PERSONAL WEALTH ITCHY FEET, AGAIN?

You don’t have to be moneyed to travel the world. There are several schemes to meet your expenses. So just pack your

bags and hit the road

By Shailesh Menon

Illustration by Champak Bhattacharjee

BLUE BEACHESTake a dip in the

of Pattaya, walk along ‘Water­front Prome­nade’ in Singapore, go spotting orangutans in the Malaysian Borneo and hit the cool spice trail in Sri Lanka — there’s a lot you could do this summer. But if an empty wallet is stop­ping you from hitting the fair winds, at hand are some really cool deals to fund your dream holiday.

Before we smack the road analysing various travel financing options, one needs to be amply clear, it is best to dig into
your savings to finance your holiday. ‘Beg, borrow or steal’ is only good if you don’t have enough money to buy tickets, food and accommodation. Options that involve borrowing money to fund holidays could increase your travel costs by about 30 per cent. The other option — to steal — could land you in jail.

“Borrowing money to travel is not the best way to have a holiday… Not many people would opt for credit to travel. But if you don’t want to borrow, you should have enough sav­ings to dig in. If you don’t,
your only option is to travel on credit,” says Ravi Menon, head, Foreign Ex­change & Risk Manage­ment, Cox & Kings.

The Macros

For Indians, cost of travel has been moving in two directions. While billings for domestic travel have gone up 10 to 15 per cent over the past two years, international travel has become cheaper due to weakening of most for­eign currencies. The drop in travel costs is more pro­nounced in the case of Eu­ropean destinations, with airfare to marquee cities
such as Zurich, Rome and Paris crashing 15-20 per cent since last year.

Much of this (drop in air fare) has been attributed to a weak Euro, which de­clined from Rs 83 a year ago to about Rs 70.9 cur­rently. Consequently, most travel operators are seeing 50-60 per cent more bookings to popular Euro­pean hotspots this sum­mer. According to tour op­erators, India logs 15-20 million tourist departure every year.

Despite higher costs, do­mestic travel has been wit­nessing an uptrend over the past few years. Domestic travel (to all states com­bined) has been growing at 14 per cent every year since 1991. As per data from the tourism department, year 2012 witnessed a 19-9 per cent growth in domestic tourist visits over the pre­vious year.

Encouraged by robust growth in the tourism sec­tor, tour operators and lenders (mostly banks) have begun offering fund­ing options to prospective travelers. Credit card pay­ment modes, personal loans, travel loans and dedicated travel (savings) accounts are pushed to customers in large num­
bers. And much to the de­light of lenders and tour planners, middle class In­dians are warming up to such novel ideas.

Personal Loans t Credit Card Payment

Consumers can avail per­sonal loans for meeting their holiday expenses, but that is not a very lu­crative option as such loans are given out at rates as high as 16-18 per cent per annum. There­fore, most tour operators / travel portals have tie-ups with banks to facilitate travel loans.

“These (personal loans)

are unsecured loans, mak­ing them very expensive for customers. Also, dis­bursals take a lot of time,” explains Sreeram Sirip- uram, founder of Fly- 4credit, a loan facilitator.

If you do not want to undergo the painful pro­cess of getting a personal loan approved, you can simply swipe your credit card and purchase a holi­day package. But this op­tion could turn out to be more expensive (than per­sonal loans) if you default on card repayments; you could be charged as high as 36 per cent penal inter­est on the defaulted sum.

That said, credit card purchases give you great flexibility to plan your holiday. The payment for your holiday happens in­stantly (without the ap­proval of the bank, as is the case with personal loans), if you have suffi­cient credit limit. The re­payment is done through equated monthly install­ments (EMIs) over 12 months.

The flip side is, credit cards cannot buy you ex­pensive holidays as most middle-class card holders have credit limits in the range of Rs 1-2 lakh.

 

PERSONAL WEALTH THE WORLD IN YOUR POCKET

Destination Places/Package Per Person Cost* (Rs)
Thailand Pattaya, Bankok 4 N/5D—Flight, stay, sightseeing 30,100
Dubai Dubai 4N/5D—Visa, flight, stay, sighseeing 35,175
Mauritius North/South/lle Aux Cerf Islands 6N/7D — Flight, stay, sightseeing 51,150
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya 4N/5D — Flight, stay, sightseeing 30,445
Singapore Singapore 4N/5D — Flight, stay, sightseeing 42,750
Turkey Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Kusadasi, Istanbul 6N/7D— Flight, stay, sightseeing 100,000
Switzerland Lucerne,Titlis, Interlaken, Bern, Geneva 6N/7D — Flight, stay, sightseeing 152,650
Europe UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy.Spain 14N/15D — Flight £food 240,650
Paris Paris 5N/6D—Stay £ sightseeing 44,530
US LA, LV, San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal 12N/13D—Flight, stay, sightseeing 3,20,500
Australia Gold Coast, Cairns,Sydney 7N/8D — Flight,stay,sight­seeing, insurance 1,18,000+AUD

