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Of Falling Stock Markets and Shutting Brains

In one of the old interviews of Mohnish Pabrai of Pabrai Funds, he described the root cause of a common, but difficult to overcome, inefficiency in share prices –

Our brains are in sync with the speed at which the market is moving and totally out of sync with the speed at which a business is moving. You have to learn to dramatically slow your brain, which is very hard for most people. The reality is that you should make decisions based on how the business is changing, and that’s a very slow process.

You wouldn’t know that businesses change slowly from the share price activity in the stock market. Such volatility, of course, can be a boon for the disciplined investor waiting for what Warren Buffett refers to as a “fat pitch.” Most maintain a watch-list of what they consider to be superior companies that they would be happy to buy, but only at the right price. But the problem for most of us lies in deciding what that right price is because most of us find it difficult to understand what that underlying value of the business is, to which we must relate the price. And thus, most of us would rather make our decisions just looking at stock prices – especially when they are moving fast, up or down – than underlying intrinsic values.

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Book Review: Investing Between The Lines

Note: This book review was originally published in the May 2016 edition of our premium newsletter Value Investing Almanack. To know more and subscribe, please click here.

When an investor starts investigating a business, the first thing he wants to know is if the business is strong and profitable? And he can usually find the answer from the company’s annual report by reading the numbers like net earnings, debt, cash flow, profitability ratios etc.

The next question is, how accurate or authentic those numbers are? Of course, they are verified by auditors. But even Enron and Satyam numbers were also certified by auditors. And both of them ended up as biggest accounting scandals.

As an investor, how do you know that the management is telling you the truth? And how does an honest CEO communicate with the shareholders in a manner which establishes trust?

Laura Rittenhouse, in her book Investing Between The Lines, attempts to answer the above questions. She offers clues to separate the facts from the fluff in annual reports and quarterly earnings calls. Rittenhouse had raised a red flag on Enron, much before it collapsed, noticing a discrepancy between the net income cited in its CEO letter and its audited financial statement, among other things.

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Investing and the Art of Metaphorical Thinking

My momma always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Mama always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them. ~ Forrest Gump

About a century ago, when the first automobile was introduced on the roads, most people referred to it as “horseless carriages”. Not only that, when the first set of cars came out, people called them “iron horses.”

Amusing, right? How limited people’s imagination was!

But today when the first lot of autonomous vehicles are getting ready for the roads, most people like to call them driverless cars. I am sure our future generation will be amused at our choice of words.

“Driverless? What driverless?” They would probably chuckle at the unimaginative terminology of their previous generation.

But that’s how a human mind works. The seeds of most revolutionary ideas are sown in those moments of unimaginative thoughts, like horseless carriages and driverless cars.

Driverless cars are as complicated and unbelievable to us as horseless carriages were to our great grandparents. And for a human mind, the best way to learn a complex idea is to find it living inside something else it already understands.

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Latticework of Mental Models: Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

Peter Lynch, who successfully ran Fidelity’s Magellan mutual fund for more than a decade, has often mentioned that investors are well advised to buy a business that’s so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later an idiot will run it. That’s Lynch’s trademark style of saying that some businesses have structural advantages.

The easiest example that comes to mind is when Vijay Mallya ran two different kinds of businesses i.e the liquor business and the airline business. The alcohol business has great economics and aviation industry is known for its horrible economics. It didn’t matter how skillful Mallya was (or wasn’t). The outcome of the events in these two cases proves Lynch’s point.

So how do you find businesses which have a structural advantage? The search should begin by evaluating the industry. If one can answer following questions then he or she can get deeper insights about the industry.

  • Is this a good industry to look for quality businesses?
  • Is this is a mediocre industry, but are there companies which are exceptionally good performers?
  • What are the growth drivers for the industry?
  • What are the challenges?
  • What factors might influence how the industry might do in the future?
  • Who are the dominant players? Why are they dominant?

Of course, one needs to read a lot about the industry and the companies operating in it to answer above questions. But there’s is smarter approach to get quick insights on the competitive nature of any industry. And that brings us to a very important mental model – Porter’s Five Forces Analysis. [Read more…]

How to Deal With the Harsh Reality of a Stock Market Crash

Short practical advice (may skip) – If you cannot withstand losing a bit of your money in a stock market crash (where things easily go from bad to worse to brutal), please stay away from stocks. But if you are fine with the risk of losing some money in the short run in return of wealth creation in the long run, keep owing your good stocks and/or good mutual funds. Buy more (and keep buying) if you believe the quoted (now lower after the crash) prices offer great value in the long run. Then, once you are with your chosen good investments, just get going with other more important things in life like family, work, and self-development…and let go of the outcome of your investments. Accept that whatever happens, happens.

