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From the editor

With inflation at 11.63 per cent (at the time of writing) and rising, it is hardly surprising that the Indian middle class consumer is pinching her pennies. With sharply rising interest rates on loans to finance everything-from homes and cars to two-wheelers, personal computers and holidays-it's no wonder that the credit culture embraced by consumers in a happier, low-interest rate regime not so long ago is now finding few or no takers.

Sanjoy Narayan | Print Edition: July 27, 2008

With inflation at 11.63 per cent (at the time of writing) and rising, it is hardly surprising that the Indian middle class consumer is pinching her pennies. With sharply rising interest rates on loans to finance everything-from homes and cars to two-wheelers, personal computers and holidays-it's no wonder that the credit culture embraced by consumers in a happier, low-interest rate regime not so long ago is now finding few or no takers. On the contrary, those who're locked into loans to finance their homes and other purchases are finding themselves forking out much more than what they bargained for originally. Obviously, this affects how much discretionary income they have left to spend on other goods and services. Soaring oil (and, therefore, transportation) costs have not made things easier for the consumer.

So, what are marketers doing about it? Of course, some of the answers to that are no-brainers: discounting, cutting costs and skimping on marketing spends. But it's trickier than just those age-old reflex actions that economic slowdowns trigger. For our cover package, Assistant Editors, Rachna Monga and Anusha Subramanian (aided by other colleagues) spoke to marketers from a cross-section of businesses to see what each industry is doing to woo customers. Our cover package also includes a story that tracks malls and other retail outlets to see whether customers are crying off en masse or merely downtrading or hunting for bargains. A third story by Assistant Editor Rishi Joshi focusses on the Big Evil itself, the rate of inflation, and tries to gauge how much further it could rise and what signals you should watch out for.

A man called Nikhil Gandhi plans to invest $20 billion (or Rs 86,000 crore) over the next 10 years into infrastructure projects that include everything from logistics, power and Special Economic Zones to ports, tourism and healthcare. Just what is the story behind Skil Infrastructure's Nikhil Gandhi and just what is his ambitious game plan all about? In Is This Man for Real? Senior Editor Virendra Verma profiles Gandhi.

At the time of going to press, there was frenetic political activity in the capital with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) trying to cobble together support for the coalition after the Left, irked by the Indo-US nuclear deal, seemed set to pull its support. As the UPA's inning winds down, we take a look at what it has achieved in its four years at the helm.

At a time when the stock market has tanked and the bulls have run for cover, we present the fifth annual survey of India's Best Equity Analysts. Our survey of fund managers throws up 11 analysts whom they rate high. Check them out.

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