1,400

New Zealand Auckland, Rotorua, Queenstown £ Christchurch 9N/10D — Flight, visa, stay £ sightseeing 1,21,158+NZD 2,175
Amazon to Andes Lima, Inca trail, Cusco, Amazon Jungle, Ollyataytambo 11N/12D — Flight, stay £ sightseeing 1,34,117
South Africa CapeTown, Jo’burg, Gondwana, Knysna, Oudtshoorn 8N/9D—Stay, local transportation, sightseeing 58,000
Antarctica Ushuaia, Drake Passage, Shetland Islands 10N/11D — Flight, visa, stay, select means, parka £ boots 6,75,000

* INDICATIVE BASE PRICE. PRICE/PACK AGE MAY VARY                                                                            SOURCE: TRAVEL AGENTS

bridge shortfalls in your travel budget.

Travel Loans

There are several banks that offer travel loans at competitive rates — often in the range of 11-14 per cent per annum. Take for instance, the travel loan (titled ‘Bon Voyage’) by

 

KarurVysyaBank: the bank offers up to Rs 5 lakh for overseas travel, repay­able in 36 months.

Bank of India’s Star Holiday loan scheme al­lows loans between Rs 10,000 and Rs 2 lakh without any collateral and up to Rs 5 lakh against collateral security. Federal

 

Bank also has a scheme that pays up to Rs 5 lakh. The loan amount can be used to buy tickets and meet other expenses.

“Most banks only pay up to 80 per cent of the total cost. The remaining 20 per cent has to be paid by the customer as down payment. Rates are nego­
tiable in the case of travel loans; if you are a good customer, you may get travel loans at cheaper rates,” says Siripuram.

Savings Account

Tour operators such as Thomas Cook, Cox &

Kings and Kuoni have tied up with banks to offer ‘travel savings accounts’ to customers. With these op­tions, customers can save enough money before they get on the plane to their fa­vourite destination.

The basic idea here is to prompt people to invest a fixed sum of money every month in recurring de­posit (RD) accounts. The tenure of such accounts could be around a year.

“Indians like to save for their holidays. Our ‘holi­day investment plan’ helps customers to save for their future holiday,” says Vishal Suri, chief execu­tive, Tour Operating, Ku­oni India.

“At the beginning of the year, we tell our custom­ers how much (approxi­mately) will they need to travel to a destination of their choice. We break the cost into monthly install­ments and advise them to invest in RD accounts. At the end of tenure (after a year), the customer would have enough to meet his travel cost.

STARTUP THE BUG BUSTERS

Avekshaa checks for bugs in the client’s software code and ensures that all its components run smoothly

By Vishal Krishna

HEY SAY the strength of the chain is in the weakest link. This adage can be ap­plied to, say, data flow management in a connected car ecosystem. The data gen­erated by the car’s telematics system and the mobile device is transmitted through a network and stored in a server. On top of this “pipe” is middleware and a fire­wall protecting the data shared between corporates, consumers, telecom operators and dealerships. If this ecosystem does not maintain a continuous flow and, if any latency in the software sets in, it may be cata­strophic for the company — a system failure can send its fortunes reeling. Hence, the need for experts to avert a situation of this sort. Such an expert is the Bangalore- based startup, Avekshaa.

The company checks IT systems of big companies for bugs in the code and gets the pieces ready for integra­tion. Once the pieces are placed together, Avekshaa’s engineers make doubly sure that all components of the software work in unison. “Failure in information technology.

The assurance space in which Ave­kshaa operates is a lucrative one. Re­search firm Butler Group says com­panies lose $73 billion each year due to bugs and scalability issues in their software. The market size for firms in this space is $8.5 billion and it is growing at 20 per cent year-on-year.nology (IT) systems impacts cus­tomer service and eventually dam­ages corporate reputation,” says Rajinder Gandotra, one of Avek- shaa’s founding partners.

“Traditional IT business services are commoditised and no longer hold the edge in serving complex business practices,” says V. Balakrishnan, for­mer Infosys chief financial officer and now, founder of Xfinity Ven­tures. Considering that IT services firms are grappling with automation and also with employing more people to test complex IT practices, he be­lieves the platform offered by Avek­shaa could change the way assurance businesses operate.

Avekshaa was started in 2010 by Ashutosh Shinde, Arun Ramu, Gan­dotra — all former employees of Info­sys — and Ramnik Singh, with a novel business pitch. They went to the big banks and convinced them that Avekshaa could provide assur­ance, security and scalability of IT infrastructure on an automated plat­form and also give them (banks) a second opinion of the work already executed by the bank’s IT vendor.

