Bulls, Bears And Other Beasts

The book is a fictionalised account of a stock trader & operator who began his journey in in 1988 and hung up his boots after the BJP win of 2014.

The central character, aptly named “Lala” began his journey as a “jobber” or what we now call Market Maker and we follow his journey in the Indian markets. From beginning his Market journey in the back office of a small time broker to trading in the “ring”, Lala meets all the famous characters in the Indian market, from Harshad Mehta to Ketan Parekh to Radhakishan Damani to Rakesh Jhunjhunwala.

We see how Lala goes from being a small time trader/jobber to an “operator” approached by company managements to manage prices & a quasi fund manager.Along the way we see how the Bombay Stock Exchange was challenged and overthrown by the NSE, and we see an encounter with the legendary Manu Manek, whose respect Lala eventually earned. An interesting part was when Manmohan Singh was heckled by Brokers when he visited the BSE as a Finance Minister.

Filled with anecdotes and market gyan, this book is the Indian version of Reminiscences of a Stock Operator.

Personally, this book has a connect because of its setting & era. My father was a sub-broker and we had an office very near the exchange. As a child, I have very vague memories of going to the little office we had in Cama building, and anyone I look up to in the market is mentioned here.

So is it worth a read? YES! Especially immediately after Reminiscences of a Stock Operator!

Grab it from Amazon.in.

The Difference Between Work & “Work”

Say you have a regular 9 to 5 job. You punch in, punch out and you get paid for days you were in the office, even though the work you do may be variable based on the season and time of the year. Many accountants & auditors get busy during the tax season but have a smooth sailing for a few months after. Similarly many (especially Indian) IT companies have employees on the “bench” . Say you are paid Rs.1,00,000 a month but the work you do perform varies.

And let us plot the same on a chart:

Here you exchange time for money, even though the amount of time you work may vary on a month to month basis. You can spend a month doing absolutely nothing and spend another month doing 3 months worth of work in a month.

Now we take a look at someone who has to work a lot during the initial stages without a fixed pay for the potential of a greater reward, say an author writing a book or a movie maker who would take 6 months to put the movie out there.

Take the case of the movie maker, he/she works with a great outflow in the first 6 months but based on his own calculation, expects a hefty payout. Again let us put in some numbers and plot them to make it simpler.

And here is the chart:

So even of things do not pan out, the movie maker knows what he loses, whereas the potential gain is theoretically all the money in the world.

When we put the two scenarios in context, in the former case, the payout is fixed, whereas the workload is variable. In case of the latter, the payout is uncertain, whereas the maximum loss the movie maker would bear is Rs.8,65,000.

So while working 9 to 5 is easy and somewhat guarantees a regular paycheque, “working”, while not guaranteeing a paycheque, does have a great payoff.

|Choose wisely!|

P.S: Interesting to note is that most employers believe that employees are underworked whereas most employees believe that they are overworked. That I believe depends on which version of reality is seen & by whom.

 

Whose Reality Is It Anyway?

“Let’s get real” or “Face reality as it is” or “The truth is bitter” are common dialogues we hear. But what is reality?

Is reality relative? Is reality different from person to person? Let us take the example of financial markets. We assume that both the buyer and seller of a security are rational and aware of the facts. Yet why does one person sell and another buy? Afterall one person has to be wrong. Both buyer and seller cannot be winners.

Now, let us shift to something a lot more prevalent. Take football (or any other sport) fans. We have fanatics arguing over which team is the best. And we have the numbers and facts, yet we have fans arguing that the team they support is the best.

So can I say that your reality is different from my reality and that we see the world through our own tinted glasses which distort “reality”?

I believe that our own programming & environment is largely responsible for our own version of “reality”. Say you were told that eating a lot of chocolates can lead to cavities. So when you see someone with cavities, you’d think that the person eats a lot of chocolates. Is that the “truth” however? It may not be the case!

In areas like financial markets, teaching or arts like movies and painting, understanding this concept of reality is of prime importance.

Even a polymath like Da Vinci is not spared from “our” version of reality. I myself do not find the Mona Lisa to be as fascinating as it is supposed to be, yet it is one of the most viewed paintings on the planet. Similarly, we see movies coming day in and day out and question why someone would even finance or make a film as crappy as that, yet it could be a super hit. (I do not understand most Oscar winning movies myself :-P).

