India Today - - SOCIETY - By M. G. Rad­hakr­ish­nan

Onam this year is turn­ing out to be even more spe­cial than usual for Ker­alites, es­pe­cially those with fam­ily mem­bers who work abroad. Rea­son? The tank­ing In­dian ru­pee. The cur­rency’s sus­tained slide against the US dol­lar has bumped up the value of re­mit­tances flow­ing into the coun­try even as it si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­flates the oil im­port bill. And not sur­pris­ingly, Ker­ala, with its 2.5- mil­lion- strong di­as­pora spread across the Gulf and the US, is one of the big­gest ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Re­mit­tances to the state are pro­jected to touch Rs 75,000 crore— com­pris­ing 35 per cent of Ker­ala’s net do­mes­tic prod­uct— dur­ing fi­nan­cial year 2013- 14, ac­cord­ing to S. Iru­da­yara­jan, head of mi­gra­tion stud­ies at the Cen­tre for De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies, Thiruvananthapuram. Ahead of Onam on Septem­ber 16, many ex­pa­tri­ates have even taken loans to cash in on the fall­ing ru­pee and send more money home. The to­tal re­mit­tance to Ker­ala in 2012 was Rs 60,000 crore.

Banks have raised in­ter­est rates on NRI de­posits of three years and above from 8.75 per cent to 9.5 per cent. Con­se­quently, most banks in Ker­ala have crossed their an­nual tar­gets for NRE de­posits by Au­gust. “It’s boom time for NRI fam­i­lies in Ker­ala and banks. There has been 35- 40 per cent in­crease in NRE de­posits from March to July over the same pe­riod last year,” says Abra­ham Tharyan, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, South In­dian Bank. Fed­eral Bank, an­other Ker­ala- based pri­vate


bank which routes 8 per cent of to­tal re­mit­tances to In­dia and has 800,000 NRIs among its 5.5 mil­lion cus­tomers, also saw its NRE de­posits grow by 33 per cent dur­ing March- July to touch Rs 28,000 crore. “We ex­pect it to cross Rs 32,000 crore by Septem­ber- end,” says A. Suren­dran, gen­eral man­ager ( in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion), Fed­eral Bank.

The wind­fall in re­mit­tances is ex­pected to re­sult in a bumper Onam fes­ti­val shop­ping sea­son, es­pe­cially in con­sumer durables, gold and di­a­mond jewellery, lux­ury cars and pre­mium flats and vil­las. Fifty malls are at var­i­ous stages of con­struc­tion in Ker­ala. The 25 lakh- square- feet Lulu Shop­ping Mall in Kochi has also been op­er­a­tional since March. Ac­cord­ing to the state govern­ment, the Onam sea­son ( July- Septem­ber) wit­nesses con­sumer durables sales of up to Rs 3,000 crore. “We ex­pect a 100 per cent growth in Onam sales this year to Rs 150 crore,” says Man­ish Sharma, MD ( global con­sumer mar­ket­ing), Pana­sonic In­dia. “Sales of lux­ury cars in the state have grown four­fold from 150- 200 in 2008 to 2,000 now,” says in­dus­try watcher Byju N. Nair.

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