Famed Indian investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who amassed a fortune of nearly $6 billion by bullish bets on the country’s stock market, died on Sunday at the age of 62.
During his four-decade career, the self-made billionaire investor was known as “India’s Warren Buffett” for his long track record of investing in undervalued but successful companies.
An accountant from a middle-class family, Jhunjhunwala’s success symbolized the opportunities created by the roaring growth and wealth creation that followed India’s economic liberalization in the 1990s.
French and tirelessly optimistic about the prospects for India’s economy and business, he acquired a loyal following of retail investors who closely followed his comments, recommendations and trades as stock market participation grew. he shot
“It had an outsized influence on the market and sentiment,” said Amit Tandon, founder of proxy advisory firm Institutional Investor Advisory Services. “Everybody was hoping they could emulate what he’s done.”
Jhunjhunwala died in Mumbai on Sunday, according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to local media, he was suffering from health complications, including kidney disease, and reportedly died of cardiac arrest.
Indian politicians and business leaders paid tribute to Jhunjhunwala. “Full of life, witty and insightful, he leaves behind an indelible contribution to the world of finance,” Modi wrote on Twitter. “He was also very passionate about the progress of India.”
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Indian conglomerate Tata Group, in whose companies Jhunjhunwala amassed several of the holdings that helped make his fortune, said: “Rakesh Jhunjhunwala believed in India and the country’s great potential. This conviction it led him to make brave decisions throughout his life and career.
Jhunjhunwala was born in 1960 to a middle-class family in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. Jhunjhunwala, whose father was a prosecutor, trained as an accountant and started investing at Dalal Street, the Bombay headquarters of the Bombay Stock Exchange, in the 1980s. He reportedly started investing with 5,000 rupees ($63) in capital.
It was well positioned to take advantage of the c boom that followed the country’s economic liberalization in the 1990s. The benchmark Sensex took off at the turn of the new millennium and has risen nearly 2,000% since then.
Jhunjhunwala made a name for himself with higher stakes in companies such as Titan, a Tata-owned watch and jewelery maker, and Indian ratings agency Crisil. “I’m screaming at the top of my voice in 2003: ‘Buy, buy, buy! Sell your wife’s jewelry and buy!'” he told the Financial Times in 2012.
He was the first Indian to become a billionaire through the stock market, investing in an economy long dominated by family businesses. His wealth currently stands at $5.8 billion, according to Forbes.
Jhunjhunwala also caught the attention of retail investors for his colorful and sometimes profanity-laced pronouncements on Indian stocks, as well as his penchant for expensive cars and whiskey. “I like my freedom, boss. I don’t want to answer to anyone,” he told the FT.
That same month, Jhunjhunwala launched his latest commercial venture: a new budget Indian carrier Akasa Air, which appeared on August 7 on its maiden flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad in western India. He owned 40 percent of the new airline.
Investment in Akasa typified bullish Jhunjhunwala. He bet on the country’s aviation growth prospects as a growing number of Indians take up business travel, and yet the sector has tested investor appetite in recent years as carriers struggled to control debt levels as they competed to attract price-sensitive consumers.
“I’m ready for failure,” Jhunjhunwala said of Akasa, according to Moneycontrol.
“It is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.”