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Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the cheerleader for Indian markets and an invaluable friend

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala believed in the great Indian equity markets story throughout his life. His enthusiasm on this count rarely, if ever, waned

Rakesh JhunjhunwalaC J George writes: Over the years that I knew him, I found him to be a very simple man who at times was very emotional and could easily be reduced to tears.(Photo: Bloomberg file)

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was an indomitable larger-than-life captain of India’s capital market. His enthusiasm and positive outlook on India’s capital markets were infectious. His early successes as an investor and his witty public interactions soon made him a tremendous source of inspiration to an entire generation of young investors in India. He could work up a large audience and spar with journalists, politicians and investors alike. He had facts and figures at his command and a turbo-charged mind to crunch numbers at a speed faster than most could comprehend.

He was sincere in being a cheerleader and champion for the Indian markets. He truly believed in the great Indian equity markets story throughout his life. His enthusiasm on this count rarely, if ever, waned. He was unstoppable, often pugnacious, armed with aggressive arguments in favour of the long-term prospects of the equity markets. At the same time, Rakesh was down-to-earth, sharp and careful in his analysis. He was also a visionary. This is what helped him zero in on companies that turned out to be great investments. He was an active trader as much as a long-term investor. Perhaps, this is what made him the legend that he became.

For Geojit, he was a source of inspiration and guidance. He was so for me personally too. He was a member of our board for 12 years, from 2004. When he took a stake in 2004, he decided to invest after just one hour of discussion. He decided to take a 14.5 per cent stake in the company with no shareholder agreement or conditions. He had done his research before our discussion. He always said that the dividend from the Geojit investment looked after his household expenses ever since he invested.

Over the years that I knew him, I found him to be a very simple man who at times was very emotional and could easily be reduced to tears. For his 50th birthday, I could not travel to Mumbai and I sent a card. The next time, when I met him in his office, he had my card with him and he cried saying, “This card is the most valuable birthday gift I got.”

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For several years, his physical health was not his best asset. It set limits on his travels and interactions. But, none of this could slow down his sharp mind from trading and investing. Rakesh turned entrepreneur and launched his airline towards the fag end of his illustrious career. Even with serious physical ailments, he thought long term and was willing to place large, risky bets.

When he was physically unwell, at times, he would appear to have dozed off during board meetings but all of a sudden he would ask us the most intelligent question. He had an unparalleled brilliance and surprised me many times.

He is well known for his short temper and colourful language. I am sure most of his friends inside his circle would know that. The choicest abuse towards me was to call me a “Communist” and he always somehow thought Kerala is full of communists. But, he knew better and was a great believer in the Geojit story.

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He readily accepted invitations to Geojit functions. He loved the crowds of investors as much as they loved him. He was fond of being with people and that, perhaps, gave him energy.

His command of numbers was unbelievable and for any discussion with him as an investor, I used to be fully prepared. His favourite question to me was: “George, what will you do with money? You don’t drink, smoke, invest or trade!” I never had the heart to tell him that none of those attributes was important. But, I also think he was merely joking and being his usual carefree self.

He was an active and engaging board member. Once in some company AGM, an investor asked about his absence in many meetings of that company. Then, he took the view that as an investor, he should respect governance and that the question is valid. He then decided to quit all the boards other than the ones in which he was the promoter.

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He was our client too and he was always very particular that all regulations must be strictly followed. “Geojit is very strict on rules” was a comment he always made to tease me. He was a man of discipline in trading and investment. His discipline was the secret to his success too!

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s untimely demise is a huge loss for India. He will be greatly missed. I have lost an invaluable friend.

The writer is managing director, Geojit Financial Services

First published on: 14-08-2022 at 06:03:26 pm
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