Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, one of India’s richest stock market investors, died at the age of 62 on Sunday in Mumbai, following a cardiac arrest. A doctor at Breach Candy Hospital, where he was brought dead at 6.45 am, said the ace investor had uncontrolled diabetes and kidney problems
The news of his demise sent shockwaves across the investing community and led to an outpouring of grief.
“Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was indomitable. Full of life, witty and insightful, he leaves behind an indelible contribution to the financial world. He was also very passionate about India’s progress,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted: “Investor, bold risk taker, masterly understanding of the stock market, clear in communication… Had strong belief in India’s strength and capabilities.”
Jhunjhunwala’s bold bets, investment track record and passion for investing made him a revered figure on Dalal Street, where he started his investment journey in 1985 with just Rs 5,000.
The veteran investor, who was active in the markets until his very last, had more than 1 per cent holdings in close to three dozen companies — last valued at more than Rs 32,000 crore. Besides, he had holdings in several unlisted firms, such as India’s newest airline Akasa Air, which took its maiden flight earlier this month.
Jhunjhunwala had a diabetes problem for a long time and was wheelchair-bound for over a year but his health took a turn for the worse only recently, said people in the know. Yet until the very last, he had an indomitable spirit as was seen in a widely-shared video of him dancing on a wheelchair to a popular Bollywood number.
He also produced a few films, such as 2012 Sridevi-starrer English Vinglish.
Jhunjhunwala became a household name, thanks to his stock market acumen and ability to make winning bets — which even earned him the tag of India’s Warren Buffet. Like Buffet, his witty one-liners around investing were cheered by investors, many of whom closely followed his portfolio changes to get a peek into the ace investors’ mind and badgered him for stock tips.
But he cautioned investors on many occasions against replicating his stocks and ideas.
Jhunjhunwala multiplied his investments multifold in stocks, such as Titan, Lupin, and Crisil. He also ended up holding several dud companies in his portfolio like DHFL, A2Z Maintenance and DB Realty.
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Jhunjhunwala had the rare skill of dabbling in both trading and investing. He once said his trading skills not just provided him with the capital for long-term investment but also sharpened his investment skills.
A chartered accountant by profession, Jhunjhunwala was a regular at quarterly earnings calls of companies where he held stakes and developed a knack for asking pertinent questions to the management.
Over the past two decades, he earned the moniker Big Bull for his unwavering faith in the India story, bullish commentary on the economy and markets, and his willingness to remain invested even during challenging times.
His success and conviction in the markets brought many investors into the market fold in India, where less than 5 per cent of the population directly invests in stocks.
In the early 90s, Jhunjhunwala, son of an income-tax official, formed part of the so-called ‘bear cartel’, betting against the stocks of the then Big Bull Harshad Mehta, who propped up stock prices using bank credit.
The bear cartel had the last laugh as the Mehta-backed stocks came crashing down as the scam was unearthed but they had several anxious moments as the stocks they had shorted kept rising. Jhunjhunwala also earned a reputation for staying out of the dot-com boom of 2001. More recently, he showed apprehension towards investing in start-ups and cryptocurrencies.
Jhunjhunwala on many occasions credited his father and Radhakishan Damani (a veteran investor and promoter of the Dmart retail chain) for his success.
On a few occasions, Jhunjhunwala also had a tryst with the capital market regulator. Last year, he, wife Rekha, and a few others agreed to pay Rs 37 crore to Sebi for settling a case pertaining to violation of insider trading norms while dealing in shares of Aptech, where he was a promoter.
Those who knew Jhunjhunwala said he was always ready to help. In 2021, he entered the Edelgive Hurun India Philanthropy list with an annual donation of Rs 50 crore. He told a media outlet that he planned to transfer Rs 5,000 crore to his philanthropic foundation and planned to keep giving until the corpus reached Rs 25,000 crore.
Jhunjhunwala is survived by his wife Rekha, two sons, and a daughter.