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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

Floor Mats and Ferraris

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Ferrari 250 GTO

This past week the most money ever paid for a car took place, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO was reportedly sold for between $70 to $80 million. Yes, that is millions. Since the sale did not take place through an auction house the amount is just an estimate. When I heard the amount paid, I was dumbstruck…but that was only half the story.

I grew up reading every car magazine I could get my hands on – Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Road & Track and Automobile Magazine. Since my dad was a big believer in public libraries I had to goto the local Carnegie Public Library to drool over those magazines. I would read them front to back and back to front, one company that always advertised was WeatherTech for their floor mats and their ads always struck me as odd. I always wondered who in the hell would buy those overpriced floor mats. I mean come on, floor mats…who really gives a fuck.

Uhh…apparently a lot of people care about having high quality floor mats. David MacNeil of WeatherTech is the guy that bought the 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO.

Behind the Podcast: The Gear

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Samson Meteor Mic on the left and the Shure MV5 on the right, the complete setup.

When I tell people I have a podcast, there are a couple responses I get:
1. Wow, that’s cool. What’s a podcast?
2. How does that happen?

The “that” usually refers to the entire process of recording, editing, hosting and listening. The good news is that this blog post will talk about all the technical details of running a podcast show. I know I spent a shit load of time Googling and watching YouTube clips on starting a podcast. So this should save you some time, let’s do this…

Topic
Pick something you love, not just like but love. If you love something, it will be very apparent in the conversation. If I had to do a podcast on international taxation, I would probably kill myself.

USB Mics
I really wanted portable USB mics because most of my guests and including me would not travel to a studio to record a podcast. The mic that everyone talks about on YouTube is the Blue Yeti mic, it’s great but it was a bit heavy at around 19.4 oz (550 grams). Since I would need two of them (one for me and another for the guest), that would be 1100 grams. Instead, I opted for the Shure MV5 (5.6 oz., 160 grams) and the Samson Meteor Mic (9.3 oz., 264 grams). These two mics are very good at capturing sound and for the price can’t be beat. Listen to my podcast and you can judge yourself.

USB Hub
I have a 12″ MacBook which is the lightest laptop at 920 grams that you can buy on the market today. The downside is that it has a single USB Type-C connector. Which means with 2 USB mics I need a Type-C hub, luckily Amazon has one under their AmazonBasics line for Rs. 1099.

At this point you must be thinking, damn this guy is only concerned about the weight of everything. And there is a good reason, I have a slight shoulder issue so the lighter the better for me.

Software
Once the mics are connected to the hub which is connected to the MacBook you need some software to capture and edit the audio. The technical name of this software is called the digital audio workstation (DAW). On the Mac there are 3 main competitors to choose from and I used all three – Apple’s GarageBand, Audacity (open source, meaning free!) and Adobe’s Audition.

I used GarageBand for 15 minutes and quickly realized it’s great for kids. Then as a true Marwadi (read as – cheap, err value seeker) I looked at the open source Audacity. It was really good but then I got side-tracked and started to use Adobe’s Audition and got hooked. Partly because of the number of tutorials on YouTube for Audition seemed much more. For any issue I faced, I would goto YouTube and there would be 10-15 tutorials on how to solve/fix my problem.

Podcast Hosting Service
Once you create the final .mp3 audio file from your DAW, you will need to upload it to the internet. There are many podcast hosting services but I stuck with the one that has been around the longest – Libsyn.

Podcast Submission
You will need people to find your podcast via the big directories like iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, etc.. This article has the full details on that.

So there you have it, the podcast gear I use to create the Performalux Podcast. Now go on and let the world hear your voice!

My New Podcast – Performalux

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They say the third time’s a charm, well I’m hoping my latest podcast is the one. Podcasting has been gaining a lot of traction over the past 2 years and my first brush with the technology was back in 2010. I launched my first podcast called “Semper Chai” with a buddy, Mike Martin, out of Los Angeles. We did about 3 or 4 episodes and then we retired from the game!

Then I came out of retirement in 2013 and tried podcasting for a second time with a friend from Bombay – Sahil Parikh. We were going to talk about about technology and called the show “The DotMatrix Show” – connecting the dots of business and technology. That also lasted about 3 or 4 episodes and then we stopped.

Throughout all of this I continued to blog and have been for 14 years. I told myself that in 2018 I wanted to try a different media. That meant either video (vlogging) or audio (podcasting). I know all the cool kids are vlogging but I decided to try podcasting and see how that goes first.

My third attempt at a podcast is about performance and luxury or simply known as Performalux. I will be interviewing owners of super cars, car enthusiasts, car dealers and automobile manufacturers. Cars are my passion so this podcast just aligns so well with it.

Without further adieu, below is the first episode of The Performalux Podcast. I interviewed Gautam Madnani of Lamborghini Mumbai.

To subscribe to future episodes, you can use the links below or wherever you get your podcasts from.

iPhone
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-performalux-podcast/id1367228628

Android
Stitcher- https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/performalux/the-performalux-podcast
Google Play Music – https://play.google.com/music/m/Iyqode7c4qx5lj5idjka44o63hy?t=The_Performalux_Podcast
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1fwmYjec18&list=PL6-pF-IU-94eCTLzGvtMtHjjnAVXhbw9m