Book Review: Being Relevant

The Book ‘Being Relevant’ is written by the Founder of the Quant Group, Sandeep Tandon. Sandeep is very well known for his stewardship of the Quant Mutual Fund.

This Book was written way back in 2018 when the Quant Group took overs Escorts Mutual Fund. The Book was written to explain the investing beliefs, philosophy and tools to potential investors.

This Book had become very famous and very difficult to get and its only now that I was able to get my paws on it.

The Book is truly a master class on how to approach the markets from a very different and very active investing perspective.

The Quant core belief is that ‘Fundamental is the Atman, Liquidity is the Prana, Sentiments the Maya’. There are multiple proprietary indicators that the Quant group has built and the Book illustrates them richly with charts and data.

The Quant approach to markets is via the VLRT framework- Valuation, Liquidity, Risk Appetite and Time. There are detailed chapters on each one of these aspects.

There are detailed chapters on different asset classes and bold predictions on each. As expected, some predictions have come out to be true now 5 years later and some have not

One prediction which was prescient was “our indicators point to 3.8-4.2% as a critical threshold for US 10-year yields which could be breached decisively in 2023”

One prediction which failed spectacularly was ‘Going long Russian Equity indices & short US equities is our call for the decade’

The author believes in the concept of “Adaptive Alpha” which is very different from the “Buy Right, Sit Tight” approach of most Indian fund managers.

I would strongly recommend this Book to serious investors.


Book Review: Karunanidhi

The Book ‘Karunanidhi-A Life’ is written by veteran journalist A.S. Panneerselvan.

Karunanidhi was the five term CM of Tamil Nadu and one of the most important leaders of modern India.

He was the leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) whose ideology can be characterised as anti-Hindi (pro Tamil), anti-Hindu (pro-atheism), anti-India (pro-Tamil Nadu) and anti-Brahmin (pro-Dalit). Post the 1962 China war, the anti-India stance was dropped.

The Book traces the life and political career of Karunanidhi and is quite fascinating.

Karunanidhi was born in a very poor family but was active in politics since a very young age. Due to his activism, he didnt have much time for studies and flunked the X board exam 3 times. Having flunked the exam thrice, he was barred from giving the exam again ! This left him free to pursue his political and cinematic career.

What astonished me when I read the book was what an intellectual giant Karunanidhi was. In his career, he wrote more than 1.5L pages in print for party magazines, orated for more than 4000 hours and penned more than 70 film scripts.

Another aspect that surprised me was the violence that even a leader like Karunanidhi was subjected to. In Pondicherry , he was once almost beaten to death and in Chennai, some assailants almost succeeded in killing him.

When Karunanidhi started his political career, cinema was just taking off in the country. With the power of his pen, he used cinema as a political medium to raise political consciousness. I think this is a lost art now. He used to pen scripts that conveyed the political message of the day using themes/motifs from Tamil culture/ethos. His scripts help made Sivaji Ganesan and MGR superstars.

The Book traces the ins & outs of Tamil Nadu politics. It can leave the reader quite bewildered. One party can be in opposition to another party in one election and be in alliance with the same party in the next ! So we find the DMK at one point or the other in alliance with Congress, TMC, Swatantra, BJP, CPI, CPM, Muslim League etc

What is also interesting is how frequently the Centre brought down the state govt in Tamil Nadu using Article 356 of the Constitution. The Centre since 1950s have been meddling in TN politics. I was surprised to learn that AIADMK was the creation of the Centre.

The Book covers the relation of Karunanidhi and other state leaders with the LTTE. Till date, rest of India is not aware of the depth of emotion that people of Tamil Nadu have in this matter.

DMK under Karunanidhi was always known for 2 things-administration efficiency and corruption. The term ‘scientific corruption’ was invented to describe Karunanidhi’s rule.

As CM, Karunanidhi took forward the industrialization and progressive social agenda of the state. Unfortunately, corruption charges remained a constant companion throughout.

One issue unexplored and deserving of further study is how a party based on intellectualism and ideology got hijacked by one family.

The author seems to be a card carrying member of the DMK and can see no fault in his beloved leader. Last line of the Book is ‘Karunanidhi embodied and continues to embody the courage for Tamils to pursue their long march towards self-respect’

I would recommend this Book only to students of Indian politics.


Book Review: Doglapan

The Book ‘Doglapan: The Hard Truth about Life & Start-Ups’ is written by Ashneer Grover, the Founder of Bharat Pe.

