years, Shamsudheen also said he has never come across such an appropriate and an opportune time for NRIs to invest.
SBI's Ray Chaudhuri endorses the idea. "Besides property and pure deposits, equity mutual funds make for an attractive investment opportunity for the NRIs right now. However, the risk-averse NRIs could go in for debt mutual funds as that is risk free," he said.
K. Venkata Rama Moorthy, CEO, Bank of Baroda, added: "If you can afford to take the risk, it is the right time to enter the real estate market as well as the capital markets."