What I am reading today?

  1. Fiscal Consequences of shifting an inflation target from 4% to 2%[Ajay Shah Blog]
  2.  Delhi University shop can sell photocopies of textbooks, rules high courtDelhi University shop can sell photocopies of textbooks, rules high court [Livemint]
  3. Take more steps to address NPA problem: Arun Jaitley to banks [Livemint]
  4. Mending Pakistan’s Behaviour [Brahma Chellaney, Livemint]
  5. State of Indian Securitization Market[SSRN]



Malaise of modern corporate workplaces

An Indian corporate workplace thinker/designer is clueless today. Influenced by status quo and conditioned by cherry picked cases, the modern workplace has spawned into a cesspit of mediocrity and monotony.

But the environment of workplace is not only a function of architecture, it is also that of people. So the larger malaise of the modern corporate workplace will be explored along these two dimensions – architecture and people.

What are the so called problems of modern corporate workplace?

  1. Open architecture seating: The modern corporate workplace has no concept of isolated/solitary private space- where an employee can engage in active thinking/learning. Ironically the architecture was made “flat” so that there is a cross-pollination of ideas. But this has become a self-defeating aim because to cross-pollinate ideas you have to have ideas first.
  2. The people factor:  Flat architecture also served as a preventive measure for stopping employees from wasting company resources. However it was a classical example of trying to right a wrong by building another wrong. There is no substitute to good self-motivated people. There is no substitute to people who are sincere and think for themselves.
  3. A lack of people development and plenty of people management: The modern middle managerial paradigm revolves around getting the work done and not making a person skillful enough to get the work done. The nuance is subtle. But the end effect is devastating. The entire onus of skill development falls down upon the employee. No active grooming/mentoring is undertaken.
  4. Mediocrity breeding mediocrity: I am a big proponent of measurable performance. Measurable performance doesnt imply quantifiable performance, but measurable implies clarity in results. This is one reason why there is so less “politics” in a hedge fund. You eat what you kill. But in all other places, the rules/measures are gamed and promotion is first decided then goals are given. So if the consensus is promotion will be done only when some process improvement takes place, an artificial project on process improvement is done- which has no bearing on the real improvement.Thus this mediocrity is passed to the upper level where they judge performance from their lens of mediocrity.

The solution ahead? Its difficult, complex to execute and will require a lot of effort. An intense focus on people hiring quality is important.Hire slow, but only when there is a clarity in the value that the person brings to the table. Boston Beers follows a rule of hiring people better than the average.

Invest, a lot in people development/ idea development/wisdom development. And when I propose invest, it doesnt imply resources but managerial efforts. How will the leader of tomorrow grow when the set of challenges an employee of today has faced is limited.



An enquiry into National Fittings

This post is the culmination of tireless research put forward by Rohit Krishnan towards uncovering the potential behind the company. In the same vein, this post is also an attempt to ensure intellectual honesty on our end, encourage free and frank discussion on the company and to improve the efficiency of our Indian markets by disseminating information.

An Enquiry into National Fittings – Coupling with Free Growth.

Disclosure: The authors are long.

Understanding policy through politics

3df4ad3In 1977 when Janata government first came to power on the back of a majority it messed the plot in about two and a half years. As heartwarming its success was (if the defeat of Indira Gandhi was considered the defeat of civil right suppression), its failure was not a surprise. It was the first time India had a non Congress government at the center. It was also the first time coalition politics came up. As much deft governing a country like India requires, so much more skill managing a boat running on coalition fuel demands.

At the backdrop of this, it is not surprising that Janata government had little to no institutional memory to draw its lessons from. It had no reservoir of prior experience and thus no skills in managing the country.

In 2011 Trinamool Congress(TMC) swept the Bengal Assembly elections. Poriborton or “a structural change” became the rallying war cry of TMC. Hopes of better governance and a steering away from leftist politics inspired the masses, on the back of which TMC registered its first assembly victory. It was the first time in 25 years Bengal had a non Leftist government. It was also the first time a non-Congress, non Left party won. It was the first time TMC had a major role to play in state politics. As much intellectual capital steering Bengal away from the embraces of leftism requires, even more so forging new policies (in a new political paradigm of cooperative federalism) demands.

Cut it any way which, TMC had a patchy record at best in governance.Ranging from  Ambika Mohapatro case to delaying of Teesta accord- spanning from refusal of FDI in retail and insurance to a general breakdown in civil rights in the state- TMC remains an immature political party at its best.