The Book is auto-biographical in nature and the author narrates about his life with its ups and downs.

The author was a bright kid who went to IIT-Delhi & then IIM-A.

He then got into investment banking at Kotak where he was part of some marquee transactions. Kotak was the merchant banker for the Reliance Power IPO and one of the Kotak employees remarked : ‘Reliance Power was at the time a company with one table and two chairs in Ballard Estate’

So they knew what they were selling to retail investors.

Subsequently, he left Kotak to join Grofers.He had differences with the Founders there and was let go. After a brief stint with PC Jewelers, he joined the Founding team of Bharat Pe.

The author was one of the driving forces of the co and helped raised funds, design products etc

His ouster from the co is public knowledge and currently legal cases are on

The author has used the Book to promote himself and show his side of the story. But unfortunately, he comes across as a bitter, vain, obnoxious and self-serving jerk who is incapable of building a company. This probably explains why he wasn’t able to get along with his team, investors etc

Towards the end of the book, he has some advice for startup founders- Some of it good (Focus on customer), some of it bad (get family members into the co)

I would recommend this Book only to those interested in Indian startups.


Book Review: Half a Century

The Book ‘Half a Century and Still at the Crease’ is written by Paint Industry Veteran Biji K Kurien

The Book is about 50+ years of professional and corporate experience of the author.

The author was trained as an Electrical Engineer from Mysore University and then did his MBA from IIM-Ahmedabad.

He explains the environment/facilities/placements etc at IIM-A in great detail and makes for interesting reading. He topped his batch at IIM-A and I was surprised to see that late PM Indira Gandhi attended the convocation.In that era, IITs & IIMs were considered the pride of India and PMs made it a point to attend the convocations.

The author then found a job with Asian Paints where he was the first MBA to be hired. He was posted as the Branch Manager of the Madras (now Chennai) branch. The author narrates about his experiences there which gives a good perspective about how Indian businesses functioned then.

Then the author moved on as the Marketing Manager to British Paints (now Berger Paints), Kolkata. He later became the MD of the Co.

Large sections of the Book are devoted to his stint there.It covers the paint industry in detail and I found it to be a tedious read. One aspect I found interesting aspect was how there was a lockout in their factory in Communist Bengal and how they managed that. It was truly a master class in crisis management.

The author helped Vijay Mallya take over the co from its British owners and then helped the Singh brothers take it over from Vijay Mallya.

The author was President of Indian Paint Industry and Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industry. More sections of the book are devoted to this which are quite a bore to read.

Post retirement, the author started a business consultancy. I found these experiences to be quite illuminating. There is one instance of how he helped a tilemaker reduce his receivables & increase sales. I believe this experience has directly lead to creation of a startup Xuriti (where I am invested)

The author appears to be a very forthright person and this reflects in his writings.

I would recommend this Book only to those interested in Indian Paint Industry.


Book Review: The Rise of the BJP

The Book ‘ The Rise of the BJP’ is written by Bhupendra Yadav and Ila Patnaik. Bhupendra is a long time BJP politician and is currently a Minister in the Union Cabinet. Ila is a well known economist.

The Book traces the journey of BJP from its origins as Jan Sangh to the current behemoth it is now.

The Book makes for a fascinating read as it covers all the general elections from 1951 to 2019. As such, it is full of interesting details and trivia.

I was surprised to see the consistent high vote share that Socialist/Communist parties got in India till recently.

Another surprise for me was the fact that Indian National Congress till 1980s used to get more than 40% vote share which fell to less than 20% in 2014.

The Book traces the various elections and the main issues of those elections. The Book obviously has a very symphatetic bias to the BJP but does a good job in covering the vicissitudes of Indian politics.

After PM Modi & Amit Shah took charge of the BJP, the kind of focus they brought to the organisation & elections is truly breath taking.

In India, a typical voting booth is a physical location where about 1,000 voters cast their votes.There are about 1 Million polling booths in India. BJP had a person responsible for each booth. After each election , a post-mortem is done to understand reasons of success or failure.

Each booth has pages of voters called panna. Each panna has names of 20 to 30 voters.Since 40% vote share is enough to win elections, BJP targets to win around 12-15 voters of each panna. It tries to convert many of these voters to members of the party.

With this kind of focus, its no wonder that BJP is the largest political party in the world with a claimed membership of 180 million !

I would recommend this Book only to those interested in Indian politics.