The man who inspired a million stock investments

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s colleagues remember him as an ambitious person who was a sharp thinker, thought leader, and took calculative risks as a trader that made him a successful investor

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala

Aditya Anand

A week after his last public appearance – the inaugural flight of Akasa, India’s newest airline he co-founded – Rakesh Jhunjhunwala passed away on Sunday of a sudden cardiac arrest which was the cause of his death.

An ace investor Jhunjhunwala was suffering from chronic kidney disease and was also diabetic. To the world of investors mourning his passing, the 36th richest Indian went by many names.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala born on 5th July 1960 in Mumbai was referred to as a risky wealth creator. More commonly people referred to him as the Big Bull of Dalal Street or as the Warren Buffet of India. Those who knew him personally, like Vallabh Bhansali, refer to Jhunjhunwala as the Pied Piper of the stock market.

While Titan was among the key stocks he held, Jhunjhunwala or RJ to his friends, showed Indian investors that one could make a lot of money by staying invested in the right companies. He popularized public opinion about the stock markets.

At the end of the June quarter, Jhunjhunwala known for being full of life, witty and insightful, had made an indelible contribution to the financial world with stakes in 47 companies including Titan, Star Health, Tata Motors and Metro Brands being some of his largest holdings.

Known to be a big fan of Bollywood, Jhunjhunwala had also produced a movie called English Vinglish starring Sridevi.

Amazingly astute in financial markets, Jhunjhunwala often said in interviews that the Indian stock markets were undervalued. He was the chairman of Vogue India, Geojit Financial Services, Viceroy Hotels, Concord Biotech and Hungama Media.

His colleagues remember him as an ambitious person who was a sharp thinker, thought leader, and took calculative risks as a trader that made him a successful investor. Jhunjhunwala’s analysis was meticulous.

A chartered accountant by education, he chose Dalal Street instead of auditing accounts. According to Forbes, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s net worth stood at $5 billion (Rs 39,527 crore), as of 5 July 2022, zooming 15 per cent in one year from $4.6 billion (Rs 34,387 crore).

The son of an income tax officer, Jhunjhunwala has said that he became fascinated with stocks as a child after watching his father balance his market investments. With a net worth of over $5 billion, Jhunjhunwala had begun his journey with stocks in 1985, by investing Rs. 5,000 as capital.

That capital had inflated to Rs. 11,000 crore by September 2018. Jhunjhunwala earned his first big profit in 1986 when he bought 5,000 shares of Tata Tea at Rs. 43 and the stock rose to Rs. 143 within three months. In three years, he had earned Rs. 20-25 lakh.

In one of his interviews, Jhunjhunwala had admitted to making money by shorting stocks post Harshad Mehta Scam in 1992. He was a part of an established bear cartel led by Manu Manek, known as Black Cobra. He was part of a generation of investors who benefitted from the historic 1991 reforms, which opened up India's economy.

Taking questions on his passion for the stock market and his buy-invest-hold strategy and why it is a subject of understanding, Jhunjhunwala had once told a gathering that, “The market and cooking both need to be taught.”

In his demise, India and millions of people who looked up to Jhunjhunwala as a guide to their investments will miss his presence and invincible spirit.

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