SELLING OURSELVES SHORT 25 Jan 2015.
It was a curious coincidence but I came across two different situations, successively, that prompted me to think the title of this piece.
First was a book that I was reading recently. It was The Difficulty Of Being Good by Gurcharan Das in which Das says he was struck ( at the age of 50!) by a desire to read the major texts of our land. Nothing wrong with that. But, curiously, he went off to the University of Chicago to study the texts like Mahabharata and Arthashastra! Apparently, there weren’t enough assistance available locally for the in depth studies that he wanted to embark on. More, he found three (not one) Sanskrit scholars at Chicago! Going thru his book I admired his efforts and diligence at what he set out to achieve! I really wish I had even 10% of that kind of commitment and resolve. Second, in a recent visit to Kerala, I was conversing with an Ayurvedic practitioner and he mentioned about a detailed purification treatment called Panchakarma. Apparently, this takes 21 to 30 days and is a process that purifies you from within and without. I remarked to him that I had not really come across such a process in all my years and his reply was a bit of a stunner. He said that being a long process, it does not get advertised. So far so good. He then went on to say that this treatment is mostly done by the foreigners and that was also because (I quote) “ the foreigners anyway know a lot more about Ayurveda”.
Two of the most homegrown things- our great texts and Ayurveda- and the foreigners are experts at it! What a travesty. If this is not selling our selves short on our own stock then what else is it?
Let me give you one more example of this, now closer to the market. In a recent article in Business India, my old friend Raamdeo Agarwal lamented that Indians don’t seem to want to own shares in their own companies! Quoting extensive statistics, he wrote in that excellent article about how FIIs today own 20% of the entire market and more than 50% of blue chips! He laments, and rightly so, that less than 5% of total household savings come to the equity markets and poses the question, “ why is a country known for savvy investment skills shying away from equities?”. I consider this yet another example of us selling ourselves short.
If you look around you, you will find a lot of such examples where we are continually short selling ourselves. Children not speaking their mother tongue, youngsters having no knowledge of their roots and traditions, people at large still apathetic about cleanliness of their surroundings etc. Etc. Traders are another group who excel at selling themselves short. Most of them, for a start, do not believe that there is money to be made from trading. This is such a deeply entrenched belief that they have defeated themselves even before they begin! How can you ever do well in any endeavour where you have no belief of success? Equity markets as a whole suffers from this kind of misconception that it is too risky and hence to be avoided. People don’t understand that gold and real estate etc are no less risky than equities but those assets have so many more takers! There is a huge vested interest in keeping things this way among a few. Perhaps the Digital Age will create an environment where such disinformation can be overcome thru education. It is time we all went long equities and stopped selling ourselves short in this market. And in life.