Billion Dollars and a VIP suitcase

Amol Dethe

He was wearing a plain white shirt and trouser. Shirt was falling loose over his pants, not tucked into his trousers. He was tall and plump. He walked out of the lift, while adjusting his spectacles. Everybody else wore suits, tailor-made shirts, polished shoes and walked around with importance. He walked slowly into the Taj Hotel in South Mumbai. He looked ordinary, amidst well-dressed crowds. Or one would think. But, the minute he entered the grandiose Crystal Room with its yellow dim light and a chandelier, he was no more ordinary. 

Organizers, dignitaries and many others ran to greet and welcome him. Amongst them were ladies, walking as fast as their clicking high-heels and filled wine glasses would allow them. He spoke with a gruff, loud voice while folding his hands behind him. People were hanging on to every word he said. 

In no time, a chair and coffee table appeared, dutifully carried by the hotel attendant. What did he need the coffee table for? To hold his ashtray. He had willfully taken out a pack of cigarattes, filling the room with smoke. The room no more smelled of white lilies, rum and wine.

Taj, like every other hotel (big or small) doesn't allow smoking outside specifically mentioned zones, as it sticks to the law of the land which forbids it. The law does not hold true for ‘him’. The hotel raised no objections either. Taj breaks its rules for nobody. However, ‘he’ is not nobody, he is somebody---He is India's Warren Buffet.

Like Buffet, brought up in a middle-class family, and made his pot of money, using only his intelligence and foresight. He has a stake in almost all the bluechip companies of the country and also practically owns many mid-cap and small-cap companies. His wealth is pegged at around $2 billion (more than Rs 10,000 crore). All this, he earned, only by investing in the stock markets. 

He hoped to become a lawyer or a Chartered Accountant, in college. He also wanted to become journalist. But destiny had something much more lucrative in store for him. He lived an average life, and traveled in the bus. He said, "My wife had always lived in an AC apartment and traveled in car. But, after marrying me she lived with me in a small non-AC house and traveled with me in bus.”

His wife was his pillar of support in early days, "Everybody has some purpose in life. When your beloved people keep faith in you, you feel confident. We all have to make some adjustments in life at every stage."

He had fancied only three things----a Titan wrist watch, VIP suitcase and shoes from Metro, a popular store in Mumbai. He could make enough money to buy these three things, and claims that he says he needs no more. And of course his business too.

Many have tried to copy his investment strategy and replicate it. He claims that it is very simple. He invests in companies that he believes has good value. He analyzes and researches. He once claimed that Economist, the magazine is his Bible. "I never believed in de fatafat, le fatafat (buy and sell quickly). I always invested for long time in the companies that I believed in,” he would say.

In 2006-08, when pharma company, Lupin's stock was swinging between Rs 600-700, not many investors bagged it. But he did. Today. It is trading above Rs 6,000. He is not afraid of making mistakes, either. He openly admits them too. Retail company A2Z and yet another company Bilcare, were his bad investments.

He once compared short-term trading to having a girl friend. For him, investment in stock markets is like marriage, which should last long. "Keep your girlfriend and wife separate, and keep both of them happy,” he would tell querying investors, leaving them in fits of laughter.  

He also keeps business and pleasure far apart. Pleasure is movies. He likes to watch movies. Since he has money, he also produced a few Hindi movies--English Vinglish and Shamitabh. They are not expected to give him returns, but one of them has released and already made him money.

He is just as vocal about his statements too. Before the last Elections, he is known to have said, “If Rahul Gandhi becomes the Prime Minister of the country, I will jump from the seventh floor of my office.” 

Now, he wants to work with the government in its disinvestment department. He feels that the government is bringing wrong companies to the stock markets. “Listing LIC will be a great option, as that company alone can raise Rs 25,000-30,000 crore from the markets,” he foretells.

His statements could sound conceited, more often than necessary. Very few of them know that he donates 25 per cent of his annual earnings year. He is loyal too. The Big Bull is bullish about India. He will invest in India, and India only. Thanks for the trust, Mr Rakesh Jhunjhunwala.


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