Home / Money / Personal Finance /  Why 33-year-old Tamilnadu Investors’ Association matters so much

It’s December, and Chennai is in the midst of its annual marghazhi music season, when people throng various sabhas (halls) for the concerts—both music and dance. It is also the time that visitors find time to savour the delicious ‘canteen’ food served at many concert venues—dishes that are loved as much as the music itself! But, at the Tamilnadu Investors’ Association (TIA)—which has been attracting investors for over 30 years—the opportunity to listen to the wisdom of top-notch investors and learn from the experience of older members is the biggest draw and not the food (mostly the humble filter coffee and some snacks) served at its Saturday and Sunday gatherings.

“I decided to join TIA after attending one of its 20-20 Ideas Summit. There was no pomp and show, and the speakers came straight to the point, which I really liked," says Akshat Jain, a businessman who has been a member of TIA since 2018.

 Tamilnadu Investors’ Association
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Tamilnadu Investors’ Association

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Long innings

TIA was founded in 1989 by K.Kannan, a former banker, along with three others—N Venkateshwaran, P Narayanswamy and A.K. Narayan— with the objective of educating small investors and protecting investor interest.

What sets TIA apart from several other investor associations (IAs) is the fact that it is a very actively-run organization. Its members have been meeting regularly over the last 32 years or so. “During the Harshad Mehta time, members were meeting every Sunday morning," says A.K. Narayan, a Chennai-based financial planner, and TIA’s former and longest-serving president (1996-2011).

According to Shyam Sekhar, chief ideator, ithought advisory, and ex-president, TIA, the organization has sustained because of the commitment of people like Narayan who built a very strong foundation and culture. Today, TIA is a 1,000-member association headed by a nine-member committee of members . The annual report and the audited statement of accounts are presented to members for their approval at the TIA annual general meeting (AGM).

What has also perhaps stoked up interest in the association is the strong equity culture in Chennai that has attracted all sorts of investors, including IT professionals and home makers. “The south has relatively more patient capital, and the investment culture is aligned to that. TIA is making examples of people who have patient capital and are succeeding," says Sekhar.

Association with Sebi

In fact, TIA became the first investor association (IA) to be registered by market regulator Sebi in 1992. While the recognition is a matter of pride for TIA, it comes with responsibilities too. All Sebi-registered IAs have to abide by the regulator’s code of conduct for such associations. “The registration has to be renewed every three years, and an IA that has not conducted itself properly will lose this," says Narayan. Going by the list on the Sebi website, there are only 24 recognized IAs as of May 2019.

Sebi’s code of conduct forbids an IA from recommending or promoting any security, issuer, or intermediary, or from acting as an agent of any issuer, intermediary or listed company. Though TIA discusses stocks and investing, it ensures compliance with the Sebi code and so does not recommend any stocks. To make its stance clear, speaker presentations at TIA events carry disclaimers to this effect. Narayan adds further, “We invite not only members but also investors at large to our events". Except for its Saturday ‘study circle’ meetings that are exclusive for members, other TIA events are open to everyone.

TIA has been associated with Sebi in other ways too. For example, Narayan was the chairman of the SEBI Committee that drafted the code of conduct for IAs. He served as a member on other Sebi committees too during his tenure, bringing in the investors’ perspective to these meetings. According to A. Balasubramanian, MD & CEO, Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC, TIA is very passionate about and committed to its work. “It is an institution that enjoys high credibility with the market regulator."

Creating informed investors

TIA conducts free-of-charge monthly security awareness programs. “These are Sebi-sponsored events that are hosted at halls in Chennai on a Sunday, and are open to the public. During covid, Sebi asked us to conduct programmes via Webex platform and now they are encouraging us to conduct them physically and we are doing that,“ says Srinivasu Kedarasetti, the outgoing TIA president. The cost of these events is reimbursed by the regulator. Also, expert speakers are invited to the ‘study circle’ meetings held at its office in Nungambakkam, Chennai. “The meeting covers topics such as stock-specific themes, market trends, macro fundamentals, financial planning, commodities, mutual funds, technical analysis, etc. All these topics are also discussed formally at the Sebi securities awareness programmes but the study circle meetings facilitate discussions among members. These are more about knowledge-sharing and peer-learning," says Kedarasetti.

However, what most investors look forward to are its annual flagship events such as ‘Bullet Proof Investing’ and ‘20-20 Ideas Summit’, where the who’s who of the investing world gather together every year to share their stock investing ideas. These are ticketed events (with a concessional rate for TIA members) hosted at various hotels, attracting investors from Tamil Nadu and beyond. These run to packed audiences of 350-400.

Bullet Proof Investing, for instance, focuses on the investing process, behavioral finance, investor psychology, learnings from past experiences and covers broader themes such as the Indian economy and outlook for the next decade, explains Kedarasetti. For the last such event held in September, the speaker list included the likes of Prashant Jain, Ramesh Damani, Vijay Kedia and Ridham Desai. The 20-20 Ideas Summit invites 20 eminent speakers to discuss one specific stock for 20 minutes each. That said, the focus of each presentation is not solely on the stock itself but on the thought process that went into shortlisting it.

Yet another annual event is the association’s day-long programme on Fundamental Analysis where an expert is invited to talk about how to read balance sheets, how to understand a company’s financials and evaluate the management.

TIA membership is open to all but given that most events and meetings are conducted physically, it’s best suited to those based out of Chennai. TIA offers both an annual and lifetime membership at a nominal fee. For this, you can contact TIA via their Twitter handle @TIA_Investors.

Journey through time

TIA has been instrumental in creating an evolved local investor community, but how has the association itself evolved over time? Sekhar has this to say, “In the 90s, all our efforts were aimed at telling people not to lose money on the wrong kind of fixed deposits and fly-by-the-night equity companies." This changed with time. “By the first decade of this century, we slowly started telling people that there are ways to make money by equity investing. So, it became more equity driven between 2000 and 2010. After that, our focus has been on creating a very, very strong investment culture," he adds.

It is no wonder then that TIA has been attracting a younger crowd. According to Narayan, earlier only older and retired people were becoming members, but many young IT professionals have come in over the last 10 years.

Member speak

Jain, who is one of the younger TIA members, says, “In 2018, I was still discovering my investment style. Discussions with some of the experienced members helped me mould my thinking and made me a more confident investor." As a result, he “was at peace with my portfolio during the March 2020 market fall, and unlike in the past, did not feel the need to keep checking my portfolio".

For Vignesh Nagappan, who hails from a business family, all his investment knowledge came from TIA, and this, in turn, helped him diversify his capital which was earlier invested entirely in the family business. “TIA’s Saturday meetings have helped me make more friends and bounce my investment ideas off them," says Nagappan.

Meanwhile, Jain is puzzled by one strange fact: TIA does not have a website even today!

And finally, women make up for only around 10% of TIA’s members. That’s one major change everybody can look forward to.

Elsewhere in Mint

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Maulik Madhu
Maulik Madhu is a special correspondent at Mint. She started her career at the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and forayed into business journalism in 2012. Choosing to specialize in personal finance, she worked at FundsIndia and The Hindu Business Line, before joining Mint in March 2022.
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