Modus Operandi

Of course, the fact that the four part­ners were former executives in large technology companies, where they had won and managed business lines worth $1.5 billion, helped, when they started Avekshaa. “We build compu­tational techniques that automate the migration of core applications and this sets us apart from other companies,” says Shinde.

In a particular case, wljen In- duslnd Bank changed its core bank­ing solution across its 461 branches and 852 ATMs, Avekshaa made sure the system did not suffer on the per­formance front. The system went live in a single day and issues across the technology stack were identified and mitigated well in advance. “With the transformation, the technology al­lowed significant growth in terms of client base and physical branch net­work,” says Paul Abraham, chief op­erating officer of Induslnd Bank.

“They (Avekshaa) helped us im­prove response time, which will ulti­mately improve customer experience with the bank,” says Sanjay Jaiswal, vice-president, IT, of Induslnd Bank.

Axis Bank too, has employed Avek- shaa’s services. “They delivered re­sults by improving efficiency and reli­ability of critical applications,” says R.V.S. Sridhar, president, IT and re­tail banking operations, at Axis Bank.

On The Money

Avekshaa is testimony to the fact that highly-paid successful executives can move out and make their ideas work. They seem to have read the story right because according to ana­lysts, 50 per cent of Indian corpo­rates will go digital by 2020 and

AVEKSHAA

FOUNDED: 2010

USP: Automates testing of the entire IT infrastructure onto a single platform TEAM: 40 members FOUNDERS: Ashutosh Shinde, Arun Ramu, Rajinder Gandotra and Ramnik Singh

INVESTMENT: $500,000 COMPETITION: Top IT vendors such as In­fosys, Accenture, Capgemini and Wipro

would need assurance companies to help scale their IT systems.

To Avekshaa’s credit, it is vendor- agnostic and can ease the pain points of a firm’s products by testing them in a multi-vendor scenario. “Indian en­trepreneurs have been successful in building business-to-business ser­vices. Startups that provide flexibil­ity, with automation, will be the ones to work with large companies,” says Sanchit Vir Gogia, CEO of consulting firm Greyhound Research.

Balakrishnan has invested Rs 25 lakh in Avekshaa as a pre-seed fund. It also raised $500,000 from KIT- VEN, the venture fund started by the Karnataka government. “We in­vested in this company because it had big banks as its customers and was solving a critical aspect of the client’s business,” says Manish Kumar of Karnataka Information Technology Venture Capital Fund.

While IT businesses across the world are getting commoditised, profit margins are getting thinner. To survive and maintain margins, com­panies must innovate. Analysts say automation can contribute to 33 per cent of net margins. “Software inte­grators are only looking at their end and not at the whole technology sphere in a corporation,” says Shinde. “In an ever converging world of IT systems, and the cloud, you cannot ignore the working of the entire pipe.”

Avekshaa has executed 250 proj­ects for 18 clients — 16 in India and two overseas. Of course, a corporate firm is bound to work well with a team whose combined work experi­ence is 75 years, and hence can do good business in India. But Avekshaa with its four partners hopes to build a global business in a short time and become a corporate itself.

IN DEPTH PH4RMA WORLD’S DIABETES CAPITAL

WORLD’S DIABETES CAPITAL

  • million

The number of diabetics in India

Rs 5,000 cr

The size of India’s diabetes care market

20% The annual growth rate of the Indian diabetes market

  • million

The number of pre-diabetics in the country

Rs 18,000 cr

The annual cost of diabetes care in the country

Rs 10,000

The average annual spend per patient in urban areas

Rs 6,260

The average annual spend per patient in rural areas

101 million

The projected diabetic population in India by 2030

per cent market share), Abbott has the largest share in the country’s adult nutrition market.

The new glucose monitoring sys­tem is ideal for patients in India, say specialists. “In developed countries, blood sugar tests are done once or twice daily for diabetes patients, but in India it is done once or twice a week, which is a matter of concern since regular monitoring is key to managing the disease, says Abhilash K. Chandran, a diabetologist based in Kerala.

Besides, regular monitoring of dia­betes in patients in India is necessary because of the alarmingly short time it takes to transition from a border­line case to a full-fledged diabetic. While this transition time is at least
10 years in developed countries, it’s just two years here, says Chandran.

“Our two-year-long market survey helped us customise the system (pro­fessional or ‘doctor-read’) and its price,” says Dilip Rajan, general man­ager, Abbott Diabetes Care India.

But the cost of the device would be a challenge for the company in semi- urban and rural markets. “I would still prefer the cost of this wearable glucose monitor to be lower to make it accessible to the masses, as patients who need it more frequently will find it unaffordable,” says Chandran.

