Aashish P. Somaiyya, Managing Directors & CEO of Motilal Oswal Asset Management Company does not need an introduction. If you have not heard him speak on stage, you would probably have read his columns both in the print and digital media.
A good speaker, voracious writer and a forceful debater, Aashish is your true argumentative Indian, arguing the cause of Indian equities and their potential to build your wealth.
Aashish’s penchant for investments stems from his earlier stint in ICICI Pru AMC where he spent close to 13 years understanding and dealing with different investor segments and products. In this article, Aashish abandons the need to talk with numbers and uses logic to explain why you have to stay invested in equities for ‘long’ to build wealth.
I am sure anyone who has ever read anything about investing into equities has read the clichéd “equities are for long term” statement a zillion times. Most of the time these statements are also backed by a lot of statistics which prove that if you try to time the market for its bottoms and peaks and by mistake or by a stroke of bad luck, if you missed the best 10 days then your returns would be quite a few percentage points lower.
Equally, on the other hand, you will find a lot of articles and data which will tell you that when there is profit to be had, take it off the table. There is no definition of long term and if you invested exactly on August 31, 1994 and withdrew 10 years later on August 31, 2004 you wouldn’t even beat PPF returns.
I have no love for this kind of analysis because I have one of those rare habits where I read the preface, introduction, foreword, afterword everything in a book before I actually read the book.
First year of management studies I read a book called “Statistics for Management” written by Levin-Rubin. The introduction to this book says that there are three types of people in this world – liars, damned liars and then there are statisticians. So much for using numbers to prove a point in favour or against long term investing. I believe in logic. And hence, I will spare you the horror of reading graphs, charts and tables.
What’s long term?
I do believe that while investing in equities one must invest for the long term and really one has no idea when the market will do what you have been waiting for it to do. I read a famous statement by John Maynard Keynes which said that “The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent” and then there’s another equally apt one which goes something like “Markets go up till the last person has bought and markets keep going down till the last person has sold”.
These statements mean that if you have a definite time horizon to your investment which is not sufficiently long term in nature, then forget fundamentals, your future will depend on gyrations of the stock market. So what is the definition of long term?
Our industry started off by saying that long term means 3 years; if you go by taxation policies for investing, long term means one year, after a real bad fall in markets sometimes people tend to say long term means five years!
Look, let me be honest, there is no fixed definition of long term. And only put that money into equities, which you are OK to forget about for next few years. Money, which will be needed in a visible time frame, should never be allocated to equities. After hearing this kind of statement from me, a lot of times people talk about investing in equities as if they have alternative options.
If you have savings of Rs 5 lakh right now or if you get an inflow of Rs 5 lakh right now and you need it to be Rs 10 lakh in the next 5 years, you basically need somewhere in range of 15% compounded returns to meet that goal.
There is no asset class other than equities which will absorb a sum like Rs 5 lakh and still leave you the full potential to reach your goal. So where is the choice? And what is the point thinking that if I keep the money in a bank it will at least be safe? Yes, it will be safe, but the goal will remain a goal and not a score.
Rome was not built in a day
The best of companies are in business for decades. It takes decades to implement a business plan, exploit a market opportunity to the fullest and to build a scale business. If you think the new kid on the block Flipkart is new think again – they started in 2006!
L&T started in 1946, HDFC in 1970, ICICI in 1955, Infosys in 1981, TCS in 1971 and so on and so forth. There are many examples of long-term investment in companies that has generated outstanding results.
If we take a call on the businesses by way of buy, hold and sell recommendations every quarter we will always miss the wood for the trees. When people send messages on emails, FB and whatsapp they come and talk about Wipro and Maruti stories but then want do they do in real life?
I recently read on FB that Rs 10,000 invested in Wipro stock in 1980 if held all through would have been valued around Rs 700 crore today. Wow, nice. Shouldn’t we practice this?
So long term to me is all about identifying good quality companies and participating in their entire growth cycle such that we don’t just get couple of percentage points of extra return; we should aim for multiplication and wealth creation.
After reading that Wipro example, I thought that I must go back and ask my father what he was doing when he could have bought Rs 10,00 worth of Wipro and saved me all the hard work. Can I ask that question? And what can he answer? I am sure he would have said that there was no Economic Times, there was no CNBC TV 18, and all said and done Azim Premji’s company only made oil back then and not software!
He is absolutely right in saying this and then I think what will I answer if my son asks me 25 years later than when TCS market capitalization was barely Rs 5 lakh crore what were you doing? What do you think I will answer?
Making money or creating wealth?
The question still remains – are we here for getting few percentage points more return or are we here for creating wealth? If you wish to create wealth by way of multiplication, you need to remain invested in equities absolutely like those FB and whatsapp messages seem to suggest.
And also think, do the promoters of these much FBed and whatsapped companies go to office and work after checking the share price?
As a company at Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund we manage only equity mutual funds and we advertise ‘BUY RIGHT : SIT TIGHT’. I had a funny experience because recently at a conference one of the gentlemen told me what is so special you have said, we are “SIT TIGHT” since last 7 years since we invested in the peak of 2007!
The entire audience burst into peals of laughter leaving me to point out rather meekly that the SIT TIGHT has to be preceded by BUY RIGHT.
And long term investing has to be preceded by buying the right stocks or the right funds.
The issue is not that most of us don’t buy the right stocks or the right funds. The issue is that whenever we buy the right fund or right stock, we book profits, we sell.
And whenever we buy a bad stock or a bad fund, how can we sell at a loss? So we hold on. Portfolios are more often than not riddled with profits from good investments being successively ploughed into bad investments in the name of booking profits and averaging losses.
At least a long term investing orientation, holding on to good quality mutual fund schemes; more time spent in the market will ensure you hold on to winners. So the next time you buy a stock or an equity mutual fund, please visualise you are buying a business which will grow over the years, the owners will become wealthier and you will be one of them!