Book Review: The CRISIL Story


This is the feeling I had after finishing reading “The Crisil Story” By Hemanth Gorur and Sumit Chowdhury

I am fond of CRISIL as I started my career in India at Nirlon House,Mumbai where CRISIL used to be head quartered.

If only I had bought CRISIL stock then,I would be chillaxing in the Bahamas !

Anyways,this book is a disappointment as it does not justice to the CRISIL story.

Setting up an independent ratings agency without any international collaboration is a humongous achievement.Starting from scratch to the heights it has reached today is a story of Indian ingenuity,grit,integrity and intelligence

Yet the authors fail to capture the drama and the excitement of this story.

Instead,the book is a tedious read with a hagiographic account of the events that transpired.

Hopefully, some one else will come along who can write a better book on CRISIL.

Till that time,we will have to make do with this one.

Book Review: A Feast of Vultures

“In India, everyone has a price”

This is the central premise of the book “A Feast of Vultures-The Hidden Business of Democracy in India” by Josy Joseph

The author proves this point by quoting a variety of examples-
-How stenographer R K Dhawan owns a bungalow in posh Delhi’s Jor Bagh

-How Congress typist  Vincent George owns multiple properties

-How Sudhir Choudhrie and Suresh Nanda manipulated defense deals

-How a Army Chief took bribes

-How Naveen Jindal destroyed the environment

-How Mukesh Ambani usurped an orphanage property to build his house and so on.

The most startling revelation in the book is that the author alleges that Jet Airways Boss Naresh Goyal gave a ‘supari’ to the Dawood Ibrahim gang to get rival East West Airlines owner Wahid killed.

Reading this book fills one with despair on how India works-with its middlemen,corruption, ruthless industrialists,rapacious politicians,thieving bureaucrats etc

One flaw in the book is that the author’s leftist,pro-AAP and anti-Modi biases are obvious.Also,the narrative is a bit meandering which could have used a tighter editorial control.

Read this book to know how our country really works

Book Review:The Unusual Billionaires

Saurabh Mukherjea of Ambit Capital is well known for his Coffee Can portfolios.

The “Coffee Can” portfolio is a portfolio is a portfolio of stocks that you buy and keep for ten years.

In his book, The Unusual Billionaires, he expands on this concept in detail.

Stocks that make it to the Coffee Can portfolio have to meet only 2 criteria for every year in the last 10 years:

1.Revenue Growth > 10%

2. ROCE > 15%

Using examples and detailed case studies of 7 companies (Asian Paints,Berger Paints,Marico,Page Industries,Astral Poly,HDFC Bank,Axis Bank) , he makes a persuasive case why such a portfolio will work in the Indian context.

There is also a checklist to evaluate a business.

One flaw in the book I found was the author paid no attention to price.A business may be great but does it make sense to buy it at nose-bleed valuations?

There is one particular excerpt in the book which I found particularly interesting:

“While there are other successful modes of investing in the equity market,their ability to deliver sustained outperformance over long periods of time (say 3 years or more) is unproven in the Indian context.

In more mature markets,which have much greater liquidity and greater transparency,short-term trading have been practiced over long periods of time by legendary investors such as George Soros,Juilan Robertson and Michael Steinhardt.

However,given that India is the least liquid amongst the world’s fifteen largest equity markets,the only viable option open to those who want to deploy large sums of capital successfully is long term investing.”

A worthwhile read for those interested in the Indian Equity Markets.

Book Review: Bhujia Barons

“Half the population of Bikaner seems to be involved in making bhujia and the other half in eating it”

I was reminded of this old joke when I picked up the book “Bhujia Barons-The untold story of how Haldiram built a 5,000 Crore Empire”

The book traces the story of Haldiram and his three generations as they built an empire based on bhujia across 4 cities-Bikaner,Kolkata,Nagpur and Delhi.

The author has a tendency towards hagiography which makes the book a tedious read.She is also not able to fully explain why Haldirams was so successful despite the intense competition.

There’s one anecdote in the book which I found interesting:

Prabhu Agarwal,the owner of Haldirams Kolkata, pays a gangster 2.5 Lakh Rupees to murder a  tea vendor who is obstructing his real estate plans.The conspiracy is exposed and the police comes to arrest him.

Prabhu as per usual asked the policeman Aapka bhao kitna hai?”  and the policeman told him that if Prabhu gave him 20 Lakhs,there won’t be any case against him.

Prabhu was incensed and allegedly retorted, “I keep IPS officers in my pocket for 1000 Rs.”

In order to punish him for his arrogance,the policeman said, “I’ll get you tangled in such a case that you will never be able to get out it for any amount of bail”

Book Review: Havells, The untold story of Qimat Rai Gupta

This post is in continuation of my book review series (see here)

G.D Birla,the founder of the Birla Group,once said “Indians can’t write biographies,they can only write hagiographies.”

I had this fear in mind when I picked up Havells,the untold story of Qimat Rai Gupta as it is written by Anil Rai Gupta,the current Chairman of Havells and son of Qimat Rai Gupta (Founder of Havells).

However I found the book to be a very interesting read.It traces the journey of Qimat Rai Gupta who started his life selling kerosene on a cycle near Ludhiana to one of the richest men of India.

For a student of Indian businesses,there are lots of learning points in the book.For instance:

  • How the dealer network in India works
  • How Qimat Rai had to partition his business thrice-once with his uncle,then with his own brother and then finally and shockingly with his own son
  • How family businesses are run and the ‘Aurangzeb Syndrome’
  • Why fathers and sons distrust each other if running the same business
  • How Mumbai distrusts every person and every company from Delhi
  • How cash flow management can be optimized
  • Lots and lots of pithy advice/insights & anecdotes

There is one anecdote that I liked

Qimat Rai was planning to acquire MNC company Sylvania. He approached Arvind Dham of Amtek Auto for advice. Arvind told him:

“So long as you have not signed on the dotted line,your investment banker will be by your side,you will stay in good hotels and travel in good cars.Once the deal is done and you need to go to the factory,you will be all alone”

Go Buy this book.