A 1000 year old temple in India overflowing with Gold worth billions of dollars. This sounds like an Indiana Jones movie, but non-believers in treasure stories were in for a surprise in 2011 when the hitherto sealed vaults of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple revealed treasure that was worth at least 20 billion USD. Archaeologists discovered Greco-Roman gold coins weighing 800 kg, 15thcentury Venetian Ducats, 16th century Portuguese gold, even Napoleon’s gold coins from after the French Revolution. Not to mention pure gold idols of Hindu gods weighing 30 kg. It comes as no wonder that Pliny, the Roman philosopher, complained of India being “the sink of the world’s gold”.
Indians have been fascinated by the yellow metal since time immemorial. It’s been the largest consumer of gold over the last 20 years, until 2013 when it was overtaken by China for the first time. Traditionally, gold represents financial security and social status, with many religious connotations. Indians buy gold during certain festive seasons of the year, during which sale of gold jewellery soars irrespective of the market sentiments. Gold is India’s second largest import after crude oil, and the increasing demand has had a negative impact on the Indian economy.
The domestic desire for Gold reached extreme proportions in the 1960s, leading to the Gold Control Act, which effectively banned all import of gold. Despite the ban, insatiable demand for gold ensured a supply through illegal channels, creating a healthy domestic black market. The economic liberalisation in 1990 saw the easing of gold import laws, with import duties levied.
India’s demand for gold has increased despite the levies and higher gold prices, from importing 528 tons valued at 363.3 $ per oz. in 2003 to 975 tons at 1320 $ per oz. in 2013. In rural areas with limited bank penetration, gold in the form of jewellery is given as security to local moneylenders in exchange for liquid cash. Because of the presence of gold in most Indian households, many banks today offer gold loans, replacing traditional moneylenders by performing the same function in a regulated manner. This ensures that gold remains the most venerated financial asset, at least in rural areas.
With increasing mobile and internet penetration in the remotest parts of India, imagine the potential of being able to track the prices of a commodity like gold in real-time. Think about an app that lets you know when the value of gold has reached a certain value, so you can buy, sell or even loan gold at that price. Imagine not having to wait for newspapers, not having to stare at newsfeeds, not having to rely on the prices that the goldsmith quotes. Information is power, and all the more so for the investor who wants to sell gold when the prices peak, the husband who wants to buy jewellery for his wife, or even the farmer who wants to loan ancestral gold for his child’s education.
Think empowerment. Think Call Levels.