Book Review: Big Mistakes-The Best Investors & Their Worst Mistakes

The Book ‘Big Mistakes-The Best Investors & Their Worst Mistakes’ is written by Michael Batnick who blogs at The Irrelevant Investor

As the Title suggests, the Book covers the investing mistakes of 16 Investors, including the author.

Some of the investors covered in the Book are Ben Graham, Warren Buffett,Charlie Munger, John Maynard Keynes, Chris Sacca,Stanley Druckenmiller etc

The author does a fantastic job of explaining the circumstances and rationale by which these super investors made their mistakes.

The Book contains lots of investing wisdom and is a terrific read.

Some great excerpts from the Book:

“You must react to losses with equanimity.The time to sell an investment is not after it has declined in price.If this is how you invest,you’re destined for a long life of disappointing returns.Learn from the best and do not attempt to avoid losses.It cannot be done.Instead,focus on making sure that you’re not putting yourself in a position of being a forced seller.”

“What stands out for me,as far as lessons I’ve learned in the market,is that if you have a liability coming due in the next few months or even few years. do not invest.The market doesn’t care about your goals.It doesn’t know that you’re retiring in five years or when your child is going to college.”

The last chapter is on the author’s own investment journey which I found to be brutally honest and illuminating.

The Book contains the lessons only from American investors…hope some enterprising reader writes one on the investment follies of our top Indian investors.

I would strongly recommend this book if you want to become a better investor.

Book Review: The Richest Man in Babylon

The Book ‘Richest Man in Babylon’ ,written by George S Clason, was first published around 90 years back in 1926.

The beginning of the Book goes like this:

“Money is the medium by which earthly success is measured.

Money makes possible the enjoyment of the best the earth affords.

Money is plentiful for those who understand the simple laws which govern its acquisition.

Money is governed today by the same laws which controlled it when prosperous men thronged the streets of Babylon six thousand years ago.”

Then the Book attempts to explains these laws in a story-like manner.

These “laws” per se are fairly basic: Earn more,spend less,save more (at least 10%), invest more, invest wisely etc

There is one chapter on the importance of working hard which I really liked.

One memorable line in the book is “I like to work and I like to do good work, for work is the best friend I’ve ever known.It has brought me all the good things I’ve had.”

Do Buy this Book only if interested in reading classics on Money.

Book Review: How TTK Prestige became a Billion $ Company

The Book ‘Disrupt & Conquer-How TTK Prestige Became a Billion $ Company’ is authored by T.T. Jagannathan, the Head of the TTK Group and writer Sandhya Mendonca.

The TTK Group is amongst the oldest and most respected names in Indian Business.

It was started by TT Krishnamachari, who later served as the Indian Finance Minister, in 1928.

TT Jagannathan is his grandson and the book descibes with disconcerting honesty his forays into the world of business.

TT Jagannathan was a gold medallist at IIT Madras and was pursuing an academic career at Cornell University,USA when his parents summoned him in 1972 back home to manage the business.

The Business was floundering with Crores of debt  (at its peak of around 14 Cr…a massive amount then) and no operating income to service it.In that era of scarce capital, his father had borrowed money at rates as high as 40%.

TT Jagannathan spent the next decades of his life trying to bring the businesses back in shape and pay off the debts.In the book, he writes: “My great regret is that I was not able to clear all the loans that the Group had accumulated while my mother was alive”

It took TT Jagannathan around 28 years (from 1972 -2000) to pay off all his debts.

How TT Jagnanathan turned around the companies is a fascinating story.It brings home the importance of common sense and hard work.

