August 20, 2008

My Personal investment journey - I

There is a certain level of curiosity in knowing what the other guy is making or getting in terms of investment returns. A lot of people and friends I know like to flaunt the returns they are getting from the market (The stock I bought last month doubled !!). Maybe it is an ego thing or maybe just a topic of discussion.

I personally prefer to discuss about specific ideas, both in person and on my blog. I find that more interesting and educational for me and others. As a result of this quirk, I have never discussed about the overall returns I have made from the stock market on my blog. I am not selling anything to anyone and just like to share my ideas with like minded people. I am happy if people read what I have to say and can learn something (maybe) with me.

I have been asked about my investing experience and the kind of returns I have made. I have made 32% returns (annualized and unleveraged) over the past 8-9 years following a value approach. These may not be the fantastic returns some of you expect or may have achieved. However they are far more than what I have targeted for myself. Investing is side thing for me and is not my profession. I primarily invest for myself and my family and prefer a buy and hold (not buy and forget) approach. My personal portfolio is low on risk and volatility as I prefer a
good night’s sleep.

It may be possible to get higher returns through alternative approaches. However I have found that value investing suits my temprament and the returns I have made are more than satisfactory for me.

A word of caution : I tend to hold a number of stocks which I discuss on this blog. However the purchase price for the stock and portfolio weightage of the stock makes a lot of difference to the overall returns. So please do not buy the stocks I discuss without your own analysis.

In terms of personal disclosure, this maybe as far I would like to go. I am not intending to disclose my overall portfolio and returns on an ongoing basis. Investing rationally is diffcult enough. I do not want to do it publicly and make it more diffcult for me.

However more important than the returns is my investment journey till date. I will be discussing the details in this and the next post. It is likely to be a long post, and maybe boring (no excitement in the way I invest). However what I have gone through may echo what you have or are going through.

1997-1999 (The start)
I had completed my MBA and was working in sales and marketing. I was responsible for handling the finances of my entire family and for me capital preservation was more important. I knew the basics of finance, however that was not sufficient to invest intelligently. An MBA education teaches you about corporate finance, but does not teach you to be an investor.

So during this phase I started learning the basics such as what is an FD, what is a mutual fund etc. Internet was not common then and so my learning was based on economic times and a few books I could get. There were no live quotes then, so one had to look at the papers to get the daily quotes.

During this period I came across the book – The warren buffett way and was competely struck by it. I was completely bowled over by warren buffett. I started reading any books I could get on him. I think I must have read around 20-25 books on him till date. These books led me to other investors like Benjamin graham, Phil fisher etc. By the end of 1999 I had read quite a few books on these masters.

This was more of a reading/ learning phase. The two stocks I bought during this phase were Reliance petroleum and Arvind mills. I read an article in business world on RPL and hence bought that stock. Arvind mills had given a presentation in my college some time back and I liked what I had heard and so went and bought a small amount of the stock.

Well, RPL did well and Arvind mills tanked as the denim industry went into a downturn.
Prior to these two stocks, I bought the following stocks also
IFCI – because the dividend yield was high
Karur vyasa – It was cheap on P/B basis
Larsen toubro – It was a well known company then though not a hot stock.

So by the end of 1999 (before the IT boom), I had a hodgepodge of stocks in my portfolio with most of them doing badly. The good thing was that I was learning and constantly re-evaluating the stocks I had. I soon realised that I had goofed up in some of my picks like IFCI and arvind mills and sold them at a good loss. The rest I held on.

2000 ( The greed phase)
By start of 2000, I felt I had learnt a lot and was ready for the dive ( don’t laugh). So starting from Jan 2000, I started looking at stocks. However all the reading for the last 2-3 years had made me wary of the IT stocks due to the high valuations. I luckily avoided picking any specific stocks during the early part of the year.

However it is not easy to avoid greed, especially if you are new to the market. Thinking that mutual funds are safe, I setup an SIP for some IT and general funds. Well, by the end of the year the IT funds and other funds had tanked and I got an expensive lesson.

Toward the end of the year, I started analsying a few companies and picked up SSI and asian paints. My analysis for asian paints was correct and I have benfitted from it. However in case of SSI I ignored the high valuations. I built a DCF model and pretty much made assumptions to justify the price. I
paid for it by losing 90% of my investment on it.

So by end of 2000, after 4 years of learning, all I had to show was a drop of 15% in personal investments and ofcourse a lot of learning in terms of what not to do.

