Billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, nicknamed the Warren Buffett of India, passed away on Sunday. The investor, who made his fortune on the stock market, died at the age of 62, a week after the launch of his low-cost airline Akasa Air.
He is survived by his wife and three children. He leaves holdings in around three dozen Indian companies and a legacy of one-liners like “the trend is your friend” and “the only rule I have is that there are no rules.”
“All I’ve ever known is trading and investing. I don’t want to do anything else in life,” Jhunjhunwala told Reuters 10 years ago. “I’ll quit the day I die.” On Monday, he told CNBC that India’s economy, Asia’s third-largest, was “entering a golden age,” expressing hope that “my fellow Indians are as optimistic as I am.”
Jhunjhunwala was a huge public supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, praising him on Sunday as “indomitable, full of life, resourceful and insightful”.
His ideas on economics and business made him a television celebrity. Jhunjhunwala’s communication skills helped small investors understand how the bourse works, said a number of businessmen and bankers based in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, who had interacted with him for more than 30 years.
Born in the state of Rajasthan and a civil servant as an accountant, Jhunjhunwala began investing in stocks as a teenager and went on to manage an equity trading company, Rare Enterprises. His net worth was about $6 billion, according to Forbes.
He made his first big profit by buying 5,000 shares in Tata Tea with borrowed money, confident that markets had underestimated the potential of a company looking to grow at a time of increasing yield production. He tripled his money in a few months.
Bigger and better investments followed, including a leveraged bet in the late 1980s in iron ore exporter Sesa Goa. Jhunjhunwala bought the shares at Rs60-65 and sold them at Rs2,200.
His firm’s investments include many Tata Group companies, such as Tata Motors, watchmaker Titan, Tata Communications and Indian Hotels Co, which runs the Taj hotels.
Other investments include Indiabulls Housing Finance, Star Health Insurance, Federal Bank and vocational training company Aptech Ltd.
Jhunjhunwala had explained that the growth of the Indian stock market since the country’s economy was liberalized in 1991, a period in which the main Sensex index grew 40-fold, was a major factor in its success.
“Investor, fearless risk taker, masterful understanding of the stock market, clear in communication – a leader in his own right,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman wrote in a Twitter tribute. “He had a strong belief in the strength and capabilities of India.”
Uday Kotak, CEO of Kotak Mahindra Bank and a fellow student at school and university, said Jhunjhunwala “believed Indian equities were undervalued. He’s right.”