Yesterday, I was having high tea near Buckingham Palace with an English colleague. We were talking about the great world empires in history – how they rose up, peaked, and then fell.
All of them – the Hittites, the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans, the English and Spanish, and then, in the 20th century, the United States – enjoyed 100 or more years of rapid economic growth. This created huge, wealth-building opportunities for many.
When an economy is growing fast, opportunities are abundant. You don’t have to be a genius to make lots of money. You simply have to be at the right place at the right time.
That was true 2,000 years before Christ, and it’s equally true right now. Get on an economic tidal wave when it’s just a ripple, and before you know it you’re 100 feet above your peers, making millions and enjoying the ride.
One hundred years ago, the best place to be – by far – was the U.S. But today that may not be so. The U.S. economy is in big trouble. After surviving the collapse of the Internet bubble, we jumped right into a real estate bubble. That one collapsed too, and its ramifications are just now being felt. The falling dollar is making it much more expensive for Americans to pay for anything made abroad. And the rise in oil and gas prices (and other commodities) is putting the U.S. into a recession that will probably last a long time.
But that’s not the worst of it. The U.S. economy is old, and outdated in some respects – just as England’s economy was 100 years ago. The 20th century was America’s century. Thousands of people became enormously wealthy by getting into oil and gas and railroads and other industries back then.
But the world has totally changed. New technology and major advances in communications have permanently altered the way wealth is and will be created.
So the question my friend and I asked ourselves over tea and scones yesterday is this: If we were in our early twenties and our goal was to become billionaires (forget the measly millions!), where would we go to start our fortune?
For me, there was only one answer: I’d move to India.
Because India is, in many ways, like the United States was in 1900… but bigger and better. It has a huge population – about a billion people, of which approximately 200 million are considered middle class. This is more than 10 times the size of the U.S. middle class at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The sheer size of the market is staggering.
A study I read in the International Herald Tribune recently said that there are a million families in India whose income is more than $100,000 a year. That’s a very substantial class of wealthy people. Many of these wealthy people are entrepreneurs and investors. And because of India’s laws (and lack of laws), they will have few artificial obstacles to keep them from increasing their wealth.
India’s positive investment climate and vast consumer markets has resulted in a decade of phenomenal growth. Since I’ve been tracking it, India has been growing at least twice as fast as the United States. And even today, with oil prices going up and productivity going down on a global scale, India is still growing at almost 7 percent a year. Again, more than twice the rate in the U.S.
China, too, has a huge, fast-growing economy. But I’d choose to move to India over China because of its more democratic government, more homogeneous population, and the prevalence of the English language.
And if I were going to set up shop in India, I’d start something in the communications or technology area. More specifically, I’d start an Internet publishing company there.
Why Internet publishing?
First and foremost, because it’s a business I know. And it’s always better to start a new business in a field you know.
I also like publishing because it’s a growing industry in India. According to that report in the International Herald Tribune, the country’s magazine business will increase 20 percent in 2008, up to $302 million.
In the past 12 months, all of the following magazines have been launched in India: Vogue, Rolling Stone, OK!, Maxim, FHM, Golf Digest, People, and Marie Claire. Most of them have been launched through licensing agreements with Indian companies. That’s what I’d try to do – get an equity position and put down my stakes in India. That’s how you make the big money, not just by passively investing from abroad.
If the publishing industry is doing well, the Internet is doing even better. The growth of the Internet-based side of the information industry in India is impossible to know with certainty because of how many new companies are involved and how fast they are moving. But most insiders I’ve spoken to estimate the growth at more than 100 percent a year.
To me, India is a long-term play – an opportunity that will continue to get better over the long haul. There will be ups and downs and specific sectors that fail while others succeed. But, overall, the long-term trend is upward – toward the billions!
One of my biggest clients recently acquired a half-interest in an investment publishing business in Mumbai. That was a very smart move on their part. If things work out like I think they might, they will see a 100-to-1 return on their investment over the next five to 10 years… and a 1000s-to-one return over a longer period of time.
If setting up a business in India doesn’t appeal to you, Andrew Gordon has another recommendation.
“You could invest in India’s high-tech industry,” says Andrew. “In its generic drug sector… or its business support center companies. But the company I like best isn’t in any of those sectors. It’s an auto and truck maker called Tata Motors from Mumbai. Its ticker symbol is TTM, and it’s listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
“Tata had the nerve to challenge and then break long-held notions of auto manufacturing. Conventional wisdom argued you couldn’t make a quality car for less than $6,000 to $7,000. Perhaps with cheap labor and raw material and everything else going perfectly, you could get that down to $5,000.”
But Tata’s highly respected CEO – Ratan Tata – did not swallow a word of that, says Andrew. He took advantage of India’s top-notch but cheap design capabilities and low-cost labor pool to make a car that costs not $5,000… not $4,000… not $3,000… but $2,500.
Such audacity has its rewards. Tata is proceeding with plans to sell 1 million of these cars every year. Who will buy them? Not people who can already afford a car. But the millions of people in India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and other countries who cannot.
“This car will never be confused with a Peugeot,” says Andrew. “But let me be clear. It’s no Yugo either. It doesn’t have power steering, a radio, or air conditioning. It has only one windshield wiper. The car has been stripped to its absolute essentials. But what hasn’t been stripped out is the quality. This car is getting good reviews, and should sell like hotcakes when commercial production begins this fall.”
Plus, Andrew adds, Tata bought Land Rover and Jaguar from Ford a few months ago. It’s attacking the Asian market at its highest and lowest end – where the market is growing the fastest.
“You haven’t heard of Tata Motors up until now? It’ll be a household name in a couple of years,” he says. “The trick is to get on board right now while Tata is still flying under the radar. Its shares are priced to buy, so this is the perfect time to invest.”
Investing in India – with Andrew’s Tata recommendation or by starting your own information publishing business – is one of the best ways to make a lot of money. This is the right time to profit. You just need to get into position to allow the money to come pouring in.[Ed. Note: You can get a head start on creating your own fortune – in India, the U.S., or wherever else you please. Get a step-by-step guide to starting your own Internet business from ETR’s team of business-building experts right here.
And for more of ETR Investment Director Andrew Gordon’s insights into the safest and most profitable places you should stow your money, click here.] [Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]