Equity Advisory

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Friday, 10 July 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. 

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.

The great investors who no one knows about

Two secretive brothers from New Zealand have perhaps THE best long-term track record in the investing world. Starting in 1986, the two turned $10 million of family money into over $5 billion just 20-years later. That’s an astounding 36% CAGR. The two brothers have gone to great lengths over the years to maintain a low profile and keep their faces out of the news. They were amongst the first investors to plunge into emerging markets like Russia, Brazil, and the Czech Republic. They are the Chandler brothers: Richard and Christopher. They ran the Sovereign Global Fund for 20-years (the two have since split off to manage their own money with Legatum and Clermont Capital).



The unknown Pharma billionaire investor

If discovering blockbuster drugs is the pinnacle of pharmaceutical industry success, then the next best thing is getting rich by earning pennies from every pill sold. For 24 years, that is exactly what a little known Wall Street investor named Pablo Legorreta has been doing. Few have heard of him, but millions have benefited from the top selling drugs his company Royalty Pharma draws income from. Names like Humira for sufferers of Crohn’s disease, Lyrica, the most successful anti-epileptic remedy and blood cancer treatment Imbruvica. The giant companies behind these drugs, names like Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AbbVie, do all the heavy lifting— producing and marketing the drugs while Legorreta sits back and collects his mailbox money.



How to reduce imports from China?

The larger structural question is whether we can permanently reduce the share of Chinese imports. This must be seen in context. India typically incurs a current account deficit, which means that we typically import more goods and services then we export. There are two reasons for this. We export when the price and quality of what we sell is attractive to foreigners. We import because the same is attractive to us. This, in essence, is the theory of comparative advantage and a current account deficit simply means that our overall comparative advantage is lower than that of our trading partners. However, as an economy evolves, there is another reason why this may happen, which is that our pattern of consumption becomes more import-intensive.



A gift of love from father to daughter made her a multimillionaire

When Hiroe Tanaka’s father died, he left behind something that would change her life: a recipe for fried meat on a stick. It was an act of love. His daughter adored the Japanese street food known as kushikatsu, and he’d spent endless hours working out how to make it just right.

The handwritten memo, which detailed how to cook the seemingly simple dish, helped save a restaurant business from bankruptcy in 2008, elevated Tanaka from part-time employee to vice president of a company named after her, and made her a multimillionaire. The university dropout who once worked as an office lady now sets strategy for the $82 million Kushikatsu Tanaka Co.



A therapy for permanently reducing LDL & Triglycerides

A novel gene-editing experiment seems to have permanently reduced LDL and triglyceride levels in monkeys. In the first gene-editing experiment of its kind, scientists have disabled two genes in monkeys that raise the risk for heart disease. Humans carry the genes as well, and the experiment has raised hopes that a leading killer may one day be tamed. But it will be years before human trials can begin, and gene-editing technology so far has a mixed tracked record. It is much too early to know whether the strategy will be safe and effective in humans; even the monkeys must be monitored for side effects or other treatment failures for some time to come.


Disclaimer: Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. The blog posts should not be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Using a Regime Filter

regime filter or a market regime filter is a tool to help us conceptually understand the kind of market we are in. As a systematic investor, we can increase our odds of success by adding a regime filter to our arsenal. It tells us, based on how we have defined it if we are in a bull market or a bear market. We would think differently about market risk in different market scenarios.

A simple example of a regime filter is using the 200 day moving average. If the index of your choice is above the 200 day moving average, then you define it as a bull market and below it as a bear market. You can design your portfolio strategy to hold full allocations in stocks if you are in a bull market and 50% allocated in a bear market.
So, with that basic logic you can start constructing a slightly more realistic and slightly more nuanced regime filter.

First, define the market conditions you want to address – superbull, bull, bear, superbear. The reason for doing that is you want to be cautious in the market extremes of superbear and superbull conditions and aggressive in the bear and bull conditions (for long-short strategies). Then use a combination of indicators like RSI and 50 & 200 day moving average to define the selected conditions. For example, above 200 dma and 70 RSI you define as superbull and above 200 dma and above 50 RSI as bull phase.

