|Publisher: Penguin Business (paperback)|
Author: Neil Borate, Aprajita Sharma, and Aditya Kondawar
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala (RJ) was a man of conviction and epigrammatic wit. Often called the Big Bull because of his unwavering bullishness towards the Indian economy, RJ was the poster boy for retail investors.
Whether it was the small screen or a live gathering, he had this immaculate ability to connect with the masses. His fearlessness in speaking his mind sometimes bordered on the audacious, but that was quintessential RJ for you.
After his death in August 2022, hundreds of newspaper columns, long-form posts, and videos depicting his bytes from the old interviews were published. Sometime in February this year, The Big Bull of Dalal Street – How Rakesh Jhunjhunwala made his fortune surfaced on Amazon India’s pre-order list. Without a moment’s hesitation, I placed the order.
The book arrived on my doorstep with a big promise to unveil Jhunjhunwala’s financial acumen. But I’ll say this, it serves better as a doorstop than a tribute to the departed financial maven. Authored by Neil Borate, Aprajita Sharma, and Aditya Kondawar, the book is as profound as a goldfish’s insight into marine biology.
Just like a bad trade, the book appears to be a hurriedly taken decision, one that screams “short-term profit”. The lack of originality is blatant from the get-go as a substantial chunk of the book seems to be a montage of Jhunjhunwala’s past interviews and public appearances.
I am no author, but it’s clear to me that certain elementary rules have to be followed when you write about a revered personality. The first thing that you do when you write a biography is you dig deep, you go beyond the persona.
You interview acquaintances, friends, and family. Though The Big Bull of Dalal Street does have bytes from other famed investors such as Shankar Sharma, Ramesh Damani, and Sameer Arora, they are far from insightful.
A discerning reader won’t take long to figure out that most of these interviews were either quick conversations on the phone or replies on Twitter DMs.
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Including a bibliography, the book runs to 162 pages. Of these, over 60 pages detail the case studies of the companies where he was invested. This part of the book is as irrelevant and as bad as it gets.
Imagine one-third of the book goes to talking about RJ’s investments in Titan, CRISIL, Lupin, DHFL, Mandhana Retail venture, and A2Z Infra, but the authors, for some strange reason, decided that, instead of exploring Jhunjhunwala’s investment strategies, they would embark on a tedious journey of the companies themselves. And when they did deign to write about RJ’s investments, they wrapped it all up in one paltry page.
Take, for instance, the chapter on Lupin. Authors drone on about the origins of the company for several pages as the reader awaits the juicy part. When it does arrive, it turns out to be this one-pager where they unashamedly list RJ’s buying chronology in the company.
Let me encapsulate it for you here: “RJ started buying Lupin shares in 2003 taking it to 3.45% stake…bla bla bla…from 2007, he gradually started reducing his stake gradually….bla bla bla…and by September 2021, his stake was less than 1%.” Did that pique your interest?
Much like myself, the average reader yearns to uncover the thought process behind RJ’s stock picks and his approach to financial analysis for these investments. I’m not after redundant facts!
I’m intrigued by the intricacies of his investment ideology. What made a certain company an appealing investment for him? Who were his confidantes in these ventures? What was the number-crunching logic he employed?
Overall, The Big Bull of Dalal Street gives you the impression of being a half-baked book; it does shine in some parts but those parts occur far and few between. There is simply no journalistic input!
In the financial world, they say, “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.” This book, unfortunately, is neither a bull nor a bear, but a piggy bank smashed to cash in on Jhunjhunwala’s fame.
What Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s legacy and all of his followers deserve is something like Alice Schroeder’s The Snowball, what we got instead is this cash grab of a book. The Big Bull deserved better, and so do we.
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