Is Cable TV Dead?

In a nutshell, yes. The reason is plain and simple – Jio and our addiction to video content. Over the past 6 months when friends get together and discuss what shows to watch, I hardly hear anyone mention the shows that appear on cable TV. Instead, it’s about the latest series on Netflix, Amazon Prime, ALT Balaji, Hotstar or other streaming providers which are collectively known as over-the-top (OTT) providers. The name stems from the fact you can bypass your local cable TV provider and stream the content directly from the internet.

And don’t even get me started on YouTube. This past week there was an article in the Wall Street Journal which talked about the rise of YouTube in India as a search engine. Want to learn how to make a cake? YouTube it. Want to learn the best way to sleep? YouTube it. YouTube voice search is perfect for India where illiteracy is high. Users can speak what information they want and then the search results are videos, where they can see and hear the content.

In fact, I’m finding the quality and content getting better and better even with more and more content creators on the YouTube platform. Just like a Google search you need to know the right keywords for YouTube. But, where YouTube really shines and keeps you on their platform are their algorithms to show you more content that you will like.

A recent example was when I was searching on YouTube for a good vlogging camera. Yes, there were hundreds of thousands of videos but after watching 4 or 5 I was able to decide what camera I needed. And in the process, I came across the YouTube channel called Camera Conspiracies. The guy is a mix of camera reviews and comedy. I’m no longer looking for a camera but I still watch his YouTube channel because the content is addictive.

So where does that leave the existing players? It will be very tough for the direct to home (DTH) providers like DishTV, TataSky and Airtel DTH because they have no real strategy to add more customers. Most of the people I know don’t even turn on their DTH box and are planning to cancel the service when their subscription comes up for renewal.

The cable operators like Hathway are also in a similiar situation but since they own the physical connection to the consumer they have the ability to implement newer technologies such as gigabit fiber to the home. In fact, Reliance backed Jio recently completed the acquisition of Hathway not because of all the users of its cable TV platform but because of the physical access they have to the consumers home. I live in a building which has both Hathway and Jio GigaFiber and I can tell you first hand, we have not even turned on the set-top box (STB) for Hathway in 2-3 months. And all that viewing time has switched to the OTT providers and YouTube.

The Newest 911 Launched, the 8th Generation

The first 911 was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and launched in 1963. Over the past 55 years, the 911 has had the same basic design and each new generation is more evolutionary than revolutionary. A couple of days ago Porsche launched their latest 911, the 8th generation of the car and it’s undeniably a 911.

The 8th generation 911 is internally known as “992”. If you want to impress your friends you can refer to the 911s by their internal codenames. I have always liked the overall design of the 911 but I really feel in love with it when I moved to LA…back in 1999. That was around the time when the 5th generation of the 911 was launched.

Porsche has implemented a tick-tock refresh cycle for the 911. The term tick-tock came from Intel for the roadmap on releasing new processors. In Intel’s world, the “tick” is a smaller chip/die size and the “tock” is a new processor microarchitecture. For Porsche, the “tick” is a minor refresh which is usually a small engine bump and enhanced styling and the “tock” is a major generational release. Below, I’ll go through all the tick-tock cycles from 1998 to their recent announcement.

5th Generation
Years: 1999 to 2001
Internal codename: 996.1
Launched: Frankfurt Auto Show
Changes: all-new body and water-cooled engines, 3.4L, 296 hp

Years: 2002 to 2004
Internal codename: 996.2
Launched: Frankfurt Auto Show
Changes: 3.6L engine, 320 hp

6th Generation
Years: 2005 to 2008
Internal codename: 997.1
Launched: Paris Auto Show
Changes: all-new body, 3.6L, 325 hp. S models come with 3.8L, 355 hp

Years: 2009 to 2010
Internal codename: 997.2
Launched: Paris Auto Show
Changes: PDK, 3.6L, 345 hp. S models come with 3.8L, 385 hp

7th Generation
Years: 2011 to 2015
Internal codename: 991.1
Launched: Frankfurt Auto Show
Changes: all new design, 3.4L, 350 hp. 3.8L, 400 hp

Years: 2016 to 2018
Internal codename: 991.2
Launched: Frankfurt Auto Show
Changes: 3.4L, 370 hp. 3.8L, 420 hp. Turbocharged and not naturally aspirated engines.

8th Generation
Years: 2019 to
Internal codename: 992
Launched: Los Angeles Auto Show
Changes: all new design, 3.0L twin-turbocharged Flat-6, 443 hp.

