Jim Rogers: I’ll invest in India again if the stock market goes down a lot

Ahead of the results for Lok Sabha elections 2024, Jim Rogers says for the first time in his lifetime, India is going to be a very good place to invest. (Bloomberg)
Ahead of the results for Lok Sabha elections 2024, Jim Rogers says for the first time in his lifetime, India is going to be a very good place to invest. (Bloomberg)


As the Sensex and Nifty scale new highs, legendary investor Jim Rogers says he doesn’t anticipate a major downturn in the Indian stock market before the Lok Sabha elections 2024 results. However, if it were to happen, he would seize the opportunity and invest more

Legendary investor Jim Rogers, hailing from the quaint town of Demopolis in Alabama, has harboured a relentless desire to explore the world beyond the confines of his small hometown. While some may have found contentment and happiness in never venturing far, Rogers felt an insatiable wanderlust. The 81-year-old investor—and avid biker—said that many people never leave and are in fact quite happy, which is fun, “except I knew there was something else and I wanted to see the world. I was a little bit crazy, I guess, but I did it."

Rogers travelled to so many countries that he has lost count now.

He had saved some money, earned more, and decided it was time to retire and see the world. Craving adventure, he took the leap, including a journey to India where he drove around the country. He added that although he's traversed much of India, including Rajasthan, Kerala remains a blank spot on his map.

He said, “...I tell people all over the world that if you can only visit one country, it should be India because it's the most exciting country for a tourist. The food, the languages, the man-made sites, the natural sites, the women: the women are always winning beauty contests. Ohh! It is a fantastic country."

Rogers also visited the Kumbh Mela and jests that he may have washed away his sins in the sacred waters.

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The veteran investor was stunned and said it was a sight to behold. There were so many people, all deeply immersed in religious fervour, earnestly washing away their sins. People prayed, sang, and immersed themselves in the water with such devotion. The sheer magnitude of the gathering was awe-inspiring. Every moment brought something new to witness, another soul engaged in this profound experience.

However, his travel diaries were not all roses. He encountered a myriad of challenges and weathered numerous epidemics and wars. Reflecting on the perils of traversing unfamiliar lands, he recounted a harrowing experience in Africa where he was held hostage for eight days. “You know, they would not let us leave. It was in the Congo," he said. “It's not an easy world".

Despite acknowledging the world's complexities, he affirmed his pursuit of exploration. “I wanted to see the world," he declared, “and I did it. Hooray, I'm still alive." Edited excerpts:

Many youthful investors have been inspired by your fervour for both biking and investing. What do you want to say to them?

I aspire for everyone to explore the world, to venture beyond their own borders and see new places. Exploring other countries and meeting different people is a valuable educational experience, and in doing that one can also learn a lot about oneself and their homeland.

If people spent more time together, understanding each other, there would be fewer wars.

Does your investment strategy draw any influence from your travels?

Because of my background and who I am, when I travel, if I come across something positive, I don't just pass by—I pause and delve deeper. If possible, I'll even consider making an investment. There are many promising opportunities in the world, and I don't want to merely overlook them. Instead, I hope to seize them and contribute positively wherever I can.

During one of my journeys through Africa, I stumbled upon a country called Botswana. Despite knowing little about it initially, I swiftly discerned its distinctiveness from other African nations. The presence of well-maintained roads, efficient immigration and customs processes, and quality accommodation caught my attention. Intrigued by this unique environment, I went to see if there was a stock market. I found out there was a stock market there, so I started investing.

Even so, I don’t think it is always that easy. While there are occasions when we encounter positive aspects in a country, there are also instances where we encounter challenges and encounter less desirable elements. Unfortunately, the world is filled with both good and bad people.

Regarding strategy, how has your approach to investing changed over the years?

The best strategy is that everyone should invest only in what they truly understand. Avoid relying on internet advice, television pundits, or the opinions of others. Only invest in what you yourself know. Everybody knows a lot about something, so, if you stay with what you know, you will probably be a successful investor.

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However, each scenario is unique, and it's crucial to recognize that if you encounter a new situation, you need to spend time learning about it. You need to invest time in understanding the people, the industry, and the products involved in any situation; otherwise, you risk losing money. Nearly every time I lost money, it is because I didn't invest enough time in research. It was my responsibility, my fault, for not delving deeply enough into the situation. This holds true in nearly every case. Therefore, if individuals invest in what they understand and diligently conduct their research, they are likely to be successful.

In 2015, you weren’t particularly enthusiastic about the growth narrative of India, but it appears that something has shifted for India in the past decade or so. So how would you describe your confidence in Indian equities at this point?

Well, I am embarrassed to say I do not own Indian shares now. Anybody who owns the Indian shares and could not sell; they should keep them. And I think for the first time in my lifetime, India is going to be a very good place to invest. The primary reason being the Indian government comprehends the economy and seems to have grasped the importance of investment and wealth generation for the nation's benefit and the well-being of its citizens. Therefore, I think that people should delve deeper into the Indian economic landscape and consider making investments.

I prefer to make investments with a long-term perspective, typically aiming for a minimum holding period of around five years to much more. I seek out opportunities where positive developments are expected to unfold over many years. I'm not a fan of short-term trading; rather, I prefer the stability and growth potential of long-term investments.

I am always on the lookout for promising investments worldwide, including in India. While the Indian stock market is currently at an all-time high, I haven't invested there because I missed the opportunity. However, I remain hopeful that if prices decline in India or elsewhere, I'll identify good investment opportunities. India, in particular, offers great potential in various sectors such as agriculture and tourism, among others.

The manufacturing sector has received considerable attention in India's current narrative, particularly due to the government's emphasis on infrastructure and efforts to boost economic growth. How do you perceive the investment prospects in manufacturing?

India aspires to enhance its manufacturing prowess, and it's actively working towards that goal. With its abundant intellectual capital and skilled workforce, India possesses all the essential ingredients. While historical factors have limited India's manufacturing capabilities compared to countries like Korea, the tide is turning, driven by the government’s initiatives. Although this transformation may not occur immediately, it's inevitable that India will emerge as a manufacturing powerhouse in the future.

Do you think it is a more opportune moment to sell rather than buy in the current market, whether it is stocks or commodities?

Currently, commodities are cheaper than stocks. While stocks in many countries are reaching record highs, commodities are down. For instance, silver is down by 40% or 50% from its peak, and other commodities like sugar have also seen a dramatic fall. Although gold is at an all-time high, there are still opportunities to be found in commodities.

Historically, you've preferred gold and silver. What are your current thoughts on these commodities as an investment compared to equities?

I've held onto gold and silver for many years, never selling any because I believe that during times of crisis, having them provides a sense of security. They've always been a safe haven in turbulent times. While I've invested in various other commodities like sugar, rice, and copper, gold and silver have remained constants in my portfolio, and I believe they should be in everyone's. Indian women, in particular, have shown me the value of gold and silver. They seem to possess a deep understanding of their importance, and their wisdom has resonated with me. It's a sentiment shared by many in India, passed down through generations. Seeing this during my visits to India has reinforced my belief in the enduring value of gold and silver.

What are your expectations from the election in India? Are you waiting for the elections to get over and maybe then jump into the Indian stock market?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has certainly implemented several measures beneficial to the Indian economy. If he secures victory, I expect the Indian stock market to remain strong. If the Indian stock market goes down a lot then I would change my strategy and start investing in India again.

While I don't anticipate a major downturn before the election but if it were to happen, I would seize the opportunity and invest more. I typically invest in countries when their markets are down.

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