On the eve of its 75th Independence Day, India lost one of its biggest supporters. Jhunjhunwala, billionaire investor, stock trader, qualified chartered accountant and philanthropist, who recently became the co-owner of India’s newest airline, passed away after fighting several health-related issues for the last few years. He was 62.
Family members found Jhunjhunwala unconscious early Sunday morning and rushed him to the city’s Breach Candy hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.
Tributes poured in. Calling him ‘indomitable’, PM Narendra Modi said he was 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. His passing away is saddening. My condolences to his family and admirers. Om Shanti,” the PM tweeted.
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was indomitable. Full of life, witty and insightful, he leaves behind an indelible contribution… https://t.co/AtkyDRUhnc
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1660449684000
In October 2021, Jhunjhunwala had met Modi in Delhi and famously said “India ka time aa gaya”, meaning India’s time on the global stage had arrived.
“He was the biggest India bull…always believed in the India story,” a person who knew Jhunjhunwala for over three decades told TOI. “If you cut his arm, the colour of his blood would be Tiranga.”
At Times Network’s India Economic Conclave in March 2021, Jhunjhunwala had said that not only the current decade, even the current century was poised to be India’s century.
Jhunjhunwala’s rise to become one of the most successful and richest investors in India started with an initial capital of Rs 5,000. In 1985, when he had entered the market, his dream was to earn Rs 1 lakh a month, he had told TOI during an interview in 2011. Almost 37 years later, on a good day he was earning several crores of rupees. On Sunday, Forbes estimated his net worth at about Rs 44,000 crore.
Although known widely for his hugely profitable investing, he had the rare ability to mix his investing acumen with sharp trading skills. Trading and investing in the stock market require distinctly varied skills.
As an investor Jhunjhunwala always backed promoters who were truthful, had a strong positive attitude and understood their business well. During the late 1990s and early 200s, he had invested in some of the little-known companies that had baffled many seasoned investors of that time. He was buying not just a few shares but minority stakes in then relatively unknown companies like Titan, Crisil and Praj Industries.
“He had bought about 5% in Titan when its market cap was just about Rs 500-700 crore. He still holds that stake,” said a person who had worked with Jhunjhunwala in the past. On Friday, Titan’s market cap was Rs 2.2 lakh crore, a 400-times jump since Jhunjhunwala had bought his stake in the watches-to-jewellery major. He had repeated the same multi-bagger strategy in Crisil, Praj Industries and several other companies.
Repetition of mind-blowing successes often earns the person several sobriquets and Jhunjhunwala was no different. ‘Rakeshbhai’ to friends and close associates, he also carried nicknames like ‘India’s Warren Buffet’, ‘RJ’ and ‘Rocky’.
Great successes also produce legendary tales. And there are quite a few about Jhunjhunwala as well.
One of those is about how he spent Rs 32 lakh in one night on the choicest whiskies and wines at a south Mumbai bar after his bearish bets on one of India’s technology bellwethers came in correct and he made several crores in profit in just one trading session in late 2003.
The world knows about how he made his billions but not many knew how he spent part of his fortune. Giving back to society without too many people knowing about it was his philosophy for all his philanthropic ventures.
A few years ago he was helping run a small boarding house in a Mumbai suburb for children from marginalised sections of society. He also helped run a school for special children in central Mumbai, contributed to a new university in north India, set up an eye hospital in the outskirts of Mumbai and also heavily funded an NGO working to improve India’s legislative set-up through research & information.
Not only did he help such institutions and ventures with his own money, he also persuaded others to do so. “Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was committed to many good causes,” said Nilesh Shah, group president & MD, Kotak Mutual Fund. “Not only did he commit his money, he persuaded his friends to contribute for the same. (He) was well known for his stock picking. (But) he never talked about the good causes he was supporting,” Shah said. “He believed in the right hand not knowing where the left hand is donating,” said another close friend.
His philanthropic ideas were seeded in his mind by his father. The first time he was listed among the country’s richest, his father, a man of principles whom the junior Jhunjhunwala idolised, was happy about his achievements. However, “he asked me to use more of it for charity,” Jhunjhunwala had once told TOI . And when he was quizzed about his net worth, he had a standard reply, “I have far less wealth than people think but I have much more than I need”.