And it is not surprising because like Janata government- it is the first time for TMC- and it has no organisational knowledge to build upon.

In 2013 December, Aam Aadmi Party poised a significant challenge in the assembly elections with a stunning 28 out of 70 seats in its pocket. It was the first time a political party was handed the mandate to rule within a year of formation. Not only was it a 1 year old party but had no “repository” of politics and political management to draw from. It was an empty reservoir in terms of organisational knowledge.

And no doubt, that its failures were stark and serious- from its numerous skirmishes with the Centre to its abdication of Delhi on drop of a hat it was an unmitigated disaster in governance.Its janata durbars, a much touted governance measure on the lines of direct democracy had to be kept aside because of mismanagement; Somnath Bharti’s vigilantism to dharna politics – all were the hallmarks of a party wonderfully bereft of ideas.

However AAP defying history (abdications have very low success rate when judged by history) came to power in 2015 assembly elections with 67 seats. This time the general expectation was even a prodigal son should be given a second chance. But AAP has bungled and in large measure the last 5 months have ranged high on decibals low on intent.

Modi government is in many ways straddling the mean between these failures. BJP government in general has a reservoir of experience in administration. Modi himself has administered a state. But then their strengths are also their weaknesses. It has been 10 years that BJP administered country last and like anything time also depreciates experience by removing able hands from the gene pool/ service pool (e.g. Vajpayee, Shourie etc)

So if Modi government has had successes it was because of this past experience and its failures nevertheless are undoubtedly in areas where it never had new ideas in its repository and those areas which are uniquely belonging to Centre- “civil rights”, “education” etc (nitpickers may find fault in me classifying them as Central subjects while they are concurrent but think of crowding out effect- Centre’s precense renders state inconsequential)

It is not a surprise that in large measure knowledge acts like a muscle. And soft skills/managerial skills are even more so. Lets call them managerial muscle in short.

What are the areas where India has developed managerial muscle?

1. We are slowly learning to tackle public health – we have learned to tackle and eradicate polio- a big milestone in my dictionary. I believe in the next 10 years a lot of other public health mess will get taken care of : TB for example.

Just to think in 2009 we had the highest burden of polio victims. In 2012 we were polio free!

2. Learning mountain warfare- we have a big advantage over China in the sense that our defence forces have a much deeper experience of combat while China doesnt have it.

3. Disaster management- no explanations needed. Very strong and deep managerial skills and organisational knowledge here.

The deepest of social understandings should be fertile. And it is no different in this case. The idea of knowledge muscle can be very well built inside the framework of capitalism as well.

An entrepreneur who learns by successive failures  is a prime example of this- the same reason why venture capitalist firms discount first time entrepreneurs more aggressively than seasoned ones. A CEO who has gone through at least one trough in a business cycle also falls into this category.

And finally when Sanjay Bakshi mentioned that one of the causes of market myopia is a higher discounting of past managerial setbacks (Point 5 )- he was bang on because market is unable to tease out the nuances between corporate misgovernance and genuine setback.

Strangely this very same “mental model” can be used to separate the wheat from the chaff. Judge the man based on his access to “managerial muscle”.

Case in point will be to study the potential turnarounds:

1. Eicher Ltd.

In 1994 Eicher bought out Royal Enfield (RE), a high end motorbike maker and yet till 2000 Eicher continued to bleed in this segment. For an annual capacity of 6000, Eicher continued to churn out barely 2000 bikes.

Faced with a question of coast or shut, the iconic motorbike maker received a shot in its arm in the form of Siddharth Lal. A 26 year old die hard fan of Bullet (the iconic range of bikes from RE)  with substantial backing from the promoter family.

You see, he was a young scion of the promoter family.

He realised one thing very quickly. Tractor makers will have very low “knowledge/managerial muscle” to turnaround an iconic bike brand. He roped in R.L. Ravichandran- an able hand with deep experience in bike segment (earlier experience in Bajaj Auto and TVS Motors)

Reference: Business Today profile of the Eicher Turnaround

2. Ajay Piramal 

Ajay Piramal was a man who is the epitome of a managerial learning machine. His knowledge muscle got honed by repeatedly engaging in tough business situations- of management buy in, industrial conflict resolution and the works. Today he uses it to his advantage in solving simpler but more rewarding problems – like how to buy companies with able management.