How to Deal With the Harsh Reality of a Stock Market Crash

Slightly long theoretical advice (must read) – I read a wonderful article earlier today on dealing with life’s harsh realities – sharp fall in stock prices is one such reality for most investors – and here is an excerpt from the same…

…the only intelligent thing to do when such turbulent change occurs is for us to sit back and realize that we are only to be witnesses to change, and to respond to it rather than to react to it—much like we would watch a movie unfold on the screen and laugh at the funny bits and cry at the sad bits, while always knowing that what is happening before our eyes is unreal.

Modern quantum physics after Einstein also points us this way—it says that what occurs depends upon the observer, and not on what is observed. So, in effect, as a witness, I am free to choose my response, and therefore the reality I actually experience.

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Don’t Dump Your Stocks On Trump

Anshul wrote about the mental model of Antifragility some time back. It is a term coined by Nassim Taleb, and he defines it as being the opposite of fragility. So, things that benefit from shocks are antifragile. They thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, obstacles, disorder, unexpected events, change, and stressors.

An example of something that’s antifragile is Hydra, a serpent-like creature from Greek mythology that grew two new heads every time you cut one off. In Indian mythology, there is a similar character called Raktavija, a demon who had the magic boon that every drop of blood shed from his body gave rise to another Raktavija (literally the blood borne).

In this context, one thing or character that looks highly antifragile in today’s world is…hold your breath…Donald Trump. 🙂

This US presidential candidate has received massive criticism – and for obvious reasons – ever since he entered the field. But note this, the more he has been criticized for his past deeds and present words, the more robust his base has become. In fact, despite whatever the world thinks of the character of Donald Trump, this guy is on the verge of becoming the world’s most powerful man.

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Value Investor Interview: Rohit Chauhan

Note: This interview was originally published in the October 2016 issue of our premium newsletter – Value Investing Almanack (VIA). To read more such interviews and other deep thoughts on value investing, business analysis and behavioral finance, click here to subscribe to VIA.

Rohit Chauhan - Safal Niveshak InterviewI recently interviewed Rohit Chauhan for our premium newsletter, Value Investing Almanack.

Rohit Chauhan is an Engineer / MBA with 20+ years of experience, working in different functions in large corporations in India and abroad. Rohit was introduced to the value investing philosophy in the mid 90s and has since then followed it in managing money for himself and others who have entrusted their capital to him.

Rohit has been writing on the topic of investing for the last 11 years through his blog.

In his interview with Safal Niveshak, Rohit shares his wide investment experience and how small investors can practice sensible investment decision making.

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My Multibagger Diwali Idea

Stop right here if you are looking for a stock idea from me, because most of my multibagger ideas are outside the stock market. 😉

But if you are still reading this, you may be interested to know the multibagger Diwali idea I am going to share. Don’t you?

Well, it’s festival time and I won’t waste much of yours.

My multibagger idea for this Diwali is to start a chain of gifting books that inspire.

I am starting with gifting one book that has inspired me to one person I know. I expect that person to then pay it forward by gifting one book to one of his or her friends, and the chain continues…till someone does not want to gift the book. 🙂

You don’t have to wait for someone to send you a book before you can begin.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” So today I urge you to start the chain you want to be a part of. Anyone reading this can start his or her own chain. Trust me, you can’t even imagine how far the ripple effects of your small act can reach.

Pay It Forward

Lily Hardy Hammond wrote, “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his 1841 essay titled Compensation, wrote, “In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody.”

Same is with knowledge. The only way you can pay back for the knowledge you have received is to pay it forward. Become a funnel, says Prof. Sanjay Bakshi, not a sponge.

One way to do that is to teach someone what you have learned. The other is to simply gift a good book.

But then, how does gifting a book make for a multibagger idea?

Well, knowledge, as you would have heard Warren Buffett say a lot of times, builds like compound interest. And because knowledge builds like compound interest, it gives you an exponential return. And what causes an exponential return makes for a multibagger over time.

Now, when you get a book as a gift, and you read it, it adds to your knowledge. And when you pay it forward by gifting a book to someone else and that person reads it, it adds to his/her knowledge. Over time, as a society, we get more knowledgeable and hopefully wiser. And that’s the idea of starting this chain.

Gift a Book - Safal Niveshak

So this Diwali, read a book…gift a book…and spread the light of wisdom all around you.

Anshul and I wish you a very happy Diwali and prosperous New Year.

P.S.: To ensure that this movement benefits maximum number of people, gift the book to someone who isn’t part of this already. So Anshul and I, by default, shouldn’t be in your chain.

Note: If you were to buy your books for gifting by clicking on the image below (or through this link), Amazon would pay me a small commission. The books won’t cost you any extra. And then I will give away 100% of the commission for the betterment of the under-privileged.