Home / News / India /  Rakesh Jhunjhunwala: India's Warren Buffett's image was not soiled with scams
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Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was mostly an exception to the general rule that Dalal Street should always be looked at with suspicion because stock market investments are generally considered to contain dangers and those who acquired large fortunes frequently made news as con artists.

The growing number of investors in India who wanted an early entry into scrips that would eventually break out keenly monitored every move in his portfolio. For Jhunjhunwala, some of the wagers, particularly those in the infrastructure sector, were unsuccessful. However, the fabled "humbling effect" was absent because he frequently achieved success in other fields, demonstrating his Midas touch.

As evidenced by the most popular characterization of him—"India's own Warren Buffett"—Jhunjhunwala, a partner at RARE Enterprises who rose to build a $6 billion (almost 48,000 crore) fortune and become known as the nation's largest private investor, leaves behind a comparatively clean slate.

The newest "Big Bull" in the more regulated market had less baggage on this front than names like Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, whose rise in fortunes in post-liberalized India was soiled with scam connections. Jhunjhunwala was a forerunner of the market-based economy in the early 1990s because he was blatant about wealth creation and flaunted his connections.

Jhunjhunwala did not garner much attention for frauds, but he did appear in certain instances of insider trading and was rumoured to have front-run on stock trades before significant news events. He and others agreed to pay 37 crore in 2021 to resolve an insider trading case involving Aptech through the consent route, which allows a person to put a case to rest without admitting or denying the allegations.

Also Read: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's first big profit came from this Tata group stock

Talk about his behaviour also arose when he made a quick 70 crore profit on an investment in Zee Enterprises by purchasing the stock days before its board decided to combine with rival Sony Pictures Networks in 2021. However, Jhunjhunwala became one of the most well-known figures in the Indian markets thanks to his long-term, research-based wagers on stocks like Titan and Indian Hotels Company.

People in the know say behind the value creation was an operation of deep research carried out by him and analysts at the Nariman Point office of RARE Enterprises (which is named after the first two letters in the name of Rakesh and his wife Rekha).

Also Read: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala investment advice to Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and others

And when companies underperformed, Jhunjhunwala was unsparing, like the iconic character of Gordon Gekko in the movie 'Wall Street'. Managements of quite a few portfolio companies faced questions from an irate Jhunjhunwala himself on analyst calls. The management of Titan, which has been a two-decade old investment for Jhunjhunwala, was at the receiving end of one such tough public questioning in 2020.

Outspokenness and wit came to define Jhunjhunwala. Unlike most of his contemporaries who shied away from having a public profile, Jhunjhunwala participated in industry seminars and spoke passionately on a variety of subjects beyond the markets as well.

Many of his views were closely aligned with that of the ruling NDA as well, something which made his 2021 meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi less surprising.

His newest venture in the heavily-regulated airlines sector, Akasa Air, also had a smooth take off.

Also Read: Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's 10 investment principles that made him Big Bull of Dalal Street

But things did not always come easy and having loads of money did not help every time. His home buy in a tony south Mumbai locality is often cited as a story of perseverance.

Along with his wife Rekha, Jhunjhunwala bought the 14 flats that made Ridgeway Apartments in deals spread over five years, demolished the structure after gaining full control and is now building a 14-storey pad on the same plot.

The trader in Jhunjhunwala drew life lessons from all his deals and reflected -- publicly, as was his wont -- on the apartment buy as well. Jhunjhunwala said he had to sell his holdings in leading rating agency Crisil to fund what was an emotional decision of buying flats in Ridgeway, and regretted having missed the rally in the stock later.

He often asked investors to speculate less and research more. He likened day-trading to having a mistress, which he said was fine but one should not have many of them, and asked everyone to concentrate on having long-term strategies as well.

He was frequently underdressed and was not the dapper merchant in well-tailored suits. Most of his public appearances consisted of a modest pants shirt and betel nut (gutka or paan) in his mouth. But he was a foodie and a drinker. His early stock market antics were briefly mentioned in the recently published and wildly successful online series "Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story."

Not given to shying away from sharing his reflections, Jhunjhunwala had lately spoken about not paying enough attention to his health during his pursuit of wealth lasting several decades. He was down with multiple ailments and struggled to stand and walk towards the end.

For some, the wheelchair-bound Jhunjhunwala's dancing performance at a private party to the well-known Bollywood song "Kajra Re" established his persona. They claimed he was injured but still alive. Jhunjunwala was seated in a wheelchair and appeared feeble at the launch of Akasa Air's flying operations on August 7 at the Mumbai airport, which caused many to worry about his health.

Jhunjunwala, who often spoke about nobody being capable of predicting the weather, death, market or women, breathed his last on Sunday morning.

Veteran banker Uday Kotak tweeted: "Rakesh Jhunjhunwala: my school and college mate. One year my junior. Believed stock India was undervalued. He is right. Amazingly sharp in understanding financial markets. We spoke regularly, more so during Covid. Will miss you Rakesh!"

(With PTI inputs)

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