I wanted to add a third and fourth and fifth example to the list. But I am tempted to turn the mic towards you.

Where all, have you come across examples of “knowledge muscle” working its charm?

Blast from the past- a prediction and a mistake

On 24th January 2014, I blogged about the broad NIFTY levels to keep in mind going forward in the post named-“The Fluttering of butterfly- the effect of currency volatility and equity valuations”.

For everyones benefit- let me quote a relevant paragraph here:

Let us assume that 6300 of 2008 is achieved! This implies 9450, adjusted for 7% inflation over 6 years. But even in that, circumstances the 9450 Rupees  of today is not equivalent to the 6300 Rupees of 2008. This is because in 2014 1 Rupee is 25% cheaper than 1 Rupee of 2008, since rupee has fallen recently very steeply. Thus the real amount NIFTY has to rise, to adjust this fall is ~12600.

The thesis is broadly right in ideation but quite way off in calculation. Before proceeding forward- can you spot the mistake here?

Fundamentally the root cause of currency volatility is the result of difference in inflation rates. To dig deeper, let us consider what is the effect of inflation on purchasing power of a currency.

It is a common knowledge that inflation is ultimately debasement of the currency. That is, the purchasing power of a unit of currency has eroded. In simple language- the amount of goods a single unit of currency(1 Re) could buy a unit of time back (1 year ) is more than the amount of goods it can buy today.

Now let us consider the case of two trading countries. When a country imports goods from another country, the importing country receives the goods and in exchange parts with its currency. If the importing country has higher inflation than the exporting country the currency of the exporting country will appreciate making its exports costlier for the importing country.To remain competitive the Central Banks will start printing money to remain competitive.  Conversely if the exporting country has higher inflation than the importing country, it can export away its excess liquidity (and hence currency) by investing more in its industry and increasing its exports. To aide in this “averaging” process- it has to export more and more of its currency and import more and more of the stable currency. As a result to aide the asset creation process the exporting country’s currency depreciates to aide other countries to build their factories. Which results in absorption of the capital(due to inflation), absorption of the cheap assets(due to currency depreciation caused by inflation).

In both the cases we see there is an effect of inflation “trading” (import and export) and currency adjustment to reflect capital cheapness/dearness in terms of asset cheapness/dearness.

In the above quoted paragraph I double counted the inflation. 9450 is the level we have to achieve in today’s rupee terms to scale the 2008 highs.

Our highest we have reached till now is 9100.

Error: 3.7%

Competition Sutra #9: The games companies play-II

(…Or bringing disparate ideas together)

This blog post will try to connect multiple ideas together, some of the ideas are old but just that I understood them enough to appreciate them quite late, some of the themes discussed here are quite famous business episodes and of course how incomplete is an blog post on competition without invoking some old and famous Chinese thinkers.

Míng xiū zhàn dào, àn dù chén cāng

(Openly repair the gallery roads, but sneak through the passage of Chencang)

The less famous cousin of The Art of War is 36 Strategems- a Chinese essay to reflect on the tactics used in politics,war and also civil interaction.Notice an idea here- both politics and war renders beautifully to a game theoretic representation at least in the bare minimum complexity.

One of the key strategem in these competitive games is deception.

This is idea #1.

This is November 27,2003 and Reliance has just announced its foray in telecom with a national roaming feature, directly pitting against the encumbent Bharti Airtel. This is a major move and Reliance never takes any prisoners.

Bharti Airtel’s collar grew damp. Sunil Mittal’s collar grew damp. These guys are known to pick up a competitor, chew them alive and spit them out. The leadership team’s mood was sombre. Mittal at this point is reported to have given a Churchillian speech, something on the lines of-

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender

Mittal reportedly saw inspirational movies every day to feel and look like a fighter- even though he was deflated inside- (Rocky series being his favourite)

Exactly one year later- when the leadership team met once again to take stock- they knew one thing- they have stood up to the Goliath and stared it down.

Idea #2

I once read Prof Bakshi descibe an Aesopian lesson as an important mental model. The lesson being – “A hare runs for its life, while the hound only for its lunch”. I always dismissed it as a flight of fancy- “huh, an aesop fable as an investing mental model- what next? Mullah Naseruddin’s wittisms?”

While I do agree they can provide a nice operating system to live a life, but now I also do agree on the fact that it can be a very interesting mental model as well.

The following business case provides ample context

In 1993- HUL announced its entry into toothpaste business by introducing Pepsodent brand in Indian markets. Prior to that almost 80% of the market was ruled by Colgate-Palmolive.