So how do we “see reality?

A suggestion I have is something I have mentioned earlier- Be Childlike!

Let go of every concept that you’ve held, “you” are not a Boy or Girl, “you” are not (Insert Your Name Here).

Only once you’ve broken the shackles of of your own tinted glasses, can you see reality. And once you do, you’d get much better at making decisions!

The Greatest Trickster, Ever!

Things are only different in our mind, from the biggest decisions in life to the simplest ones, our inner voice allocates different weights to different things in life, especially under pressure. Say in a bad mood, even a decision as to what to have for dinner can be difficult and when in a good mood, complex decisions like how to plan your retirement finances can seem easy. (Notice how there is always soothing music in loan advertisements).

Our mind is a lot like Loki, the Trickster Norse God. It makes crazy scenarios, and scares us, makes us nervous, gives us fear and sends us on an endless trip of “What If?”

The beauty of “What If?” is that it can start with an innocuous headache and end up with us surfing WebMD and we start to think that it could be Brain Tumour.

So how does one stop being tricked (apart from an existential crises) ?

Go inward, ask yourself something as simple as “Who asks this?” or “Who is afraid”. Earlier I tried to explain why being childlike is a benefit. Most of what we believe we are is a belief. We have built layer upon layer of our identity.

Let all of these identities go! Most of them were taken from someplace anyway. Once you let enough of these beliefs or identities go, you realise at some level that you are not the body or beliefs, but something much more.

You realise that even your own name was given to you. You forget notions of cause and effect as well. So when things do not go as per plan, you do not hung up over it, thinking “but that should have happened!”.

Life becomes much more colorful and fun. Ups and downs seem like a rollercoaster ride. So you start enjoying life, and work with a passion, yet remain unfazed when things do not go as planned. And most importantly you can enjoy complete silence and being by yourself with no thoughts.

Try it! You may lose a lot of gunk in your head and find your self.

The Z Factor

Dr.Subhash Chandra is a Maverick & Pioneer. The Z Factor combines the effects of serendipity, raw guts and a “Karte Hai, Dekha Jayega” (“Screw it, let’s do it!”).

From his family’s beginnings in Sadalpur near Hisar, Haryana, to taking charge of the family finances at 17, Dr.Chandra’s story reads as a nice thriller in some parts. This is a tell all account as there is no sugar coating in the book. Take for instance, how Chandigarh officials of the Food Corporation Of India would help him win bids. Dr.Chandra candidly admits how he “curried favours” or how India’s first private television channel was an “illegal” operation.

We read how Star misjudged the opportunity size India presented or how an angry Dr.Chandra bought satellite bandwidth at $5 Million when the going rate was somewhere between $1.5 Million simply because the Star executives did not want to sell him the satellite bandwidth.

From betrayals (a lot of them) to political pressure that comes with running a news channel, we read how a fearless man like Dr.Chandra admits how scary it was to meet Mrs.Indira Gandhi. The absurdly funny part of the book is a con Dr.Chandras  competitor in the rice exporting business was running on Soviets.

This autobiography is raw. It touches a nerve and shows us how serendipity helps.

Dr.Chandra is a Byronic hero. He has done some wrong, not played by the book completely and he is candid enough to admit it. He does not paint himself as an angel nor does he have any false modesty. Like Dumbledore, he knows he has achieved a lot and has no compunctions about it.

Go grab it from Amazon.

The Answer To Everything

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the Universe.”

Carl Sagan

“Causality” is to look for events to explain why a chain of events happened. Because event “A” happened, Event “B” happened. Primarily though we use the Cause & Effect Model to get something to fit into our conceptual framework.

We cannot accept that things just happen!

Now let us start with this article itself.

I” write an Article share it on Social Media. “You” click the Link & Read it.

Let’s break the Cause & Effect:

Cause: “Me” writing an article and Sharing it on Social Media.

Effect: You clicking on the link and reading it.

But let’s dig a bit deeper into the Hierarchy of “Cause & Effect” now.

Let us begin with “Me” writing the article:

“Harshil Shah” writes & posts an article.

Why?

“Harshil Shah” likes thinking & writing.

Why?

“Harshil Shah” reads some stuff and gets Ideas.

