Home / Opinion / Online-views /  He coined the term Sensex and he now wants a trademark for it

Mumbai: Deepak Mohoni started analysing equities quite by chance. After an engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur and a management course from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, Mohoni worked on mainframe computing for about four years before he decided to start a computer graphics company. It was then a senior journalist asked him if he could generate technical charts for news articles on companies and stock markets.

Deepak Mohoni started writing technical analysis columns for the Business Worldmagazine and some newspapers, and is now regarded an expert analyst (Photo by: Sandesh Bhandare / Mint)

Mohoni, who now runs markets advisory firm Trendwatch India Pvt. Ltd from Pune, is in the news for a spat with the 133-year old Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd, or BSE, over the term Sensex, India’s bellwether equity index.

Mohoni says he coined the term in 1989, when the BSE Sensitive Index was at about 750 points.

BSE applied to trademark the term Sensex in late 2006. Mohoni, 53, sent a notice then to the registrar of trade marks in Mumbai, asking him to reject the application. In November 2007, Mohoni himself filed two applications to register Sensex as a trademark. In March 2008, he received a notice from BSE asking him to withdraw the applications. He instead filed a suit in a Pune court challenging this.

Mohoni says he has not lost his passion for Sensex, which closed at 16,525.37 on Wednesday after hitting its lifetime high of 21,206.77 on 10 January. Edited excerpts of an interview by phone:

Of all the abbreviations that could have been carved out of BSE Sensitive Index, how did you come up with Sensex?

Yes, it could have been named something else. One option we had at the time was BSI—an abbreviation of BSE Sensitive Index.

I had to keep using this long string of words in my columns and remember thinking we didn’t have a proper nickname for the index, unlike major indices in other countries. I then came up with Sensex and it didn’t take more than five minutes for the editor, R. Jagannathan (the editor of the Business World then and now the executive editor of the Daily News and Analysis newspaper), to clear it.

That was in 1989. I started using Sensex in my columns in Business World and urged certain other journalists to use the term as well. By 1992-93, lots of papers and magazines started using the term. I was quite thrilled.

Are you fighting for acknowledgement or do you have a business plan in mind if you win the trademark on Sensex?

The first objective is to prevent someone else from owning a term I coined. Many people and even the media have acknowledged the term Sensex as my contribution, long before this fight with BSE started. I do not plan to make money of it; it is not my primary business. I hadn’t given any thought to registering the term till BSE decided to do so. That’s when I decided to trademark Sensex because I had coined it. The term is already popular and so I can’t go about stopping others from using it.

Do you foresee an out-of-court settlement? Would you agree to a cash settlement if BSE makes an offer?

It is very unlikely. So far, the stock exchange has only sent notices and warnings. I do not want to speculate on settlement options.

BSE advertises Sensex as the index the world tracks, but do you think the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty index is more representative of Indian stocks?

Sensex has history on its side—a big advantage over the Nifty, which was introduced more recently.

But traders in India are beginning to associate themselves more with Nifty than the Sensex, and Nifty derivative contracts are more popular. Even television anchors ask me for predictions on Nifty more than on Sensex.

Unlike in other markets where newspapers and media firms own popular indices alongside bourses, there are not many popular privately owned stock indices in India.

That is true. None of the newspapers here have approached the stock exchanges to start an index. The Economic Times has its own indices, but they are not popular.

There is a rush of experts these days who announce support or resistance levels for Nifty at every round figure, but often go wrong.

Stock market analysis has become more like palmistry. There is too much emphasis on prediction. And everyone’s giving what the media wants to hear. If the support and resistance levels they predict always go right, there wouldn’t be any trading at all. But the market is unpredictable.

The aim of my early column was to identify trends using technical analysis, not to make random predictions. Trading strategy should be based on market conditions and related factors.

Do you think there’s more to such expert opinion? Your clutch of expert analysts has come in for criticism from authorities. M. Damodaran (former chairman of market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India) had called for stronger disclosure norms for experts and anchors who air their advice on stocks on television.

There are too many analysts and I don’t think any single analyst can influence stock movement by what he says. The authorities looked into this but nothing has been proved. Even when you do see stocks reacting to an expert comment, the movement lasts for just a few seconds. Not longer.

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