The stocks of Colgate-Palmolive quickly fell. And fell as if it has been dropped by investors like it was hot!

Savvy investors muttered to themselves -Colgate is the hare and HUL is the hound and I am Aesop. They bought the shares on truckloads and eventually after a year or two when market realized that Colgate is taking the fight back to the HUL, the price of shares eventually corrected upwards.

Truth to be told, I never understood how can someone use such a subjective idea into backing up their own conviction. Doesnt it look like stretching the facts to fit the story?

Herein lies the kernel of our next idea. Ladies and Gentlemen- here is our idea #3. Or better word here will be  case snippet.

Three disparate ideas in one blog post. If your head was still not spinning, then let me add a fourth one here. Allow me to discuss the few key takeaways from the Chapter 11 of Competition Demystified.

Few takeaways:

#1: In the previous post, we discussed an important but albeit incomplete version of competition- pricing and localised expansion. This post will more specifically talk about entry/pre-emption.

I.E the different scenarios which arise when a new competitor decides to enter an arena, where already one or a few incumbents exist.

As such, the nature of quantity competition differs in fundamental ways from that of price competition.

#2: The first non-obvious difference between quantity competition and price competition is timing. While pricing change can often be executed within a short notice- entry/pre-emption cannot be . Significant lead times are needed to set up a plant and start production.

Its implications are clear.

While in price wars anyone can be a follower or a leader and thus all players are pitted almost equally (hence the matrix system and the Nash equilibrium plays out so beautifully in this form of games- zero sum games), in entry/pre-emption games one can almost always put his finger and say – “here Joe is the entrant and Harry is the incumbent”

Another non-obvious difference is the “permanence” of the decisions. Just like price cuts can be achieved very easily, so can the decisions to reverse it.But a decision to reverse a previously taken market entry decision will likely attract a lot more attention (“unwelcome” and “media” are helpful adjectives here), costly write offs (when Berkshire exited the textile industry finally by selling all the machinery in one swoop- WEB commented that anyone winding up will realised how big a gulf exists between realizable value of fixed assets and the amount that is carried in the books. I just can’t help but show you this link. Thank you for your patience! ) and most strikingly some rolling off the heads.

Given all of this- the propensity of an entrant to resort to aggressive decisions are reduced.


#3: What makes things even more complicated – is the “rules” of the game change with every slightest development. Let me explain:

The decision to enter is to be taken by a challenger, and all the defender can do in a general way is to resist the incursion. Assuming that the entrant chooses between two possible entry moves – full frontal assault and avoid, the world looks markedly different for the incumbent in both the cases. When an entry has taken place- by definition deterrence has failed. An aggressive reaction to repel the entrant can lead to expensive,drawn out conflicts involving price wars, costly advertising expenses and extensive promotions.

In such cases the decision to compete needs to be balanced with the idea of accommodation as well. Balancing here implies the cost-benefit checked.

#4  These kind of dynamical situations yield themselves particularly well to tree form of analysis(we will discuss this in a later post). The matrix form is suitable for pricing, marketing and product feature decisions which in general are more easily revocable and can be adjusted many times.

#5. The first step in a simulation is to identify the actors, their motivations and the initial choices that informs them.

Once the incumbent has made its choice- the entrant has limited flexibility. It can either retreat or advance from its initial position. In the extreme it may decide to back out altogether. But the nature of such a simulation implies that a large part of the outcome will be determined by the incumbent’s reaction to entry.

So if an entrant has to maximise his chances of survival, it can do everything possible to avoid provoking an aggressive response by the incumbent.

The following strategies can work to alleviate this problem:

  1. Avoid head-to-head competition (both RCOM and HUL were guilty of this). Focus on niches.
  2. Proceed quietly. Taking one small step at a time. Dont go all out on TV  openly proclaiming to capture incumbent’s market share.

The lobster dropped suddenly into a pot of boiling water struggles and tries to jump out. Lobsters eased into a pot of cold water which is then heated gradually, remain passive, even as they become dinner.

3a. Signalling works. Use signalling to send out non-confrontational message out. A single store is less threatening than five. A single plant that satisfies only 5% is less threatening that 15%. Idiosyncratic financing works- large and visible war chests do not. Note both RCOM and HUL were guilty of breaking all of them.