Trailing Competition

Abbott Diabetes Care has been pre­sent in India since 2006. The com­pany, which sells a range of glucose
monitoring and diabetes care prod­ucts in the country, has a 15 per cent share in the $100-million local mar­ket and wants to double it in the next few years.

Global rivals Johnson & John­son’s and Roche Diagnostics are currently ahead of Abbott in terms of market share in this segment. Their easy-to-use glucose monitors, Onetouch and Accu-Chek, respec­tively, have had reasonable success in the Indian market. Although these products helped patients in tracking their glucose levels on their own, the need for frequent inter­vention and the finger prick re­mained key constraints.

Abbott Diabetes Care, the global diabetes care technology division of Abbott Lab, currently contributes nearly $1.2 billion to the group’s $21 billion worldwide revenues. Accord­ing to Bates, the aim is to develop In­dia as a key market for Abbott.

“The country has the second larg­est diabetic population in the world after China, but the blood sugar test devices market is still tiny. So, there is a tremendous scope for growth,” says Rajan of Abbott Diabetes Care India.

Industry research reports estimate that the diabetes care devices market in India, which is growing at a com­pound annual rate of 10 per cent, will soon touch $290 million by 2018. While in China, it is already over $800 million and predicted to cross $1.16 billion in the next three years.

As a report by the International Diabetes Federation cautions, “The country’s diabetes burden is expected to cross the 100 million mark as against the earlier estimated 87 mil­lion by 2030 if action is not taken to manage the disease more efficiently.” Well, that’s the bitter truth.

IN DEPTH PHARMA t IN A SWEET SPOT

Abbott Laboratories looks to capture o big slice of India’s diabetes market, the world’s second largest, with its wearable

sugar monitoring device

By C. H. Unnikrishnan, Photograph by Subhabrata Das

US DRUG MAKER Abbott Laboratories has been formulat­ing ever new strategies to boost its presence in the large Indian market. First, in 2010, it acquired Piramal Health­care’s India drug formulation business for $3.72 billion, then billed as the largest acquisition in the pharmaceuti­cals sector in the country, to clinch the top spot in the Rs 90,000-crore Indian pharma market. Then, in 2014, the drugs and nutrition major made its next big move in the country’s fast-growing nutrition market by making India its manufacturing hub. It has now set its eyes on gaining leadership in the country’s diabetes care market, currently estimated at around Rs 5,000 crore — including medi­cines and diagnostics — and growing at a compound an­nual growth rate of 20 per cent.

As part of its latest strategy, Abbott is seeking to steal a march over its competitors in the diabetes care market with the launch of its wearable glucose monitoring device — a revolutionary technology tailor-made for India. The Flash Glucose Monitoring System, as the device is called, ad­dresses one of the biggest challenges in the country’s diabetes care — pa­tients’ fear and hassles of routine blood tests — by taking pain and pathol­ogy labs out of the equation.

 

MATTHEW BATES

Director, Research £Develop- ment, Abbott Diabetes Care

the reader, priced at around Rs 5,000, is a one-time investment for doctors. “The device provides doctors with the glucose profile (of patients), which, in turn, is used to manage diabetes more accurately,” says Shashank Joshi, a senior endo­crinologist.

“Once the data is downloaded from the sensor to a reader, doctors can further transfer it to a computer. A specific software helps generate an Ambulatory Glucose Profile graph, a visual snapshot that helps doctors see when sugar levels shoot up and down over a 24-hour period,” ex­plains Matthew Bates, director, Re­search and Development, Abbott Di­abetes Care. The data helps doctors in making informed treatment deci­sions and modifying treatment to
suit patients’ individual lifestyles. These reports can also be used as an information tool by patients to evalu­ate the impact of food, medication, health and exercise on their blood sugar levels, thus empowering them, says Bates.

Attractive Market

India, with its 65.1 million diabetes patients, has always been an attrac­tive market for innovators looking to make life easy for patients. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Ab­bott has chosen the country as the first market to roll out the profes­sional version of the blood glucose monitoring system.

“Diabetes is closely associated with your lifestyle and you need to have a disease management strategy at­
tuned to your culture so as to make it really effective,” says Bates, who was in India recently to launch the glu­cose monitoring system. The device helps in a more focused approach to diabetes management by putting the doctor in charge, explains Bates.

For Abbott, which aims for market leadership in all the segments it is present in India, this new technology is a step in the right direction for re­alising its ambitious growth plan in the country’s diabetes screening mar­ket. The company is currently pre­sent in three market segments — drugs, nutrition and medical devices. While it is the second largest player with a 6 per cent share in the domes­tic medicine market (after the com­bined entity of Ranbaxy and Sun Pharma that together command.