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No one was as deeply invested in India's economy as Rakesh Jhunjhunwala

Of late, the Big Bull became a promoter-businessman after IPO listings of online-gaming company Nazara, insurer StarHealth, and shoemaker Metro Brands

August 14, 2022 / 06:50 PM IST
RJ's most celebrated and often discussed holding has been jewellery and watchmaker Titan Co. RJ held a 5.05 percent stake in the Tata Group company valued conservatively at Rs 11,000 crore.

RJ's most celebrated and often discussed holding has been jewellery and watchmaker Titan Co. RJ held a 5.05 percent stake in the Tata Group company valued conservatively at Rs 11,000 crore.

Words fail to encapsulate Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's impact on India's investing psyche.

'Big Bull' Rakesh, India's answer to Warren Buffett, held the young nation in thrall as he aggressively invested in her future growth and bubbling aspirations. Jhunjhunwala, 62, died on Saturday after a prolonged illness. He leaves behind grieving millions who loved his brash, devil-may-care attitude at a time when India celebrates her 75th Independence Day.

He was just larger than life itself.

No one, repeat no one, was as heavily, deeply, and fully invested in India's booming $3.1 trillion economy as Jhunjhunwala. And no one loved to talk about his investing book as much as this billionaire trader!

In his four-decade career of investing and taking sizable equity stakes in blue chips such as Titan, Tata Motors, and Crisil, Jhunjhunwala ran a portfolio of more than $5 billion—all in a single lifetime and none inherited.

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Of late, he became a promoter-businessman after IPO listings of online-gaming company Nazara, insurer StarHealth, and shoemaker Metro Brands.

"Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was indomitable," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet condoling the death. ``Full of life, witty and insightful, he leaves behind an indelible contribution to the financial world. He was also very passionate about India's progress.''

Also Read: The original dream merchant: Shankar Sharma's tribute to Big Bull RJ

RJ, as he was popularly known across the investing world, and "Bhaiya'' to near-dear ones, embraced everyone with the same grace as he would treat heads of state and top corporate honchos. Despite being enormously wealthy, RJ lived simply. In his most recent meeting with the Prime Minister, RJ was photographed wearing a crumpled white shirt that hung loosely on him. That viral image, shared in millions of investor groupings and on television showed the man in his element.

And it was the same grace that got reflected when RJ attended analyst meets held by managements post-earnings. He would question them, tease them, find fault and yet be unfailingly generous with equal praise.

Big Champion of India

RJ was the media’s first port of call for a good quote.

He held court in public gatherings just as an emperor would. He just loved to talk about India's potential at news events, major economic conferences, and dozens of investing events in Mumbai -- both online and on the ground. Yet, Rakesh never shied away from calling spade a spade and in full public glare. Whether an errant anchor or a question that failed to appreciate economic ground realities, Rakesh would be withering in his repartee. He had a particular disliking for economists.

It is hard to separate RJ's trading skills from his investing prowess. He juggled hardcore numbers and intangibles with equal ease. A chartered accountant by qualification, Rakesh was as much at home with Balance sheets, P&L accounts, and investing ratios as he was with the market's unpredictable daily moves. Rakesh's stock pickings were legendary. And his holding period is nearly infinite.

“He had the unique ability to wear two very different hats successfully - that of a very long-term investor and of a trader,'' said Prashant Jain, former Chief Investment Officer at HDFC Mutual Fund. ``Normally, people are not able to do that. Rakesh ji backed up his long-term investments for the longest time and through business cycles."

Titan & RJ

RJ's most celebrated and often discussed holding has been jewellery and watchmaker Titan Co. RJ held a 5.05 percent stake in the Tata Group company valued conservatively at Rs 11,000 crore. It's a two-decade-old investment purchased at a single-digit price (adjusted for bonus/splits). Titan ended Friday at Rs 2,471. Rakesh publicly said that he would take Titan to his grave if it did not become a `billion-dollar investment in his lifetime.''

"RJ's ability to see the future of India was sans pareil. He saw what no politician ever did," said Shankar Sharma, Founder GQuant Investech. "And that fashioned his investment thinking beyond data and numbers, where we can miss the woods for the trees."

Also Read: RIP Rakesh Jhunjhunwala: A look at ace investor's last few months in the market

Interestingly, both Sharma and Jain are on the opposing ends of the investing spectrum, and RJ is firmly in the middle. Their high praise for Jhunjhunwala comes despite Jain being a well-known value investor and Sharma taking an occasional punt on the short side.

Rakesh was plagued by depleting health over the last few years. He often regretted publicly that he should have invested as much time in his health as he did in India's growth. Rakesh attended the inaugural flight of his latest investment—Akasa Air—in a wheelchair.

Yet he lived life fully. A viral video of his dancing his blues away merrily in a wheelchair on a foot-thumping Bollywood song gladdened the hearts of many.

And today, he soars to the heavens riding a bull and carrying the Indian Flag!
Shailendra Bhatnagar
first published: Aug 14, 2022 06:44 pm
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