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Alternative Investments Aimed at Developing World Provide Next Hope for Growth

  • Luke Hunt

Tata Motors Chairman Ratan Tata poses with a Tata Nano car during Tata Motors-Flag-in ceremony of Nano in Mumbai, India, 28 Jun 2010

In Malaysia, business opportunities that address the needs of both consumers and investors in the developing world dominate at a conference on alternative investments.

Green technology, sports such as cricket, tailored financing for Africa, derivatives for Asia and Islamic banking gathered much of the attention at an international investment conference in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.

Although most Asian economies are booming, especially compared with developed industrialized markets, financial experts say for the next few years the investment climate is likely to be marked by low growth and low interest rates.

Malaysian Investment Development Authority director-general Jalilah Baba told the conference her government benefited by opening up during the financial crisis during the past two years. And it gained by being at the forefront of the international Islamic banking market, which follows religious teachings on interest and the types of investments.

"We are looking at further liberalization of the services sector to allow more foreign investments to come in and also creating more opportunities for domestic investors in the services sector, to go for technologies that are being offered by the foreign investors," said Baba.

Titan Group Managing Director Bhaskar Bhat says alternative investments should focus on wider mass appeal, and look for unmet needs in the developing world.

He cited the world's cheapest and smallest car, the Nano, which was developed for the Indian market, as a classic alternative investment. He says it is one that might have been overlooked by more traditional Western investors.

But he also says that sports and leisure, alongside green technology will become prominent within the investment community.

"I mean spectator sports in India are a fantastic business," noted Bhat. "Entertainment, Bollywood is a good business if you get it right, the appeal is, in fact, today global. Tamil film industry is appealing to the Malaysian audience and Hindi films are popular in Afghanistan and so and so, yes leisure and sports."

The two-day conference also became a showcase for investments with a social cause. This was particularly the case regarding the environment, climate change and carbon trading.