Another trick that can be used is to use multiple indices. For example, you can use the average of Nifty, Nifty Next 50 and Nifty 500 in equal proportions to define your market. For a long-only investor, it may increase the odds of success to be buyer only when the regime filter is indicating a bull market.

Note: For exploring quantitative systems, check out www.quantamental.in, a quant-based newsletter. 

Asking the Right Questions

I am a continuous learner. One reason I gravitated towards the stock market was because it gave me a platform to use the learning that I continuously absorbed from all around me a productive and remunerative outcome. It has also helped me in being humble because I keep making mistakes. This is a big difference from academic learning where people tend to learn to get a degree and prove their competence.

Unfortunately, the world is probabilistic and most often than not, we have to face up to the fact that we may not know as much as we thought we did. The markets keep reminding us that our knowledge is never complete and we need to question our learning and inferences all the time.

When we start to learn, most follow a standard process progressive elaboration - of understanding the basics and then going deeper into individual facets. That is what I used to do for the most part of my life. That is how we have been taught in school. But I am following a system that has started working much better for me.

When I start to learn something new, I jot down the questions I want to answer once I go through the topic. I typically take notes in OneNote. I have a box marked “Questions” on the top of the topic page. As I go through the learning process, I keep adding more questions that keep cropping up. Below the “Questions” box, I have my “Notes” box where I keep running notes, usually in bullet points. When I think I have understood the topic, I will revisit my questions and see if I can answer all of them. If not, go back to the learning process. Depending on the topic, it takes weeks or months to go through a topic.

After having followed this process for some time, **I have now come to realize that the learning is not dependent on the notes that I am taking from the material I study.** It is more from the questions I seek the answers to. Because subconsciously I am directing my learning to answer those questions. And therein lies the answer to a better system. **Trying to constantly improve the questions. Asking the more difficult questions. Questioning the questions.**

Just to give an example of a mini-project I am doing now (more on them later) on valuations.

Questions related to business valuation

* What are the most common ways to value businesses beyond DCF and Earnings multiples?
* Can one method be used to value or are multiple methods necessary to be used at the same time?
* Can businesses be valued accurately (even within a range)?
* Why does Buffett not use a spreadsheet? Does he do a DCF in his head? Or is DCF not that important as long as you have a good understanding of the business?
* How good are simple heuristics like PE, PEG, EV/EBIDTA in valuations?
* Can a multi-factor model work for valuations?
* What does history tell us about the correlation between valuations and stock price performance?
* What are the most common assumptions about valuations?
* How to know when my valuation is wrong?
* How are intangibles, corporate governance, management competence etc valued consistently?
* Is buying companies with low valuations better than buying companies with high valuations?
* Does market cycle determine valuation?
* Stan Druckenmiller says interest rate and currency influence valuations more than earnings. Is he right? Is it supported over time and across markets?
* Is narrative more powerful in the short run than valuation?
* Why is there such disconnect between private and public market valuations? Startups with no discernible earnings are being valued astronomically.
* Is there a model to accommodate systemic liquidity into valuation models
* Can valuation be disregarded altogether? How does a coffee-can portfolio generate above-average returns over time? Or a momentum portfolio for that matter.

Standard Disclaimer: Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. Nothing in the article should be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like the collection this consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.

The story of Parle-G
This is one article which I found fascinating at many levels. Deals with the history of Parle-G and also touches on the complexity of manufacturing and distribution in a constrained time like the Covid lockdown.

Across the country’s varied culinary landscape—where what one eats can signal class, caste, religion, ethnicity, and income—Parle-G biscuits are neutral. Wealthier Indians dip them in milky tea, poorer ones in water. Beyond the product itself, the people who make it illustrate the complexity and interdependent nature of the Indian economy, reliant at once on full-time workers and day labourers, not simply across the supply chain but often at the same company, even on the same factory floor. The Parle-G biscuit is, in many ways, bound up in multiple Indias—that of the formal and informal economy; that of big retail chains with their advanced supply chains and online stores, and mom-and-pop stores that have neighborhood credit systems; that of the rich, and the poor.



