Love it or hate it, but you just cannot ignore it, says this self-professed money lover. Suresh Padmanabhan has even written a book called I Love Money.
He has very different and definite ideas on money. He encourages people to respect money and say proudly "I love money", organises `money' workshops and has even written a book titled I love Money! (published by Creati Ventures, Rs 199).
The biggest lie, points out Suresh Padmanabhan, on the back cover of his book, that "you ever heard about money is that money is not important in life. Money is as vital as mother's milk to a newborn baby or blood flowing in our body. Whether you love it or hate it you simply cannot live without it."
Ironically, he started his money workshops after losing all his money through day trading in the stock market. "Hailing from the middle class, I too was looking to expand my money," he says. After graduating from the Symbiosis Institute Of Management in Pune in 1992, he took up a job in advertising and worked for six years. Meanwhile, "wanting to expand my money, the best avenue I saw was the stock market to make a phenomenal amount of money."
So he started investing, but admits today that he did not have a clue about the intricacies of the market. "I just jumped headlong into it without realising its depths." But he had the proverbial beginner's luck and the first few investments he made brought in very good returns, sometimes over 500 per cent. He picked up Carrier Aircon at Rs 23 and sold it at Rs 150 levels, Rolta at Rs 11 or 12 and sold them around Rs 100.
But, unfortunately, he did not restrict his moneymaking ambitions to long-term investment; he entered the "area of speculation or day trading." He started trading in stocks such as Reliance, Satyam and Tisco. "Those were the hot scrips in the mid-90s. Reliance would fluctuate by Rs 30 to 40 a day, as also a couple of IT scrips. It was very tempting because one didn't have to pay the whole amount, I would pay the margins to the brokers who were my good friends."
But he was quite reckless, did not put a stop loss and lost a lot of money. "Day trading is like travelling in a speeding car without brakes. The greed factor also comes in along with fear," he says. The result was not only the loss of the money he had made through investment, but also the money belonging to friends and relatives, who had asked him to invest on their behalf and manage their portfolio.
This was in 1994-95; and he ended up making a huge loss of Rs 7 lakh to Rs 8 lakh. "That was a very big shock to me and I was totally wiped out. I lost everything I had and piled on debts. All this shattered me totally because my family didn't know the truth as I had stated only 10 per cent of my losses to them," he recalls.
But then this loss also became a turning point for him and he decided to keep off day trading and stick to investing. "In the beginning of course I felt hurt, disgruntled and started asking: `Why should this happen to me.' But later he figured out that this `Why' is the biggest stumbling block and a stupid question.
"After an event has happened, instead of asking why, one has to do something concrete to come out of it. Also, once a decision goes against you, your self-esteem and morale hit a new low. As I had promised relatives and friends that I would safeguard their capital, I had to return that money too. That was another big blow; when you lose money of the people close to you, you can't face them. So I borrowed and returned their money."
But Padmanabhan refused to blame his misery or losses on the stock market. "I was convinced that the equity market is the best place for making money. It was due to my stupidity that I lost," he says.
For some years he kept off from the market but admits "the loss was also the best thing that happened to me. It made me ask myself a lot of questions and find answers."
One of the answers was long-term investment. He decided to dump day trading and stick to investment, that too in the top 20 companies with sound fundamentals and good management. "I went by the technique called `profits in the market and profits in the pocket.' I built up profits in the pocket."
It was during this phase of investment that he learnt what he calls `regret management'. "You have to master this, otherwise you'll always have regrets... you buy at Rs 300 and sell it at Rs 325 and it goes to Rs 350, you'll have regret even after making a profit. You don't sell and it falls and again there will be regret."
Though he stopped day trading totally, and bought hot IT scrips of the day such as Satyam, HFCL, DSQ Software, Global Tele and the like, "I also learnt the cyclical process of the market, like buying GTL at Rs 200, selling it Rs 250 and again getting into it at Rs 200. I would aim for a profit of 25 per cent and get off at this level."
He started with Rs 2 to Rs 3 lakh and has today built up a portfolio of around Rs 8 lakh. "I've understood a fundamental principle of the market... that you'll never lose money in the market if you buy quality and have patience to hold a scrip, and book profit at a level you decide. I have made 50 per cent and even more money from the market." SBI is a share that has given him profits; he bought it below Rs 160 and got out at Rs 200. These days he has bank stocks, textiles and Bharti Tele. He made good money in LIC Housing Finance and oil stocks too.
Meanwhile his money workshops continue. For the last five years he has conducted around 150 workshops for over 5,000 people on how to make, value and manage their money. Depending on the city, he charges Rs 3,800 to Rs 5,500 for a two-day workshop; participants vary from housewives and students to top executives. "My workshop might be a standardised programme but means different things to different people."
Padmanabhan relates money to spirituality. Does he think one is destined to be rich or poor?
"Many people blame destiny but I would like to say you can create your money. Also, I have tremendous respect for what I call female power; women can be very astute about money. When a woman at my workshop says she's just a housewife, I tell her it's a huge designation you have, and running the family is a huge responsibility. Isn't Goddess Lakshmi a manifestation of female energy?"
He says in his book that every time you touch money, "do so with gratitude that this money has come into your hand and is passing through you to somebody else. You should touch money as you would a flower or a small child."
But if you love money so much won't you feel like not parting with it?
"No, you must spend money but get value for it. We teach people how to negotiate and how to bargain in life for jobs, salaries or increments. The biggest problem is that people don't control money effectively, mishandle it or have no respect for it. You should spend money but get value for money," he concludes.
Picture by Bijoy Ghosh