The reason, I think I never gave up was because I was already in love with investing and reading and so was not very dissapointed by the losses. By the way, I had still done better than the market averages. Why is that important? I will come to it by the end of my investment journey

2001-2003 (rebuilding the portfolio)
By 2000, I had got an expensive lesson for being greedy and for ignoring valuations. However I never letup on my learning. I was actually enjoying the process and knew by then that I was fairly passionate about it (money or not). Access to information through the internet made the learning process easier too.

By mid 2001, I started re-analysing my portfolio and identifying my mistakes. Overall, I think I did not have too many. I sold off SSI and exited the IT funds. The rest of the portfolio remained the same. I started analysing stocks and picked up the following companies during the 2001-2003 phase

- Blue star
- Concor
- ICICI bank (had bought the IPO, just increased the holding)
- Marico
- Pidilite
- Gujarat gas

In addition I moved into a few good mutual funds and exited the poorly performing funds. By Mid 2003, my portfolio had done much better than the market, but was below cost in absolute terms as the market had been dropping for the last 2 years.

It is easy to look back and regret that mid 2003 was an all time low (index was around 2900) and one should have invested heavily into the market. But if like me, you were new to the market and had faced only a bear market, it was a very diffcult thing to do. It was difficult to see a bull market over the horizon.

In hindsight (which is always perfect), my portfolio was well positioned for bull run. It however did not feel that way at that time.

By the way, I was not done doing stupid things. I was sick of L&T’s performance (due to the cement division), their management and the stock price. So I sold it after 4 years at a 10% gain. What happened after that ? see

To be continued …..


xxdhoomxx said...

Great post Rohit. I can certainly identify to your "reading the books" phase as that's where I am. I am glad that internet is around so I can read and learn from expriences of the experienced investors like you.

I look forward to reading the rest of your journey. Thanks for sharing.


newbie amit said...

Great Post. Looking forward to rest of your journey..
Out of the blue I was analysing Balmer Lawrie and then I saw maruti details. To me maruti at 600 level goods a great buy..Book value is 237..Balmer and maruti are at almost same book value/Market value ratio. Growth rate of both the companies is almost comparable. Difference is in their industry. Maruti is a well know brand but lot of competition in Auto sector. What are your views on it? I am new to this investment world so trying to understand how to analyse companies.

VISHNU said...

Good Post Rohit,

My story:

I am always interested in Business and entrepreneurship. I have been reading about business through Economic times, Business Today, Outlook Business since 1996. But at that time I didn’t have much interest in investing, but I was damn interested in Business.

Bharati has grown in front of eyes. (Yes I didn’t buy their shares  ). Trent had more cash in their book and the market cap at that time was less than the cash. I was reading the story and was thinking “so what?”

One fine day, I came across a Book called “Rich Dad Poor Dad”, and then everything made sense. I have started rewriting my own journey based on my interests which is mainly Business and Investing. I have started doing Technical Investing based on Tips, subscription based websites. I lost all of my money. (Thanks Robert Kiosaki, as I have started with meagre sum of 3000 Rs)

Then I started reading books of Warren Buffet, Peter Lynch and Berkshire Hathway Annual Reports. I have changed my style to Warren Buffet. After reading WB, I became arrogant and thought that I have found bargain in TELEDATA and invested all of my savings in this company @ 20 Rs. (I have even attended their Annual Meeting and asked questions to the Director  ).

Then the script kept falling and falling. It went below 9 Rs and I was feeling terrible as the notional loss is more than 50% and the only saving in my hand evaporated. I stopped looking at my portfolio. Then said to everyone that investing is not my cup of tea. (I was still holding that share).

When I was in Singapore, I got some cash and feeling OK due to cash balance in my Bank and at last had the guts look at my Portfolio. Surprise!! My investment came back to the level of my original amount.(i.e 20 Rs). Then I sold off the shares at 21 Rs with some meagre profit. Wait….

After 6-7 months. Script was quoting around 100 Rs. (5 Bagger  )

This taught me big lessons
• Its very easy to find bargain (in fact there are thousands of people who can find bargain ) , but only few have the stomach to withstand the period needed to realise that value
• Do your home work always (in this case TELEDATA was very bad analysis though it was 5 bagger )
• Always pay less price
• Keep some cash in your Bank...(it will make you happy in terrible times)

Though I know that warren buffet make sense, I started realising that I am not sure how to apply that to Investing in Indian Scenario. Though not really investing using my cash, I have started reading bogs of Shankar Nath. Then found Sanjay Bakshi and his articles. I have collected everything I can through Baskhi’s blog. Off course I found Rohit Chauhan’s Blog as well .

