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Rakesh Jhunjhunwala – The bull who was once a bear

The big bull backed the India growth story and never shied away from letting it be known. However, the ace investor made a mammoth wealth early in his investing journey by shorting the market rather than going long.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala death
Although Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was called the big bull of Dalal Street or even the Warren Buffett of India he had often said he preferred just to be called Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. (Bloomberg)

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was known for his unwavering optimism on Indian stock markets. The big bull backed the India growth story and never shied away from letting it be known. However, the ace investor made a mammoth wealth early in his investing journey by shorting the market rather than going long. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala started his stock market journey with merely Rs 5,000 in 1985; his net worth now stands at over Rs 40,000 crore ($5.8 billion). His journey on Dalal Street saw him navigate the Harshad Mehta scam, the turbulence of 1991, and even the global financial crisis. The investor community describes Rakesh Jhunjhunwala as ‘full of life’ and an ‘optimistic’ investor who knew well when to cut losses.

Made money by selling stocks

In an earlier investing community event, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala is seen claiming that he made the largest amount of money in his life by short selling stocks. “I made the most money in life by selling shares. In those years of (market depression) I made at least Rs 30-35 crore,” the big bull says in the undated video. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was referring to the time when Harshad Mehta was prominent on Dalal Street. He added that he sold stocks during the period because he knew it was fraud money.

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Rakesh Jhunjhunwala had often asked investors to stick with the market reality and not follow anyone without their own due diligence. In this video too he is seen reiterating that view. “Valuation was unbelievable. State Bank of India’s closed-ended fund had a NAV of Rs 52; the listed price was Rs 160; and after we short the same it went (up) to Rs 240 the next day,” Jhunjhunwala explained. The way Rakesh Jhunjhunwala tackled the stock markets then was by selling stocks close to the value of his portfolio and if his short positions grew, he would sell his stock from his portfolio to cover the losses. “We have to see the market with reality and don’t have to join every party. Markets ultimately go on reality,” he said.

From Rs 5000 to Rs 40000 crore

The 36th richest person in the country had a large portfolio of stock consisting of at least 32 listed companies. While Titan Company Limited is known to be the biggest portfolio stock he is believed to have earned his first major earning from Tata Tea shares where he earned around Rs 20 lakh.

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The Big Bull had a number of stocks in his portfolio that came from Tata Group. Be it Titan Company Limited to the recent Tata Motors bet and even Rallis India. In 2021, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala told ET Now that Tata Group is a large part of his portfolio only by coincidence. “I think the house of Tatas is blessed by God,” he had said. As it stands, the largest holding on Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s portfolio is Titan Company with shares worth over Rs 11,000 crore, followed by Star Health and Allied Insurance Company worth Rs 7,000 crore, Metro Brands at Rs 3,300 crore and Tata Motors worth Rs 1,730 crore.

From Dalal Street to corporate corner

After having dominated Dalal Street now for decades, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala had in recent years started walking on the path taken by his mentor Radhakishan Damani. The ace investor had listed his firm Star Health and Allied Insurance on the stock exchanges and was now aiming to rule the skies with Akasa Air – his aviation venture that took to the runway for the first time this month.

Although Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was called the big bull of Dalal Street or even the Warren Buffett of India he had often said he preferred just to be called Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. The investor was seen as an energetic, visionary, and unyielding Indian optimist who had often talked about his love for Geoffrey’s Bar in Mumbai. The investing community will remember him for his trading and investment strategy that encouraged many to believe in the India story and taught many important lessons to investors. A bull or maybe a bear but Rakesh Jhunjhunwala will always be remembered as the Doyen of Dalal Street.

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