Deepfakes can be useful - if they don't become a menace

Synthetic media technologies—popularly known as deepfakes—have real potential for positive impact. Voice synthesis, for example, will allow us to speak in hundreds of languages in our own voice. Video synthesis may help us simulate self-driving-car accidents to avoid mistakes in the future. And text synthesis can accelerate our ability to write both programs and prose.

But these advances can come at a gargantuan cost if we aren’t careful: the same underlying technologies can also enable deception with global ramifications.



Negative news is bad for your health

Research shows us that even in normal times, constant exposure to negative news can have a heavy impact on our mental health. Among other things, negative news increases the level of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. Continuous exposure to cortisol has been shown to cause severe side effects, including being unable to naturally regulate blood pressure. Furthermore, negative news stories have been shown to significantly change an individual’s mood and mindset — particularly if there is a tendency to emphasize suffering, death, and other emotional components of the story.



Market timing is not possible

Markets are second-order systems. What this means is that in order to successfully implement such market timing strategies you not only have to be able to predict events — interest rate rises, wars, oil price shocks, the impact of the coronavirus, the outcome of elections and referendums — you also need to know what the market was expecting and how it will react and get your timing right. Tricky. When it comes to so-called market timing there are only two sorts of people: those who can’t do it, and those who know they can’t do it. It’s safer and more profitable to be in the latter camp.



Augmented reality used for the first time in spine surgery

Augmedics, a pioneer in augmented reality, surgical image guidance has announced its groundbreaking xvision Spine System has been successfully used for the first time in a spinal fusion surgery in the United States.  The system was used in a spinal surgery procedure by Johns Hopkins University surgeons. xvision, the first Augmented Reality Guidance system for surgery, allows surgeons to visualize the 3D spinal anatomy of a patient during surgery as if they had “x-ray vision,” and to accurately navigate instruments and implants while looking directly at the patient, rather than a remote screen. The xvision Spine System takes the best of surgical navigation systems and improves upon them to meet the needs of surgeons and provide technical confidence in the operating room.


Disclaimer: Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. The blog posts should not be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

FAQ answers for Hitpicks - the technofunda advisory

I have been receiving a number of questions on our new Technofunda initiative - Hitpicks. Here are some points that should answer most of the commonly asked questions.

  • All communication will be on email.
  • It is a long-only strategy. All the ideas recommended would be BUY recommendations but if and when we spot an opportunity of a breakdown/reversal in any stock we would bring it to your notice only as a possibility and not as a recommendation.
  • The companies recommended will be companies with decent fundamentals and high liquidity.  
  • The time frame for the given trade will be clearly mentioned along with the recommendation. e.g short term means few days to few weeks, medium-term means few weeks to few months and long term for a few months to more than that. 
  • Ideal allocation to technofunda trading in the overall portfolio should not exceed 30-40% of total portfolio value. One can gradually begin with smaller sums and get enough confidence to bet higher amounts gradually.  
  • We would endeavour to recommend stocks as and when we come across good trade setups and because of that there will be no fixed frequency of recommendations. 
  • A minimum of 12 recommendations would be provided but the number is likely to be exceeded provided markets remain good. 
  • We would clearly mention the course of action which includes buy/accumulate in a price range, stop loss and targets in each recommendation. Whenever targets are achieved or sometimes slightly before that happens, it would be advisable to book atleast partial if not full profits. 
  • Along with technical set up, a brief write up about the fundamentals and possible triggers would be provided with the recommendation. 
  • The recommendations are for delivery based trading on the given time frames, but if someone wants to buy in futures or options, he/she can do so at his/her own risk.  
  • Investors/traders do not need to trade each and every recommendation made.  They can pick and choose according to their comfort levels based on conviction and time frame mindset.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Pre-Register for the Introductory offer for Hitpicks

The introductory offer for "Hitpicks" is here. Please register your email id and we will send you the payment details.