After Sanjay Bakshi, I didn’t make any loss. I have done ok with 30 % (just for 1 Year) and made exit before the recent fall. Still lot to learn from Bakshi , Rohit , Shai Dardasti , Dah Hui Lau


Anonymous said...

Well Rohit - Thanks for this and hope to see your next part soon.


Rohit Chauhan said...

Hi amit

I have posted on maruti earlier a search with keyword maruti on the blog. I have also uploaded analysis for balmer lawrie in the google groups.


good to hear your story. i guess most of us go through the same journey. difference between those who do well in the long run v/s those who fail is how they treat the inevitable failures and drops. some look at it a personal failure and give up. other look at it as a stumble and dont give up.

also important to learn from your story is to keep some cash around and not go whole hog ..but it happens to most of us.

and you have rightly said, investing is more difficult emotionally than intellectually. very few people have the patience and interest in learning. most want to make easy money.

i guess some of us enjoy the process as much as the money.

will post the next part soon. i know everyone is eager on that :) hopefully less people will doze off in the next part.


Kannan said...

Good one. I was about to ask about this journey.For all of us who believe in VI,sharing our experience will be really useful. We can learn for each others mistake; of course reading & learning only will keep us rational during the crazy periods.(from crazy people)

-- Kannan.

Ranjit kumar said...

Hi Rohit,

Your's is an awesome ride in the market, there should be pain to realize the importance of the gain, so you have been althrough. Reading stories like these, where people are trying to be successful despite the odds is what makes life interesting. I have read so many stories of entreprenuers and investors, all are different and hugely satisfying for them in their own way.

I also wish to have such an exhilirating journey and look back after few years to realise that i have learnt something in life "To be successful" [in the field that you value]

Ranjit kumar

Rohit Chauhan said...

Hi kannan
thanks for the feedback

ranjit - i think if you love what you do then i think it generally works out. i think it will in your and others case too , though there are some inevitable setbacks in the interimn


Mahendra Naik said...

Hi Rohit,

I liked your honesty and transperancy in writing this
post. My story is somewhat
similar though without the MBA.

BTW 32% over 8-9 years is a
whacking return.



Rohit Chauhan said...

Hi mahendra
i personally think MBA is not very useful in becoming a good investor. the relevant portions of an MBA degree which an investor needs, can be read/learned in less than a year. the other skills needed for an investor are not taught in an MBA program.

my returns are for a small capital base. i expect my portfolio returns to be different once the capital base increases


Anonymous said...

Hi rohit can you please give your view o swan mills.
Thanks in advance

Vic said...

Thanks Rohit for sharing your journey, have been waiting for a while. :-)

Let me read Part 2 now.


a svas said...

Hi Rohit,

Your transparent sharing of experiences good and bad gives newbies a lot of hope.

My own journey started off post demonetisation with an expectation to just about make returns better than the available fixed investment opportunities.

This itself, by the way, came about due to the excellent book " Rich Dad Poor Dad ". Until that time I was not even able distinguish between an asset and a liability.

Was very lucky to have entered into the market during and in the immediate period post demonetisation and had opportunity to catch the best scrips at the bottom or near about there.

However, inexperience and mistaking volatility for losses made me exit most of these stocks. Not to mention the fact that I missed out on them becoming 2 or 3 x in under an year . Beginners luck deserted me.

However my interest in investing was piqued and started reading a lot ( your blog was one of my early reading material) with an intent to assimilate learnings and improve my ability to analyse understand and invest. However, self doubt always persists and is very difficult to build conviction for ideas without confirmation coming from a veteran.

Your story, however, gives me the courage to understand that investing is a continuous learning process in which there would always be some mistakes. In the absence of these mistakes it would mean that we are not taking enough risk or betting big on our ideas (within our risk taking boundaries).

Also realised the importance of vicarious learning via reading of the master investors as well as experiential learning by initiating tracking positions in our ideas and building up or scaling down as situation evolves either in sync with our thought process or in the opposite direction.

Most importantly I realised that one should have the strength and will to stomach the churn due to every day price volatility , be focussed on the underlying business rather than the ticker, and be able to carry forth despite near term head winds.

Your blog piece gives me the courage to persist despite my pdf being down by about 6% as of date. And contrary to my approach an year ago wherein I would have sold out today I tend to buy in more of the stocks that I hold.

Before I go. Thank you for sharing your experience. Look forward to the next part.

Srinivas A