Startups working away in garages busying themselves not only in stealing an incumbent’s market shares but also killing their business models attracts nothing but derision and board room laughter.

3b.  An incumbent who has only one specialization, who has only one line of income will be that much more vehement in his response than those who have a hundred eggs to watch. (Note Bharti and CP both met this criteria and thats why Bharti and CP ran like a hare, or rather fought like lions while the entrant was merely a bloodhound.)

4. Move in one market and not all at a time.

5. If there are multiple incumbents an entrant should spread the impact of its entry as widely among them as it can. Doing a little damage to all is far better than doing total damage to one.

6. Keep your fixed costs low for the time being.

Any attempt by the incumbent to hit back will likely lead to a huge collateral damage because the incumbents have a lot more to lose (because quantity of incumbents >> quantity produced by entrant. So profits foregone by price cuts is that much larger)

At all times- the entrant must openly repair the gallery roads but secretly sneak in through the passage to Chencang. Which was our idea #1.

“The Gun” by C.J.Chivers

Every once in a while a book arrives which leaves you spinning, disoriented and exhilirated at the same time. This is that kind of a book.

This book is also one of those, which deftly switches narrative styles- traverses time and contexts and yet keeps an unerring focus on the underlying theme- the Automat Kalashnikova -47. Otherwise known as AK-47.

The journalism is sweeping, the research intensive and history rich- C J Chivers, its author,  at once makes “The Gun” a combined narrative of human fantasies, intentions, values, ingenuity and follies.

From the fantasy of Dr Gatling to produce an efficient weapon of war to end all wars to Leonid Minin who was the modern day merchant of death, lord of war arming insurgencies aroundthe_gun-tfb
the world – the scope and revelations of C J Chivers is broad and comprehensive.

The price of a Kalashnikov is the barometer of a society’s fears”

Chivers  covers the eclectic personalities of gun history from Gatling, to Maxim to Hugo Schmeisser inventor of sturmgewehr(German assault rifle of WW-II fame), finally to firmly focus on Mikhail Kalashnikov- the inventor of the AK-47. But deep within the story also lies the failure of the Soviet state and the paradoxes it gives birth to. Rarely in mankind’s history an invention has been made by deliberation by committees and finetuned and improved upon by an entire nation. AK-47 is an exception. AK-47 though was initially conceived by Kalashnikov and yet the final product which we today see is a gun made by committees, by deliberative bodies and push and pull of Cold War politics. AK-47 long ceased to be Kalashnikov’s gun and instead took a turn towards being the Soviet Union’s gun.

The Gun is also a story of the insurgency and unrest that mars the 21st century. As Cummings, a gun runner remarked, that the demand of AK-47 remains- “an index of human follies”

One idea that repeatedly repeats itself in the book is the apparent simplicity of design, the huge margins of safety attributed to the major operating system of the gun which decided its longevity.  Stories of child soldiers retrieving caches of AK-47 years after being buried and then testing them successfully tells a story of its durability. What made the AK-47 so robust?

Neither nature’s ravages nor human stress tests were able to find a fault in it?

In many ways- the core takeaway for me was simplicity trumps. American made M-16, were a shattering and embarrassing failure against AK-47 in Vietnam. They jammed!

But why did they? Weren’t American manufacturing processes better than Soviet ? Wasnt American industry more innovative than Soviet?

M-16 had a lot of flaws.And these flaws were a combination of misguided institutional preferences and blindfolded trudging in strategic space. But from the perspective of engineering- it was too perfect!

It used modern manufacturing techniques which used precision cutting, very high level of calibration and tolerance levels. It was tightly fit and the gap between moving parts was so less that only modern automation could assemble such an engineering marvel.

The idea of engineering precision which enabled man to reach moon (equivalent to firing an intercontinental missile to land on a precise volleyball) was put to use. Tolerance levels shrunk to millimeters and even fractions of that.

When compared to M-16, AK-47 was an abomination of craftsmanship. When one removed its spring, the entire mechanism rattled and jangled. The cartridge feeder system was so designed that when a bullet was fired, the bolt action which expelled the cartridge pulled back a full 150% of a cartridge’s length.

Now what does it mean?

Think about a gun- and the soldier wielding it. Like the soldier- the gun also will travel to various climates, operate in various punishing environments and in extremely stressful combat situations. The gun had to be robust enough to keep operating in all circumstances.

