One of my life’s daily rituals was to wish “Good morning sirjee” to Ashwani Gujral and in response, he would reply “Good morning sirjee, kya lag raha hai”. We will exchange our thoughts on markets and then move on to our daily routine. This morning when he didn’t reply, I didn’t make much of it. Very soon though I found out why as I got the bad news of his passing away from his wife. I was shaken, taken aback. I had just spoken to him a couple of days back! What happened so suddenly? But then, there are some questions which are never answered. My this morning’s message to him will now remain unanswered forever.
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Ashwani Gujral and I go back a long way. The year was 2003, I had just started my media career with CNBC-TV18 and we had a pool of 4-5 technical analysts whom we used to call daily. One day, my programme coordinator told me that there is a young man waiting outside to meet me and he wants to be featured on the show. I met him and that young man told me that he is India’s number one chartist. I said, “You think so”?, he said, “No, I know this”. It was so reminiscent of that famous Amitabh Bachchan dialogue in Deewar when AB says “Main jaanta hoon main ye kaam akela kar sakta hoon”. No wonder he was a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan. That young man of course was Ashwani Gujral. I consulted my editor and he told me to try him on one of the non-prime shows. Soon, he truly became the channel’s number one technical analyst.
But the real beauty about Ashwani wasn’t in being a great chartist – it was in being a great trader. I have never seen someone being wrong about the market and making more money than when someone is right! He would Buy the Nifty at 9:30 am and be double short on Index within 30 seconds if he saw the market was moving against him. He was never married to his view. He would change his view so often that one day a viewer made a video of all his views and put it out on Twitter to mock him saying this is Ashwani’s views in one day and not even one month!!. When I asked Ashwani about it, he said, “A fool spent a day making video of my wrong calls. I spent my day making the biggest single-day profit of my life." (Rs 35 lakh, I still remember the number, and that was almost 10 years ago). For the entire day, all through his life, Ashwani just traded Nifty and Bank Nifty, nothing else. He was a great believer in being the master of one trade instead of a Jack of all trades.
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Ashwani was influenced the most by a few larger-than-life personalities: Amitabh Bachchan, Imran Khan, and Virender Sehwag to name a few. The one common theme among all these people was that they were self-made and more importantly they had the biggest self-belief. Ashwani had crazy self-belief. There were days he would be down Rs 20-30 lakh while trading but still confident that he would recover it all, and more often than not, he used to do it. He would back his natural instinct and go for it, just like Sehwag or Imran would without caring about the consequences. He firmly believed that if one can make it big as a trader, one can do anything in life. He was mentally very strong. He had to be. He lost his mother when he was a kid and life wasn’t fair to him growing up. He never had any grouse about it. His attitude was “Life’s not fair, you got to deal with it”.
Another example of Ashwani’s amazing self-belief was the fact that he never did a job (except for a couple of months after his MBA). He knew he was made for entrepreneurship. Not many will know he lost almost everything when he started as a trader and had to sell his ancestral house (His only asset) to build capital again to start trading all over again instead of settling down in a job after the initial setback. He never looked back and became one of India’s best-known and most successful traders. His trading would reflect in his personal life. He was never a great believer in “Saving for tomorrow”. He firmly believed that he will trade every single day till he is alive and that he will make enough money to live life king size. I will just give you one fascinating example. He once bought the most expensive version of BMW from his weekly profit and was thrilled about it as he was a fanatic for luxury cars. But there was one problem. He used to live in Saket where there was not enough space to park his car. He moved to Chhatarpur and rented a farmhouse there at some obscene rate so he could park all his cars!!
Ashwani always felt that the Indian schooling system unfortunately was designed to turn toppers into doing a 9-5 job instead of turning them into entrepreneurs.
Ashwani was a great trader. But he was a greater life coach. He would use very small one-liners which would be very deep. But to me, he was more than that. He was a brother who was not afraid to speak his mind. There are not many who have called me an idiot to my face and have still been among my best friends. That was Ashwani – he was what you call “Muhfat”, in your face – like it or leave it. The good thing about such people is that they don’t say anything about you behind your back because they are not afraid to say it to your face. When my father passed away, Ashwani was with me like a rock, checking on my mental health daily without ever giving up on me.
Ashwani was someone who valued his skill and never sold himself cheap. He once told me “Success ki keemat hoti hai, free mein to failure bhi nahi milta”. He would often walk away from deals worth Rs 5 lakh because in his eyes he would be worth double that. He was a pioneer in creating a paid chat room for markets in India. He was the first to put a price tag on his services for the media. He was among the first to demand big fees on YouTube from his audience. And he would do that not because he needed money but because he believed that if he didn’t value himself, nobody else will.
Ashwani enjoyed his life and was a great foodie. There were many who thought he perhaps didn’t take enough care of his health but Ashwani always used to believe in the line from Anand, “Jab tak jinda hoon, tab tak mara nahi, jab mar gaya to main hi nahi”.
Ashwani’s death is a personal loss for me. Those who know my close association with him will tell you how much he meant to me. I will miss you Ashwani – my mentor, my friend and my brother. Travel well big brother and rest in eternal peace. Om Shanti.