The reality of underlying economic conditions, opportunities well-covered and those obscured: all is not entirely well with the economy, but Indian consumers and producers continue to impress.

“Make in India Week,” a fair promoting the government’s drive to dramatically scale up its manufacturing sector, went off with a few hitches, but yielded $222 billion in investment pledges. Bloomberg points out that India may not see any of this money if it does not act quickly to break the deadlock on key legislative reforms.

Livemint: February 25
Informed India-watchers are well aware that, due to the outsize role that state governments play in business development and economic administration, as well as the human diversity and physical area that India encloses, it is more apt in many situations to think of it as many markets, not one. Following the devolution of financial authority from the central government to the states in the 2015 budget, bond markets have begun to examine each state’s creditworthiness individually.

Geoskope Expert Knowledge

Business Standard: February 21
Geoskope expert Ajay Shah, goes beyond questioning the government’s new GDP figures. “Recessionary conditions are visible in sales growth and profit margins. Interest payments continue to grow faster than sales or profits, revealing a worsening of credit stress. These conditions are a call to arms for reforms.”

Business Standard: February 18
Popular yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s bare-bones Patanjali brand, with no fancy degree-holders behind it, is taking the FMCG world by storm, and the managers at industry majors are struggling to understand it. Geoskope friend Indrajit Gupta sheds valuable light on Patanjali’s consumer appeal, vexing to so many.

Indicators and Trends

Livemint: February 17
Exports will drive the ‘Make in India’ dream, to say nothing of the broader economic picture in India. Export and investment demand remain in a slump, according to the latest data, but much of this is driven by global currency and demand trends. The central government can offer export incentives in the budget, and the Central Bank can devalue the rupee. All eyes will be on the Budget and Bank governor Rajan in the coming weeks.

Company Stories

The Hindu BusinessLine: February 25
The Swedish truck-maker, undaunted from its successful forays into Argentina and Brazil, is unburdened in imagining its competencies and branding as it prepares to enter India. It wants to “redefine the transport map,” lead in the development of rapid-transit buses, and the utilization of alternative fuels. The potential is too great not to rise to the occasion.

Livemint: February 12
Hero MotorCorp is in good spirits where it could have been in trouble. The maker of motorcycles should have been hit hard by the monsoon-driven decline in rural consumption roiling many consumer-oriented companies, but the good fortune of declining commodity prices and the good sense of an adaptive product sales strategy have allowed it to blunt its potential losses and, indeed, report a rise in per-vehicle revenue for FY16 thus far.

Consumer and Industry Notes

Economic Times: February 19
The likes of craftsmen and housemaids in slums of cities like Delhi, Bengaluru, and Kolkata are seeing significant income increases from selling their products to new markets, sometimes foreign, via Paytm, Snapdeal, Amazon and others. The majors are wise to this, with Amazon’s global selling program rolling out in India last year. This will drive in no small part the expected 67% year-on-year growth in the e-commerce sector in 2016.

Economic Times: February 17
If you come, they will build it, it seems. Amazon launched ‘Amazon Tatkal’, an initiative that enables small and medium businesses previously unfamiliar with e-commerce to get started. It will operate like a mobile studio, where Amazon will directly engage artisans and entrepreneurs across the country.

Economic Times: February 17
Ringing Bells, a company based in Noida, near New Delhi, launched a Rs. 251 smartphone. Trade associations and competitors are deeply skeptical. Given the specs, it ought to cost about 10 times that price. Previous attempts at creating extremely low-end smartphones, notably from Firefox, failed quickly. But consumer interest in this demonstration might prompt companies to keep thinking of a low-end solution.

Budget Look-Ahead

The United States is fully consumed by the presidential election, with its budget viewed by citizens as somewhat of a fait accompli. Not so in India—budget season is a media festival, a major reference point on the question of where India as a country is headed. The Railway budget, a separate exercise, has been presented. The Prime Minister’s Chief Economic Advisor will present his analysis, and early next week, the Finance Minister will unveil the budget of the central government. For Modi skeptics and optimists alike, this is likely the most significant piece of evidence on which to judge whether the government is capably driving forward on the path on which it has professed to embark.

Economic Times: February 25
The Railway Minister wants the venerable Indian Railways to be relevant and forward-looking. His budget, beyond the issue of generating much-needed revenue and improving the traveler experience, unveiled an expansive vision of the Railways as a crucible for Indian innovation around the kernel of a startup incubation fund with seed money of over $7 million, administered by Ratan Tata.

Mashable: February 25
Led by Minister Suresh Prabhu, the Railways is not shy in embracing technology as the means to revamping the consumer experience in rail travel. From automated, e-ticketing and solar panels on the top of trains and train stations, and bio-vacuum toilets, to Google-sponsored Wi-Fi, Prabhu and the Ministry have sent a clear message that, while the challenges are numerous, there is a path forward, and it will undoubtedly involve tech partnerships.

Economic Times: February 20
Though the “Modi Effect” is looked upon with skepticism amid his failures at legislative reform, he is extremely active in the efforts of his cabinet, the Budget no exception. With so many of his projects—financial inclusion, cleanliness, technological modernization, manufacturing development—at stake, one hopes that this allows his stated vision to cohere with his government’s financial engine.

Access the full range of Geoskope’s analysis on India by subscribing to our newsletters and connecting with us via Facebook and Twitter.