For an automatic, one of the major problems is “failure to extract”. Failurefailure to extract to extract implies a gun’s inability to eject out the spent cartridge( like below, resulting in jamming of guns like in right). This implied that the gun had to keep ejecting cartridges at all times. Now being an automatic machine gun – it comes with its own uniqueness. The gun has to keep operating in long bursts thus the temperature inside a barrel can go extremely high.

In such cases, metal expands in unpredictable ways and any “precision” casting part will soon jam. In contrast, AK-47 because of its huge margins of safety- operated without any hitch at all times.

Long operations also meant accumulation of soot, possible accumulation of dirt etc. AK-47 was so ably designed with enough tolerances that Soviet gun testers had difficulty in making it jam. It was dragged through sand, soaked in salt water and dipped in bog and yet it fired. In one revealing place- Chivers discusses how a friend of Kalshnikov described the tests after it was dragged through sand

Look, look, sand is flying away in all directions- like a dog shaking of water from its fur”

The system due to its inherent margin of safety was self-correcting.

The implications and lessons for an investor are clear:

1. Maintain adequate tolerance level in your thinking- account for stresses in your viewpoint.

2. Adaptability of mind (because of high margin of safety he has gained in being flexible) renders an investor profitable and less prone to adverse events.


As one reads through the book- the motif is clear. While Soviets were time and again ready to challenge status quo and imitate their opponents, America found itself hobbled and paralysed by remnants of past and blind shutting out of any criticism for self. For once- the Soviets became free thinkers and the Westerns became ossified thinkers.

And free thinkers- won again!

Suman learns to trade and invest-II

Suman ran across the field with the shin high grasses caressing him and parting away as he moved across. With the spring sun behind him and a clear sky beckoning him- he ran with a joy in his heart.

And then he stumbled. Something hit his toe and he stumbled forward. When he looked back- the sky darkened to grey and a pot of gold lay in front of him. Glittering and shiny. He bent forward to pick a solitary gold coin lying on the field, but the standing grasses suddenly transformed themselves into protector and keeper of their treasure. The grasses joined themselves to form a matted covering, protecting the gold coin from Suman’s hands.

And almost spontaneously, the pot of gold shifted! It moved along the grass trail he made earlier as if it was dragged along by an invisible hand. The more he ran, the more he found the distance between the pot and him increasing.

No, no – it can’t be  it can’t be!

When he lifted his eyes from the receding pot of gold to the horizon- he saw three figures. Somehow Suman could see them clearly. Laughing, joyous mixed with occassional smirks towards Suman.

Arun,Ravi and Shekhar- high fiving each other, while the pot of gold lay at their feet. Suman felt a stab of pain hit his chest. He grimaced.And suddenly it became clear the futility of his position. He was running on a treadmill.

No, No, No- thats mine!

But his voice was muffled and choked. A mute cry. A silent groan.

Suman woke up with a start. His chest heaving slightly and a thin bead of perspiration was threatening to make its way across the jugular vein.

Suman got up and lurched across the living room. His shirt clinged to his back and he needed some cold water!

My throat feels like sandpaper. 

As he opened the door of he refrigerator he expected the inside light to guide him towards the bottle. It didnt glow up. The current was gone. But thankfully the bottle was still cold. Reasonably.

Suman gulped almost half the bottle in one go,but nursed the other half on the dining table for the next two hours. Trying to remember the dream but felt like holding back water in his palms. It quickly precipitated back in his memory, except some bits and pieces here. The intensity of feelings- the intense fear when he saw the pot of gold moving away, the despair and disappointment when he couldnt run behind it.

Get a grip, boy. Get a grip.

At about 10, he has an appointment with Manish. Strangely Manish made him write a different address as they spoke over the phone, than the one on the visiting card. His mind instantly went to the Gordon Gekko character. Manish didnt look like him, but maybe he transformed himself into one when he was trading. Gordon Gekko

As his car meandered across the lazy and jammed traffic across the city, he was slightly tensed. He knew nothing, and all he wanted was to make money. Why did he feel afraid ? He always felt afraid of new experiences. As he came across the venue, he was taken aback by how bucolic the setting was- the neighbourhood looked peaceful!

He anticipated that the environment will magically transform itself from a tranquil, serenity he was experiencing right now to a high pressure, boiler room kind of situation inside. He braced up.

As he moved through the glass door, he was struck at the realisation of being wrong, so badly. In front of him were Manish, Puneet and another guy- all busy at their respective desks. Manish was gleaning at the screens but in front of him lay a thick sheaf of papers and a well worn book. Something by Ed Seykota.

