Shrinking currencies: Middle class Indians hit

PHOTO: Shrinking currencies: Middle class Indians hit

Delhi oncologist Rakesh Chopra was planning his son's wedding in Singapore, where he has friends and relatives. Then the rupee started to slide against the US dollar - as well as Singapore dollar. A week ago, the wedding venue was switched to Sri Lanka instead.

"The kids are a little disappointed," said Dr Chopra, director of oncology and haematology at Artemis Health Institute. But the wedding bill in Sri Lanka is expected to be half what it would have cost in Singapore.

Middle class Indians, whose incomes and aspirations have soared along with the country's economy, have been the worst hit by the weakened rupee, Asia's worst performing currency.

Travel plans are being junked, shortened or changed to cheaper destinations, while studying abroad is becoming difficult for the thousands who travel every year to countries such as the United States, Britain and Singapore to study.

More than 55,000 Indian students went to Britain and around 65,000 went to the US last year.

Some students are now either waiting for the rupee to stabilise or looking harder for financial assistance or part-time work options.

Mr Vinay Goswami, 23, is rethinking his plan to pursue a master's degree in finance in Britain.

The cost has risen from 2 million rupees to 2.3 million rupees, a gap he is finding tough to close. "I hope I get some financial aid from colleges," he said.

Another victim is the Indian middle class traveller. Mr Subhash Goyal, head of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said he expects at least a 10 per cent decline in Indians travelling abroad this year. In some cases, 15-day trips are being cut to 10 days. And instead of travelling overseas, many are choosing to holiday in India.

Life at home is also getting more costly. The price of petrol, for example, went up by 2.35 rupees per litre on Sept 1, the sixth hike in three months.

Some, however, say they will grit their teeth and proceed with plans. Mrs Shweta Chawla, a parttime freelance English conversation teacher, has been preparing to send her sons, 16-year-old twins, abroad in 2015. "I am investing in the future of my kids," she said. "But it will be a bit difficult."

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