The Podcast is dead, the Vlog emerges

youtube-cover

If you have been following my blog you know I started a podcast about 6 months ago. Even before I started the Performalux podcast I secretly knew it wasn’t going to last. Podcasting is a great medium for many topics like financial information, news, and talk shows. But a podcast about cars is not one of them. All the cool kids are vlogging because people want to hear the exhaust, see the inside of the car and see how fast objects go by while speeding on a street.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks with podcasts is the distribution of the content, people just don’t know how to listen to podcasts. 5-year-olds know how to use YouTube and skip the intro commercials but listening to podcasts required a Ph.D. Spotify and the other streaming audio providers are trying to change that by having better discovery mechanisms in their app. Will it reach mass adoption is yet to be determined. So long to the podcast format…enter the vlog.

The vlog is hosted on my YouTube channel. I don’t really have a name yet, I’m toying with “The Garage Guy” or my username “mrjain”. I have some time to think about the name, in the meantime I’ll be focusing on getting some great content on the channel. I will not be reviewing Maruti’s and Hyundai’s as there are already a ton of those YouTube channels. The channel will focus on cars I really like and would love to buy. And also talk to the owners of these cars and get their take on what drives them…yes, a horrible pun gone wrong. I’ll stop now.

 

Taxes, Tariffs, and Testarossas

Ferrari Testarossa

A couple of days ago there was an article in the DNA newspaper, an Indian daily, discussing how the high import tariffs/duties on luxury vehicles are killing the growth of high-end car sales. Well, I can’t argue with that!

But, that’s not the point of this blog post, it’s to review why there are tariffs/duties on certain products/markets and the thinking behind it. The basic idea of a tariff on imported goods is to protect the local market and give them an edge. Some may call this protectionist or nationalist but, pretty much every country does this to protect certain industries in that country. India is no different in that regard.

India has import duties on mobile phones so that local brands like Micromax have a price competitive edge over Chinese brands like Oppo and Vivo. To be price competitive, the next logical step would be for a foreign company like Oppo or Vivo to set up a manufacturing facility on the ground in India and avoid the import duties on fully assembled phones. The premise is that even if Oppo or Vivo send a large chunk of their profits back to their mother country of China, at least Indian workers have jobs. Not only are jobs created but all the other ancillary businesses would benefit from a manufacturing facility such as retail stores, restaurants, logistics companies, construction companies, etc.

Another market that India puts heavy import duties on is the automotive industry. Again the idea is to have the local companies like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors and other local players benefit. My issue is that I don’t see Maruti Suzuki competing in the same space as Mercedes, Ferrari or a Lamborghini.

This is where the Indian government’s logic is flawed. Imagine you bring down the import duty to 50% then the sales of these high-end cars will increase. Again, consumers that are buying a Mercedes-AMG G63 are definitely NOT looking at a Maruti Vitara Brezza as a viable option. So there is no chance of Mercedes cannibalizing the sales of Maruti. In fact, you will be creating a larger ecosystem for these brands which will mean more salespeople, more mechanics, more spare parts, more locations, etc.

car-import

The import duties are around 240% of the cost of the car. As you can see from the above example, if the cost of the car is imported at $100,000 then you will pay $240,400 in duties. For a total of $340,400 not including registration, transportation, insurance costs and the customary flower garland that is put on new cars! And of course, don’t forget about the manufacturer and dealer margin as well.

According to the article, Lamborghini sold 26 new cars last year across India…that is pathetic for a country with a population of 1.3 billion people. I’m guessing if the duties were cut to 50%, they would sell 10x more cars and would need more infrastructure to handle it. Which would generate more jobs and taxes for the Indian government. Looking at the raw revenue numbers from the import duties is misleading since you miss out on the entire ecosystem that is created in the process.

A big thanks to Gautam Madnani of Lamborghini Mumbai who patiently answered my 754 questions on pricing! He also was the first guest on the Performalux Podcast.

ETFs in India

WhatsApp Image 2018-09-05 at 2.01.32 PM

A cousin of mine who is pretty savvy with the stock market sent the above WhatsApp message to me. I was a bit surprised he had no idea about index ETFs, then it dawned on me. ETFs are like the stepchild of the Indian investing world…no one wants to talk about them.

First of all, ETF is an acronym for exchange-traded funds. So what is an ETF? I’ll let Investopedia explain:

An ETF is a marketable security that tracks an index, a commodity, bonds, or a basket of assets like an index fund. Unlike mutual funds, an ETF trades like a common stock on a stock exchange.

Think of it as a basket of stocks that trade throughout the day. Mutual funds are similar but they only trade at the end of the day.

I personally think ETFs are a great investment vehicle for people that want exposure to the equity markets but have no clue. Even when you pick a mutual fund, you need to know about the fund house, the manager, the investment thesis, etc… By picking one of the Nifty or Sensex ETFs you are essentially saying I want to participate in the equity markets and I’m betting on the growth of the India story.

