May 29, 2009

Missed the Bus?Dont miss the Flight

Many individual investors feel that they missed the recent stock market rally. The stock market gave a fantastic over 30% returns in just a couple of months and stocks with high beta (higher volatility to the market) gave more than 50%. Those who invested in stocks then (and very few of them did) enjoyed enormous gains. While those who had put in their money a year ago are still struggling to break-even. But it was not only the retail investors who missed this years spectacular rally.

Almost all Mutual Funds (supposed to be managed by smart money managers) were sitting idle all these months. Mutual Fund data shows that funds were sitting on a cash pile of upto Rs 20,000 crore !!! as of April-end. They were waiting for the market to correct post-election. But just the opposite happened. The election results were un-expectedly positive, the market zoomed and everyone were a mere spectator to the rally. But money managers should have realized that valuations had already hit the bottom. Unsystematic Risk was still there and there was no strong reason enough to be optimistic but it was clear that many stocks were dirt cheap and the path from thereon was north-wards towards their fair price even though at a slow pace. But they totally missed it. What are these funds doing now? They are waiting again as they think valuations are too high now ! to enter so they want to wait before prices correct again. These Investment Mangers advise investors not to time their Investment and have a long-term horizon to achieve decent returns. But what they themselves do is the opposite.

Individual and Institutional Investors may have missed the bus by not getting in the market. I think, if they continue to wait further, they might miss the Flight towards the next rally.

May 15, 2009

Where to Invest?

Usually when people think of Investment, they think in terms of monetary gains. They ask questions like "If i invest X amount in this opportunity, how much shall i get in return?", "How can i make my money grow 10% in a year?",etc,etc. Today, the list of instruments to invest in is virtually endless...from bank deposits to stocks to real estate investment to Exchange Traded Funds and to even complex derivatives like Index Futures, almost all products are available to invest in for retail investors like you and me and that too at the simple click of a mouse ! Amazing isnt it?

Ofcourse Money is very important. But easy access to and a wide product variety creates confusion due to lack of proper knowledge and might create frustration if your decisions go wrong. The Question is "Are monetary gains the only success criteria in Investment?" I dont think so if you look at Investment from a different angle that is. The concept is simple to understand but might be difficult to implement.

If you want to be really successfuly in Life, Invest more in YOURSELF. By "Invest", i dont necessarily mean only in terms of money. It can be just your Time.
Invest to get a good education, Invest to upgrade your skills and get a broader and matured view of the world around you. Invest for a better health for you and your family. Go for a Jog outside if you can't afford going to the Gym ! Invest your time and energy to make relationships stronger. Invest time in Listening to Yourself. Invest in ways to enhance your beauty (get atleast 8 hours sleep per day and drink more water; its for free isnt it? ! )

These "Investments" shall give you "returns" that are not clearly "measurable" (we have a bad tendency to measure everything in terms of money !) but immensely beneficial for a healthy mind, body, and peaceful living. This is the biggest dividend that any investment can give you. And this matters more than just a hefty bank balance. I think most of you would agree on this. Happy Investing ;-)

May 10, 2009

Is INDIA really a global power?

The other day i was wondering if the image of INDIA has really changed in the minds of the outside world especially the west. Statistics indicate that the worlds one-fifth population consist of Indians or are of Indian origin. But is the country today considered as an upcoming and powerful asian giant just like China is or is it still considered as just a cheap destination for outsourcing IT and BPO call center work with decent english language support?

While speaking to my European and American colleagues over lunch, i was shocked to know that they still think India mainly as a country of Camels and Elephants! I dont know if it is their true feeling or a deliberate comment. Here in Japan, indians are considered as good english speaking people with strong IT and Math skills. But is that all that indians and India as a nation is? Is the country today thought of as a real and strong upcoming force and a nation that can probably rise above the major first world countries in another decade or two? Many outside India wont think so. Why? Why are we not taken seriously yet by the outside world?

In my view, Indians lack Branding and Marketing skills. Majority are still quite behind in terms of communication and leadership skills. We might be good in Math and some English. We might be equally hard-working and dedicated to our work like the Chinese are. But what we really lack are the soft skills. The skills that can make people believe in you, trust you, follow you and stand by you. We fail to project a strong and interesting image of our country to the outside world. We lack the skills to attract more foreign tourists and thereby earn forex revenues.

Not enough is done to get us recognized and appreciated. Okay, outside India we are considered as good and nice people. People who can follow instructions and get the job done. But are we considered highly competitive, aggressive, and strong leaders like the Chinese are? NOT AT ALL !

Agreed that we need to improve on our manufacturing capability and product quality but what also needs to be achieved is brand creation, recognition, and respect. For this to happen, soft skills need a big-time upgrade and so does the civic sense ! A recent poll ranked India towards the bottom in terms of civic sense among developing nations. A stricter government needs to accomplish this. Would anyone dare to throw garbage anywhere on the streets in Singapore or talk on a mobile phone while driving a car in Tokyo or blow car horns un-thinkably and endlessly? Such things are near-impossible in these places. So why not implement and follow them in India too? People attitude and image change is what is the need of the hour in order to achieve true global recognition and success in the long-term. And this is more important than tackling Terrorism which is a threat to almost every nation today.