Over the past few months, he has been back and forth to this hospital several times to negotiate complications related to kidneys, diabetes and ischemic heart disease. The Sunday morning visit, however, was to be his last.
My Sunday routine was punctuated by a call from the office. “RJ is no more,” said the voice on the other side, “You need to rush to Breach Candy Hospital.” I quickly grabbed my car keys and drove off.
I was greeted with an eerie silence, even by hospital standards. Because the news had not spread, I was able to walk to the room where the family members were waiting. A few familiar (masked) faces acknowledged the bad news with respectful nods and clasped hands.
Over the past few months, he has been back and forth to this hospital several times to negotiate complications related to kidneys, diabetes and ischemic heart disease. This visit, however, was to be his last. Moments after he arrived, doctors pronounced him dead, citing cardiac arrest as the primary cause. By now the word had spread. A battery of reporters, OB vans and cameramen gathered outside.
Shortly after, an ambulance carrying his remains headed for Il Palazo, his residence in Malabar Hill overlooking the sea, not far from the hospital. A message from the family confirmed that his “antim yatra” would take place at the Banganga crematorium in the neighborhood at 5:30 p.m.
Security personnel, police presence and barricades have been reinforced and placed outside the hospital, its residence and the Banganga crematorium.
Over the years, his holdings in stocks such as Titan, Lupin, Tata Motors and others have generated outsized returns. He also started toying with private investments that went public, like Nazara Tech, Metro Brands and Star Health Insurance.
Back at Il Palazo, those from the hospital had come with other family members to pay their respects. Jagjit Singh Sounds Hey Ram filled the room where, not so long ago, Jhunjhunwala’s laughter echoed.
Even though the air was dark, there were conversations about his zest for life and his love for India and the word “Anand-Jeevi” (happy soul) was well pronounced in the description.
Among his friends present from the stock markets were Utpal Seth, CEO and Partner of Rare Enterprises, Ramesh Damani, Vallabh Bhansali, Hiren Ved and Radhakishan Damani. While JhunjhunwaLA considered RKD his “guru” on the stock market, the former considered him one of his closest friends. RK Damani stood alongside his friend from the hospital at his house.
Among the many photos adorning the walls and tables of his residence, the one with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taken in October 2021 held a prominent corner.
For me, an analyst covering the Indian stock market, Jhunjhunwala’s humility towards his craft stood out. Quarter after quarter, he could be heard asking questions of the executives of his portfolio companies during their conference calls.
For someone of the stature of “India’s Warren Buffett” and a portfolio of over $5 billion, there was no need to wait in line every quarter. An army of analysts and all the listed companies would have been happy to answer any question from him via a private call in a second. But he meticulously scrutinized every number, every quarter, and wouldn’t hesitate to change his mind in a second if the data didn’t support his initial thesis. Perhaps that is what set him apart as a long-term trader and investor.
In the parlance of cricket, he was a capable T20 batsman who could hit a few sixes in order and an equally shrewd test batsman who could navigate tricky ground for hours to save the game.
This may also be what convinced him of his last big bet. Akasa Airlines, a low-cost and frugal airline, was promoted by him at a time when planes weren’t taking off during the pandemic. It was also the first new Indian airline in a decade.
By the time the aircraft began operations, his health deteriorated, but his enthusiasm did not. In a wheelchair, he attended Akasa Airlines’ inaugural event and cut the ribbon with childish glee. He showed the recycled polyester cabin crew uniforms in Akasa’s sneakers. He also took on a beard during the competition and ordered new chairs for their flights to match Akasa’s frugality.
In another corner of his house lay an orange scale model Akasa airplane on the ground, a respectful tribute to its promoter.
Even in his last interview on CNBC-TV18, less than a week before his death, the visibly ill Jhunjhunwala did not shy away from his enthusiasm for India. He said, “India will overtake the world. Even if the world goes into recession, India will grow, albeit at a slower pace, but it will grow…. »
As global markets grapple with inflation, central banks hike rates and fears of recession, a fresh wave of optimism in Indian markets and a successful investment journey by retail investors could be the best tribute to RJ.
Sleep well, Big Bull, and as you often say, may “the mother of all bull markets” be right in front of us.