Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What is better: FDI or FII?

For now, the debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail has been put on the back-burner. But, there is a raging debate on whether to allow FDI in the airline industry. As of now, foreign institutional investment (FII) in airlines is allowed. So, what is the difference between FDI and FII? And which is more beneficial?

In FII, there are investment banks or financial institutions based on foreign soil, which invest their money in shares of various companies in India. While there are complex rules and regulations that govern in what and how much they can invest, they are basically like stock brokers. They invest in stocks, which they feel will fetch them good returns. They are betting on the good financial performance of the company. And since they can invest anywhere in the world, they will always invest money, when they feel there is an environment for good growth in the particular business. And, once they feel that the environment is going bad and not conducive for growth, they will begin pulling out. Remember, this money after being pulled out of the stocks, gets repatriated out of the country. Domestic institutions, even if they withdraw from the stock market, keep the money within the country. In short, on a phone call or at the click of a mouse, billions of rupees can either flow into the country or flow out of the country.

On the other hand, FDI implies that the foreign entity comes to India, either on its own or in partnership with a local company, and invests in the permitted sector by putting in manufacturing, logistics, marketing facilities and helping set up a host of ancillary units. This leads to creation of assets in the country, using foreign currency. Of course, the investment is going to be recovered over time, and some portion of the profits are going to move to the parent company's country, but then a large portion of the revenue gets spent within the country itself. Moreover, it is not difficult to dispose of these created assets overnight. The procedure is tedious. Thus, only those companies who can stay invested through the thick and thin times, will think of investing. Moreover, if the foreign partner wants to exit, they have to sell off the assets to some person. Again, while the profits might go out of the country, the principal amount invested, does stay back. Thus, FDI always allows for a substantial portion of the capital to remain invested within the country. Of course, businesses might not be amenable to FDI. The foreign partner may obviously want some control over business decisions and directions. They might also decide what technology to bring in and what not to. Moreover, if the foreign company opens a wholly owned subsidiary here, then with their deep pockets, they can resort to predatory pricing and give the domestic ones a tough time. But, in the bigger picture, it is FDI which brings in technology, assets and some of the best global practices in business.

In India, we wouldn't have been driving cars manufactured by Honda, Toyota, etc. without FDI. Nor, could we have seen the impressive returns on stock investments, without some contribution from FII. On the flip side, cold-drinks like Gold Spot vanished from the Indian market, once Parle sold their soft-drink companies to Coca-Cola. And the swings that one witnesses in stock markets or the price of the dollar, is partly induced by FIIs moving their money in and out of the country. An increase of both, though, signifies confidence in the government's policies, the ability of various government bodies to execute these policies and the capability of the local market to, at least partly, absorb their products. So, to sum it up, FDI is essential for bringing in foreign companies and allowing them to create assets, which will stay in the country forever. FIIs are essential to provide the money required for investment, without having to rope in a partner in the assets. Which one is better? Up to you to make a decision!
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  1. Thanx Vinay for the details. I was never able to understand these economic complexities

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