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Best of 2016

It’s not been business as usual


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It was an eventful year for the Indian business, particularly in the last three months, thanks to grander narratives like demonetisation and the boardroom spat engulfing the Tatas. That said, there were other interesting trends.

In one of our earliest stories, we wrote about Islamic finance, through a  company called Heera Gold and its somewhat murky practices. Turned out it was timely as well. A month later, in November, the Reserve Bank of India proposed the opening of an Islamic window in conventional banks for the gradual introduction of Sharia-complaint or interest-free/no-interest banking. 

Controversy? Check. Now how about some strategy. On that, Sequoia seemed to be treading an unusual path in India in planning to sell its stake in eight firms for $200 million. Apparently, it was to weed out the laggards, exit sectors that are seen as non-strategic and eliminate intra-portfolio conflicts.

But Sequoia wasn’t the only company to change the way it operated in India. Naspers India pressed the reset button too. This, after Gurugram-based MakeMyTrip acquired the second largest online travel agency Ibibo Group — one of the companies it invested in along with China’s Tencent Holdings. This meant MakeMyTrip, whose valuation had dipped to $500 million at one point from its previous “unicorn” status, would re-enter the club with the valuation of the combined entity estimated to be $2.9 billion. While this meant consolidation, the MakeMyTrip-Ibibo deal also changed the landscape of the online travel agency sector.

What we also saw in 2016 was a change of tack among the small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It was aspirational too. They didn’t just begin exploring the more dynamic, wide-reaching online medium to sell their products, they preferred it too.

And finally, the Indian media emerged as a key talking point. All the big players, it would seem, are in restructuring mode. While that may indicate a change of direction, it also comes with some doom and gloom. Layoffs become unavoidable headlines. Not to forget, the print media has felt the brunt of the government’s demonetisation drive, with declining ad revenues. The chaddi-baniyan ads are drying up. We’ll monitor if this trend continues in 2017, once the real economic impact of demonetisation kicks in.

On that note, why not spend some time reading some of our popular business stories?

  • A long, investigative saga involving a lady named Nowhera Sheik, and her company Heera Business Group. You don’t want to put this down, not till you’ve finished reading the piece.
  • An essential deep-dive into why Sequoia India was looking at selling its stake in eight companies in its portfolio. Come for the storytelling, stay for the analysis.
  • The consolidation in the online travel agency market after the MakeMyTrip-Ibibo merger. Read it for the analysis.
  • How SMEs not just in Surat but across the country are waking up to digital marketing.
  • A rather nuanced take on the current stress that’s engulfed some of the Indian big media houses.

We’ll see you next week. From all of us at The Ken, here’s wishing you a Happy 2017.

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