Why?

“Harshil Shah’s” Parents Buy him lots of Books.

Why?

Well they Love Him.

Why?

“He” is their Offspring.

Why?

Well, they got Married & wanted a Child.

Why?

“Harshil’s Grandparents agreed that his Parents were a Good match for each other.

Why?

Both sets of “Harshil’s” Grandparents “vibed” & thought that his Parents were of age.

Why?

Because “Harshil’s” Grandparents were also married off similarly.

Why?

Because “Harshil’s” Great-Grandparents also “vibed”.

Why? (At this Question, we can skip the Great∞ -Grandparents and come to the below conclusion)

The Universe was Created.

Now let us take Social Media:

“Harshil Shah” shares the Article on Social Media

Why?

WordPress, Facebook, Google & Twitter exist.

Why?

These Companies Have Creative Founders.

Why?

They foresaw the amazing uses of something called the “Internet”.

Why?

The US Army created something called the “ARPANET”

Why?

Communication is vital for Human Beings.

Why?

That is how societies of various hues & shades are formed.

Why?

People like to Bond.

Why?

Since the Dawn of Mankind, Groups were better off than Individuals.

Why?

Mankind was Born.

Why?

The Universe was created.

Now You, the Reader

You are Reading this article.

Why?

It came across your Social Media Feed.

Why?

You have an Internet Connection and thought the Title of the Article was interesting.

Why?

You Have a Phone/Tablet/Laptop and were surfing the Internet

Why?

You bought one for yourself or your Parents bought you one.

Why?

You have an Income or Your Parents love you.

Why?

You are Educated Enough to earn an Income or Your Parents Love You.

Why?

Your Parents were married off or Your Parents met & fell in Love.

Why?

Now we can insert the Grandparents Analogy I used in “My” case and keep going back to the Dawn of Civilisation, before Homo Sapiens were around.

Why?

The Universe was Created.

Or“- either statement could have been a “Cause”.

So at times when we are confused or sad and look for an answer to “Why is this Happening to “Me”? Do not get sucked into Cause & Effect much, because then you’d Question the existence of the Universe. And that is a Deep Rabbit Hole.


P.S: The Butterfly Effect tries to take “Causality” to a whole new level.

Be A Baby, Seriously!

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

-Matthew 18:3

Over time, we take on multiple roles, positions, ideas and judgements which develop our sense of “I“. As we age this concept of “I” cements and shapes our view of the World.

So we identify as a Capitalist, as a Foodie, as a Traveller, as Male, as Shy, as Cartoon Watching. Let’s go a level further, we identify ourselves as a part of a Religion or a Gender like “Male” or “Female”. Then we have personality traits like Shy. Then we have work and education as well.

The end result is a combination of traits that we put in the “About You” Section of the Resume.

But are you all these traits or are you more? After all as we grow, we do change do we not? So who are “You”?

So we compare ourselves with everyone else on the concept of “I”. That might make you stand against certain things like “Socialists”, “Feminists” or a myriad lot of terms and groups.

Now imagine the Prime Minister is to meet you, you’d probably feel your achievements to be somewhat pale in comparison to his so you’d be at your best behaviour, put on your best clothes but most importantly you’d feel somewhat self-conscious.

Now compare that to a Baby. Ever seen a self-conscious Baby?

Babies are cool! They do not even have a concept of their own name like we do. They do not care! They do not know if they are male or female, whether they are Hindu or Jain, whether they are Socialist or Capitalist. They pick up all such programming later from those around them when they grow up.

Do you think a Baby would care about peeing on the Prime Minister if he holds the Baby? Can a Baby be a Socialist who hates Capitalists?

They say to attain liberation, all we need to do is to get rid of all or beliefs of self. But on a more practical day to day level, just question where a certain belief or sense of “I” comes from. It can help you clear a lot of emotional baggage and reveal a lot about your own self to “You”.

Be Love Now

“Desire is the Creator, Desire is the Destroyer, Desire is the Universe”

-From “Be Love Now

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) is a disciple of Neem Karoli Baba, better known as Maharajji.

We learn how Babaji affected the lives of all around him and was the reservoir of  unconditional love & how Maharajji transcends beyond Space & Time and still appears to those who seek him. Julia Roberts converted to Hinduism after seeing his picture and he is a major influence on Tech Giants like Steve Jobs & Mark Zuckerberg.

