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A Few Stray Thoughts... - Views on News from Equitymaster
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  • Dec 30, 1996

    A Few Stray Thoughts...

    And for another year that has ended, a few stray thoughts and points of view - all of it my own work, and some of it in jest.

    Like 1996 is over and done with and we can heave a sigh of relief to a year that has proved, once again, how little we have achieved as a country and how insignificant we are in the global scheme of things.

    Like if we can blame Azhar for our defeats and give a woman credit for his brief brilliance, the Congress can certainly be forgiven for blaming Rao for its misery while it desperately tries to entice Madam to head its resurrection.

    Like I wonder if living in India under a Prime Minister of Italian descent is better than living in Italy under a Prime Minister of Indian descent.

    Like, if you were to take a poll of Americans nearly all of them would think that Mrs Gandhi was the daughter of Mahatma Gandhi. And, if after six years of being beamed in India, CNN has not been able to change that view, maybe they should be asked to leave. Or maybe the powers that be want this myth to continue.

    Like America is the greatest country in the world. It is a country based on giving the best to its citizens and is built to serve the consumer. And for those who criticise godless capitalism, they should stand in front of the mirror think of all the starving and poor people in this country, and beg for forgiveness and salvation.

    Like 1996 was the Year of the BJP - a party with roots as deep as the Congress - and they finally got to where they wanted to before slipping into oblivion again. Which takes me to my next point. That 1996 was also the year when the BJP showed itself to be just like any other political party in India - disorganised, undisciplined, and perceived to be corrupt with power as its only objective.

    Like just like the BJP, the BSE had its moment of glory when it propelled itself to a 30% gain six months into the year, only to fade into negative territory proving, yet again, that making money in this stock market is not an easy task. And nor is forming a clean political party.

    Like if I was the head of the CBI, I would stop raiding any more people and, instead, use my posse of 250 officers to see that the cases of people raided in the past are quickly and efficiently moved through the courts. A picture of a hooligan sentenced to life imprisonment is more of a deterrent than hundreds of pictures of raided people who - a few days later - resume their normal lives and play charity cricket matches, go on walks, or attend marriages.

    Like if the CBI continues on its raiding spree and the courts continue to jail all the accused, the demand for jails will increase manifold. Buy cement and steel stocks.

    Like at the start of 1996 I made two predictions: the Index would go nowhere in 1996 and the Rupee would fall 10% against the dollar to Rs 40. I was 50% right. Hats off to the RBI for doing a brilliant job of keeping the currency on even keel.

    Like if I had to make one prediction for 1997 it will be this: that finally people will realise that the government we elect is the government we deserve and all the cleansing has to start in our own homes - right here, right now!

    Like if I could nominate a Businessman of the Year every year, I would rotate it amongst the top management of HDFC who, I would argue, are the best and the brightest in the world. And if I could nominate a Best Company of the Year, I would nominate HDFC over and over again, year after year after year. Like there is nothing more inspiring than seeing a concept become a reality - and a successful one at that. And it goes to show that our so-called captains of inherited Indian industry can learn a lot from the meek who become the mighty.

    Like the only institutions this country can be proud of is HDFC, its musicians and dancers, R. K. Laxman, and Busybee. And if you want to know the history of India you should read the Laxman cartoons and Busybee's columns - not the text books prescribed by some archaic boards of education.

    Like if today's history books should blame the mess of this nation on the Industrial Policy of the Nehru-Gandhi era and the bureaucrats who imprisoned us with the licence Raj, tomorrow's history books should note the role that VSNL is playing in bonding us to the past and denying us access to this great international library of the future called the internet.

    Like, I say, power to the people. The courts should order VSNL to ensure that internet access is provided to everyone who wants it at international prices and, if VSNL can't do it, they should hand over this business to the hundreds of people who want to do it. And if there was to be an award for Dog-in-the-Manger for the Year, my vote would go to VSNL.

    Like there must be something evil about December 6. The shrine, mosque, or structure (depending on which camp you belong to) in Ayodhya was knocked down on that date. Reliance had its EGM to approve its controversial merger on that date. And Sandoz nearly got away with its infamous merger ratio on that date. Like where was Kiran Mehta - who led this fight against Sandoz - on December 6, 1994?

    Like the only shares left on the stock exchanges which have any chance of making any returns for their investors are the big, large market caps - and in 1997 they will perform. The small caps will languish and may only see a whiff of a revival when the Index crosses 4,000.

    Like the smartest investors have been the small investors. They walked out of the stock market in October, 1994 and have stayed away since then. And the least intelligent investors have been us professionals - we refused to see reality and paid the price for it.

    Like with property prices in the doldrums, the government has a chance to end - once and for all - this rape of the Indian public by releasing more land and striking a mortal blow to the political-builder nexus that had made property in Nariman Point one of the most expensive in the world. But governments can't prevent economic events - property prices in Nariman Point will be Rs 12,000 per square foot with or without the government's help.

    Like, now that the details of the bank accounts linked to the US$ 1.3 billion Bofors-Howitzer deals are finally being released, political analysts will start suggesting that this is Rao's last salvo and it could save India from being annexed by Italy. But other political analysts will be quick to point out that this is a dummy bullet shot by a dead man.

    And, finally, this point of view: That the profession of being an equity analyst looks respectable only because there is another profession of being a political analyst.



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