Manish stole his eyes from the screen at the man standing at the door and greeted him with a warm smile -“Hey Suman come over.”

Puneet too looked up from what seemed like a bunch of reports and a sheaf of papers, a calculator lay over them.  Puneet got up and exchanged the pencil in his right hand to his left and extended it to shake hands.

Suman was slightly dazed, a slight disorientation- on encountering something so much unseemly. The third guy sitting at the corner didnt even notice the new developments in the room. With his eyes fixed on the thick bunch of papers and newspapers, he sat on his chair- almost inanimate.

Suman didnt expect a one on one conversation with Manish to have two more people for company. Manish thrusted the conversational ball to him by expectantly looking at him to explain himself.

Suman at once braced himself weighed down by the burden of vulnerability, rather the admission of vulnerability.

“Manish, I want to learn to trade and invest”

Thats it! There is no turning back now. 

The words hung in the room like stale smoke. For a long time- no one said anything. Puneet kept looking at him. Manish leaned back on his chair. The room intermittently disturbed by the faint ruffling of sheets.

Manish looked at Puneet and finally turned to Suman and said- “Alright”. The words rang in Suman’s ears like an orchestra.


Puneet interjected- “But the path wont be easy, though! I, Puneet Khurana, will equip you with tools to understand psychology and finance together”

“And I, Manish Dhawan – will teach you how to put your emotions at one side and trade…”

A chair pulled back from the back of the corner of the room, and the almost inanimate reading man got up, raised his hands and bent his back to stretch himself. Puneet and Manish looked back and smiled.

“Suman- meet our third partner- Soham: listen to him carefully boy, when he speaks! He believes in reading 500 pages a day- so when he speaks hear him carefully”

500 pages! Thats humongous!

Suman peered into his eyes and saw through the bespectacled frame- a pair of eyes which were mischievous* and intense* at the same time.

“Hello Soham, I am Suman. I intend to learn investing from you”

A warm handshake and an even warmer smile, came from Soham.

Soham spoke haltingly, measuring his words, weighing the implications- “Its not an easy job Suman I can promise you that. But if you are here for some intellectual pow-wow there is no better place to be”


1 year later:

The TV in the cafeteria blared out at full volume:

“…Rajeev, the markets have dropped 25% in the last two months- and this is the worst June we are looking at. We are heading lower following Chinese real estate cues. Where do you think the bottom is?”

Sonia, we have been repeatedly saying that fundamentals are looking suspect for a long time and the market is just reacting to that. Chinese fever and Middle Eastern political problems are threatening high crude and a global deflation. And we expect markets to head down lower. Our advice to investors will be to avoid this kind of markets, and book losses if need be”

The mood at the table was sombre. No chest thumping admission of doubling or tripling of corpus. Arun’s face looked like it was hit by a truck, as he saw the index tumbling down. Shekhar didnt say much- but almost all stocks he had been touting for the past few months were shedding the flab.

But like last time, Suman didnt share the mood. At one level- nothing did change. At another level- everything changed. Suman closed his eyes for a moment, almost to collect all his determination and resolution – a moment to recollect all the teachings of Manish, Puneet and Soham over the past 12 months-

He opened his eyes. He lifted his mobile from the table. A few jabs- a number came up on screen.


“Yes, Ashutosh- this is Suman speaking. Can you please put in an order of 7000 for Indag Rubber?”

Folks, Suman had to learn all of this in 12 months- but you need not.

Manish Dhawan of Mystic Wealth , Puneet Khurana of Pragmatic Investing and myself are joining forces to arrange a workshop in Delhi where we will share how to master investing basics and principles over the course of 1 day. It will bring you at par with professionals of the game and give you tools and ways to beat the professionals in their own game.

At one level- Manish will discuss his trading strategies, his investing strategies, his system and will be giving away his system for free.

At another level- Puneet will discuss how to adopt behavioural psychology to detect imbalances in the the market and avoid the mistakes rookies do.

And yours truly, will be there to teach you- moat thinking, valuation shortcuts- where the opportunities are there in the markets and where do the threats lurk. A free wheeling session where you can ask everything you always wanted to ask an expert but never could find one!

Its said that life doesnt give you many chances- but when it does you will be a damn fool to miss it.


Ladies and Gentlemen, this is that chance!

Buy your tickets now, folks! There is a limited early bird discount as well!