One thing that stuck me was the super importance of brands.TTK had started life as the distributor of other people’s brands.But as one by one, as the JVs broke up (sometimes after decades), you are left with the distribution but have no product to sell

Another important takeaway is that of product expansion.For many years, investors had ignored TTK Prestige stock. The company was famous for its pressure cooker but sales were stagnant.After all, everyone who wanted a pressure cooker already had one and the product life was 50 years ! Its a truism to say that most pressure cookers have outlasted the kitchens they were built for !TTK Prestige then expanded its product portfolio to include kitchen appliances etc and is now present in almost 300 Million Indian households

TTK Prestige is a story of wealth creation…the share price went from Rs.7 per share in 2003 (market cap of around 100 Cr) to around Rs.5,800 per share (market cap of around 6,800 Cr)

Another takeaway for me was the attitude of the next generation of family promoters.TT Jagannathan has 3 sons – all 3 are highly educated and qualified (from Cornell, no less).Yet all 3 are following their own careers and interests.The Company is now completely managed by professionals.

I was stuck by TT Jagannathan’s decision to have a professional CEO instead of his own sons : “But what else could I do?What if I nominated one of my sons to become the next Managing Director and he were to make a mess of it?There would be a lot more difficulty in removing a son than in replacing someone from outside the family.My children are in agreement with me that running the company should be entrusted to professional.It takes a lot of guts though, to take such a decision.”

I would strongly recommend this book to those interested in Indian Business.

Book Review: Land of the Seven Rivers

The Book ‘Land of the Seven Rivers’ is written by Sanjeev Sanyal who is currently the Principal Economic Adviser to the Govt of India

The Book is a great read of history buffs…covers the history of India right from pre-historic days to current times.

One insight that I got from the Book was the fact India is more than a country…its a civilisation and .a very ancient one at that.It probably explains why despite having a billion people of different religions ,races, cultures  ,languages etc, we are still bound together.

They have been enduring themes in this civilisation of ours-a Victory Column (Ashoka Pillar-Qutab Minar-Jaipur Column), use of the Lion as an Emblem of Royalty , use of the ‘Chakra’ as a symbol of royal power etc

To this day, the Lion emblems and the Chakra are part of our State Motifs.

The lots of aspects of India’s history which are revealed in the book which are not covered in the rubbish history that they teach in our schools.

I was particularly fascinated to know that in ancient times, India has two major land trade routes.The Dakshina Path (Southern Road) made its way from the Gangetic Plains through Cental India to the southern tip of India.  The Uttara Path (Northern Road) ran from Eastern Afghanistan, through Punjab, the Gangetic Plains to the sea-ports of Bengal.

The Ramayana is oriented along the Dakshina Path while the Mahabharata is oriented along the Uttara Path !

I would strongly recommend this book for those interested in India and its history.


Book Review: Best Short Stories of Anton Chekov

The Book ‘Best Short Stories of Anton Chekov’ is a compilation of short stories by the Russian author and playright Anton Chekov (1860-1904)

Chekov was one of the earliest writers of short stories and is considered widely to be a master of the genre.

His stories are based in Russia and are more than 100 years old…not really for everyone.

The Book has around 23 short stories…covering a wide range of situations and events.What Chekov does best is bring out the humanity of the characters…times change, geographies change, technologies change but human behaviour is the same…as we can see from the markets !

My favourite story is also one of Chekov’s most famous-‘The Bet’ (written in 1889) wherein a young man and a rich man have a bet. The young man agrees to forego his freedom and be imprisoned by the rich man for 15 years in return for money…a sum of 2 Million roubles.

The following paragraph in the story had me marvelling at the timelessness of human behaviour:

“Fifteen years before, his millions had been beyond his reckoning;now he was afraid to ask himself which were greater, his debts or his assets. Desperate gambling on the Stock Exchange,wild speculation and the excitability which he could not get over even in advancing years, had by degrees led to the decline of his fortune and the proud, fearless, self-confident millionaire had become a banker of middling rank, trembling at every rise and fall in his investments.” 

Some other great stories are ‘A Work of Art’ and ‘A Joke’

Most of the stories are melancholic and fairly depressing…Russians seem to have a knack for such morose tales !

Do buy this book only if you are a reading buff.