Where are Indians investing their savings?

Favourite place.
Favourite place.
Image: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
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The Indian investor’s love for physical assets like real estate and gold is waning. Instead, equities and other financial instruments seem to be taking over.

In the 2015 financial year (ended March 31, 2015), 57.25% of the total individual wealth in India was held in financial assets, according to a report by Karvy Private Wealth, a wealth management firm.

The wealth in financial assets grew 19% compared to a negative growth of 2.3% in physical assets, the study, called the India Wealth Report, showed. Overall, the wealth of individuals increased 8.9% to Rs280 lakh crore ($4.2 trillion).

Financial assets typically include equity, cash, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds and small savings, while physical assets consist of gold, real estate, silver, diamond and platinum.

“While physical assets such as gold and real estate have been traditional modes of investments for Indian individuals, the 2015 fiscal saw a trend reversal wherein majority of the investments made were in financial assets,” the report said. “This also suggests a new growing India, where apart from economic growth; people see value in investing their hard earned money in more liquid and return oriented assets.”

Karvy has calculated individual wealth by “collating the private wealth in all asset classes in which individual investors make their investments.” Government and institutional investments have not been included.

Individual investment in physical assets is dropping because of lack of appreciation in the value of investments.

“The situation in the real estate sector is not helping right now. The interest in the real estate is not less, but it is way too expensive to invest,” Karthik Jhaveri, founder and director of Transcend Consulting, an investment consultancy, told Quartz. “If people want to make money, they will go to the equity or bond markets.”

India’s equity markets fared well in the year gone by with Sensex, the benchmark equity index, touching all-time highs. Gold, on the other hand, has seen a free fall in October and November.

“As far as gold is concerned, a crash in gold prices which happened a while ago was unexpected, which unnerved people,” Jhaveri explained. “Gold has always been a safe haven, but the price fall is unexpected.”

Nonetheless, consumption of the yellow metal in India is still the highest in the world. In 2015, India overtook China as the largest gold consumer, according to Gold Fields Minerals Services, a research and consultancy firm in London. Gold consumption in the country was at 642 tonnes compared to 579 tonnes in China.