For the longest time, the mutual fund of choice was the HDFC Top 200 managed by Prashant Jain. It recently got renamed to the HDFC Top 100 with total AUM (assets under management) of around Rs. 16,000 cr (USD 2.4 billion). HDFC Top 100 and Prashant Jain were like the Fidelity Magellan fund in the US and Peter Lynch, they could do no wrong. But over time they stumbled and started to lose their sheen. That’s where an index ETF instrument is great because you are not betting on a sector, company, region, etc…you are betting on the entire country. If you don’t believe in India, then you got bigger problems.

The ETF fund I always recommend to people is the SBI Nifty ETF, as the name implies it tracks the Nifty index. The fund has about Rs. 41,000 cr (USD 5.9 billion) in assets and it’s the largest ETF or mutual fund in India by AUM. More important than AUM, is the total expense ratio (TER) of the fund and this one is 0.06%, which is very, very low. Compare that to the HDFC Top 100 which has a TER of 2.21% (almost 37 times of the SBI Nifty ETF).

ETFs by design have a low TER and it’s one of the reasons you will never hear about ETFs on CNBC-18…there is not enough money to be made if you are an advisor. Just look at the numbers above comparing the TERs of the SBI Nifty ETF to the HDFC Top 100 fund. It’s similar to fixed deposits (FDs), your financial advisor or wealth advisor will NEVER talk about FDs because they make no money on them and in fact that money is blocked from investing in other products.

I would highly encourage anyone that is looking to diversify their portfolio to look at index ETFs as a simple and inexpensive way to access the Indian equity markets. Then as you gain confidence in the equity markets you can look at investing in mutual funds and then finally move to picking stocks based on your own research. Just start.

 

Record Pace for New Car Sales in India

The Indian automotive scene has changed immensely from when I used to visit India in the 80’s. Back then you could count the different models of cars you could buy on one hand and it really came down to two options – Hindustan Motor’s Ambassador or the Premier Padmini (which was a design licensed from Fiat).top-10-car-sales-half-year

Today, it’s like a firehouse of new car launches almost on a weekly basis. The latest numbers for the first half of 2018 are in and India is just killing it right now in sales. India is currently ranked #4 in new car sales and at this pace, it will be the best year ever for India at close to 4 million units sold. If you compare the retail dollar value of the Indian cars vs the German cars you can guess there will be a large delta between the two.

Having said that, car companies are still focused on India as the last big market to make a name for it. Kia which is partly owned by Hyundai is looking at entering the Indian market. Kia would be a great fit as their cars are viewed as inexpensive and giving you great bang for the buck. The VW Group came to India 10 years ago and talked about owning 20% of the market, that is laughable as they are just under 3% market share as of now. (I wrote about the VW Group back in July 2011). The VW Group recently handed over the India operations to their Skoda brand in a reboot for them titled India 2.0 Project.

•_India_-_passenger_car_sales_volume_2015___Statistic

I believe for Indian car sales to grow it will have to be more innovative and not go down the path of the internal combustion engine (ICE). That’s where I feel some of the startups in the electric vehicle (EV) space may end up doing very well in India. And, I don’t mean a coal-powered plant that is delivering electricity but an EV that is completely off the grid and powered via solar panels. Yes, that is ambitious but that’s the ultimate goal.

On a side note, it’s breathtaking to see China so far ahead of everyone. Almost 30% larger than the US car market which historically has been the largest passenger vehicle market for decades.

Source: India set to surpass Japan

Living for Today

Sergio_Ferrari.jpg

Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO of Ferrari

It was all planned that Sergio Marchionne would retire in April 2019, and then become Vice Chairman of Ferrari. What a cushy way to retire.

Who is Sergio? He’s the guy that saved thousands of jobs in Italy and North America as the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and saved both companies from going bankrupt. Sergio was brought in to fix Fiat in 2004 and turned it around and made it profitable. Then he decided to work his magic on Detroit based Chrysler, which was on the verge of bankruptcy during the financial crisis of 2008. He bought Chrysler in 2009 and by 2014 he merged the profitable Chrysler with Fiat and renamed the company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Along the way, he also became the Chairman and CEO of Ferrari since Fiat owned a stake in the legendary sports car company. Ferrari makes under 10,000 cars a year so the idea was to oversee this “small car company” during his retirement. That never happened. Unexpectedly, he died from complications due to a should surgery over the weekend, he was 66 years old.

When I heard the news, I was stunned. Not because I personally knew Sergio but I had been watching and reading about him in the press as he turned around Chrysler. Then taking the reins at Ferrari which led to an IPO on the NYSE for Ferrari, their ticker symbol is RACE (haha, nice touch). It makes you pause and realize it’s good to plan for the future, but you absolutely have to live for today.