A Journey Into Devtion

In Be Love Now, Ram Dass describes his journey from Harvard to India, the path of surrender and methods on how to surmount your ego while, he turns the concept of Love, Space & Time on their head.

He also describes how the ultimate journey of all people is to attain liberation and lays out his own journey. Laced with quotes from Scripture, other Religious Gurus and his own conversations with Maharajji, “Be Love Now” is a fascinating read in which we see Ram Dass’s utter devotion to Maharajji and how it is his path to liberation.

None of the Books are an essential read, but “Be Love Now” is a great book to have.

Most Memorable Quote

“Shifting our identification from the ego to the heart-mind is the beginning of individual spiritual work.”

 

Grab it from Amazon.in.

 

 

What Could’ve Been…

In late 2014, I stumbled across a Company which had a Dividend yield of around 15%.

Sounds too good to be true right? I mean at that price I could’ve borrowed at 11% still made a decent 4% (I hadn’t borrowed then, but the possibility was exciting) . And there was always the possibility of Capital Appreciation.  So here I was with a good company, good business and a great Pedigree Group.

I’d earned a fair bit of Dividend over the 4-6 quarters I had kept the stock though the stock had not moved up much. It was in a sort of range. The dividends however had given me enough cushion to keep the stock, though not add more.

Come July 2016, and there was an Income Tax raid (at the Promoters Place, not mine :-P). So there I was contemplating buying Public Sector Banks, because everyone had written them off. And then goes CNBC ” Raid, Raid, Raid at the Promoters Offices across India”, I look at my friend who I knew had the same stock.

Without any thought I go across to a (Stock) Dealer (not the one dispensing illegal stuff) and say “Market kar ke maal bech” (Rough translation: I do not care about the bloody price, just get me out of this.) My friend does the same as well. I messaged my CFO (Dad) “Got rid of STOCK”

I was happy because I had made nearly 50% in Capital Appreciation alone (Completely Tax Free!) and gotten out before the price tanked.

The stock goes down to my buying price too in the aftermath. I am happy because “I got rid of the stock” and smug too because “I am out and What Idiots bought this stock got rid off ?”

So was I right? Or was I right?

Well I was not right. You see the stock from its bottom went up nearly 15 times. And that could’ve been my first 10 (maybe 15) Bagger.

Do I lose sleep over it? Nope. Do I regret selling it? Nope.

Most of you would’ve gotten the name by now. If not, it is Indiabulls Ventures.

Screenshot_20171026-123559
Me getting “rid” of Indiabulls Ventures. Also me buying PNB.
Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 1.22.42 PM
IBVEN after I got rid of it. Note I did not sell it when it was down 50% from my Purchase Price (around April 2016) because “the Story is intact boss”.

Lesson Learnt (I Hope)

Keep In Touch with Stocks you sold. “I” did not revisit the Thesis and check if I should’ve bought it again after the troubles were over.


P.S:  I had told a few people to buy it around the same time I did. And I forgot to tell them to get “rid” of it. Luckily they did not get “rid” of it.

Predestination & Free Will

Some times in our lives, we look up at God and say “Had enough? Am I the Joke now or is there more nonsense that is my way?”

At times we have this feeling of complete despondency & and helplessness.

At such times do we Question from our very Being whether there is some sort of Cosmic Plan that goes into what we are going through or if there is some Grand Cosmic Plan that is beyond us yet.

Predestination is the assumption that God has a plan for all of us and that we are merely actors in the play. In that case you’re justified at having a grouse at God. If he scripted, he could get a bad rep. Your complaints are justified.

Or we have Free Will, which means advertently or inadvertently we have created this mess and it is up to us to get out of it. In such cases God gets a bad name for things we did.

Can we ever know? I am not so sure! After all there a Trillion things that have to go right for a moment to come together. Every moment in Time (which is illusory in itself) is unique and changing.

Can it be a Bit of both? Is it an eclectic mix? Or do our choices move the Universe?

Many Religious schools believe that we are all one with God and in effect we are all one. So maybe our choices do affect everyone on some level.

I do not know but I am on a quest to find out. I’ll keep you posted!