This is a story straight from Ripleys’ Believe It Or Not. Shailesh Menon of ET has unearthed an incredible story of a few investors who have made buying stocks and attending AGMs their full-time occupation.
Leading the list is Janak Mathuradas, a sprightly nonagenarian. His portfolio boasts of a mind-boggling 3500 companies. Every stock that you have ever heard of, and several that you would never have heard of, is to be found in that portfolio.
The second place is shared by Arun Goenka, Indra Bagri, Ashalata & Jitendra Prakash Maheshwari. Each has a portfolio of over 1,000 companies. Ashalata & Jitendra Prakash Maheshwari’s portfolio is worth about Rs 5-6 crore. The portfolio values of the other stalwarts is not known.
Ashalata Maheshwari’s expertise is said to be in writing “shaayaris” and cheeky liners calling the top brass various names like ‘Eid ka chand’, ‘Chaudhavin ka chand’ etc. She is apparently in great demand from fellow shareholders and does “intense brainstorming” with them on what to say at the AGMs.
Aspi Bhesania comes third in the list with a portfolio of over 800 Companies and Vinod Dadlani is fourth with a portfolio of over 500 companies. His net worth is said to about Rs 25-30 crore.
One point that Shailesh Menon has missed out on is the psychological reason behind the obsession of these investors to load up on as many companies as possible in their portfolios.
While we can’t be judgemental about our fellow investors, my guess is that these investors get a big kick out of the whole process of going to AGMs, looking billionaires like Mukesh Ambani in the eye, asking so-called tough questions and imagining that the top brass is quivering with fear. They also get their moment in the sun by singing poems and shaayaris to their captive audience.
There is an interesting piece by Sidin Vadukut, Managing Editor of livemint, on the theatrical farce that AGMs are.
He describes how eccentric group of old men and middle-aged women line up a day before the AGM to meet the company secretary to try “amateur blackmail”. Many offer not to ask inconvenient questions, or ask convenient ones, in exchange for some petty cash or freebies.
Sidin points out that the army of shareholders, most of them pensioners and old housewives, come for the freebies – caps, stationary, discount vouchers – and their moments of glory. They get a chance to read out Urdu couplets that compares the CEO’s handsome face to the sun, the moon and the stars to a smattering of applause from the audience.
He also paints a graphical visual of how, shortly before the designated start-time a series of expensive cars roll up to the venue. As the top management gets out of the cars, the “Dad’s Army” throngs around the approaching board of directors trying to shake hands and have a quick word. “It was not all that different from the way professional wrestlers walk toward the ring through a forest of outstretched hands, distributing high-fives” he says.
“For connoisseurs of Indian theatre, AGMs still offer good value. One share each in a handful of companies seems like a sound investment. In return you are guaranteed exclusive annual access to an artform in its twilight years. And snack boxes.” Sidin says with a chuckle in his voice.