The first 100 registered email ids get a discounted price:
1 yr - Rs 16,000 (instead of Rs 20K)
2 yr - Rs 28,000 (instead of Rs 35K)

Google Forms for pre-registration - https://forms.gle/G1WPJxyqmUBSzVk76

Thursday, 25 June 2020

Introducing Hitpicks - our new technofunda advisory

It brings me great pleasure to bring to the fore an old friendship and collaboration between Hitesh Bhai (that's what I and most people I know call Hitesh Patel). 

He is the person who enthused me to learn technical analysis which opened the doors of quantitative investing. I also realized that blending technical and quantitative with fundamentals adds superpowers to regular BHP (buy-hold-pray) investing.

My own results improved significantly after meeting Hitesh Bhai. I also ventured into exploring other investing styles, which I think has helped tremendously in expanding my horizons.

The new offering - "Hitpicks" - is focused on technicals with a technofunda approach with a short-to-medium timeframe.

There may be some confusion for investors on which plan should they chose for a subscription. I have already received a few emails with an hour of announcing the new plan on twitter. So, here are a few pointers to help decide.

1. Intelsense Long Term Advisory is for those who are long term investors.

This is ideal for you if you have a time-horizon of a minimum of 5 years and are typically looking to invest for the next few decades. Here the main focus is compounding capital with comparatively lower risk in quality businesses. It is very well suited for retirement planning, monthly SIPs, goal-based investing for financial goals at least a decade away or wealth creation for the next generation. Transactions are infrequent and there may be months or quarters or even years (less likely, but possible) where we just sit and do nothing to our positions.

2. Quantamental is for style diversification, disciplined high risk-high return.

This is a great compliment to Intelsense Long Term advisory. You can think of taking a 10%-20% part of the portfolio in a strategy like this, which in the long run can generate serious outperformance. But, this is much more involved and hands-on approach and requires making transactions once a month. The risk for an investor also is higher as you would not really know a lot of details of the companies you are buying into. Also, since it invests into high growth, high momentum stocks, in a choppy market you can keep losing money. However, it can generate excellent returns in a trending bull market as shown by the backtested performance and also experienced by me since I have been investing in it. This strategy is also great for people who want to just invest in a product where human biases and mistakes are systematically reduced progressively.

3. Hitpicks is for short-to-medium term discretionary technofunda bets

This is basically meant for those who have a short-to-medium term time horizon. The core is technical analysis with an overlay of fundamentals, which basically means we will be looking only at fundamentally strong companies for technical chart patterns and breakouts. Transactions will be frequent. It requires a hands-on approach to the market.

4. Mix and match based on your preference

Based on your preference and requirement, you can choose what makes sense to you. Or if you feel that you want to apportion a part of your portfolio to each strategy then that is also not a bad idea. That is what I personally do. My personal approach is about a 70:20:10 split with the intention of moving to a 50:30:20 split over time.

5. All existing Intelsense and Quantamental subscribers will be eligible for a discounted subscription rate. Always.

Those who are already subscribers to any Intelsense family plan are automatically eligible for a discounted rate. It will be rolled out to existing subscribers directly. In fact, this will be available across the basket of plans. Any existing subscriber will get a discounted rate for any other plan.

6. All 3 plans are separate and complementary. You choose based on what you need.

I don't pick favourites among the 3 plans. They are complementary styles and complementary time horizons. So, a particular plan may not be suitable for all needs. But between the three, I think, we pretty much cover a large part of the equity investing spectrum. 

7. Bottomline is to provide honest, effective and good quality advice to retail investors.

Right from our initial ValuePickr days, we have been driven to participate in empowering the small investors. Even today, both Hitesh Bhai and I continue to spend hours every day on ValuePickr doing just that. And we get a lot more in return - in terms of great ideas, points we may not have thought of, scuttlebutt from across the country and so much more.

After having interacted with literally tens of thousands of retail investors in the few years, I have realised that there is a dire need for actionable advice which was honest and where you are not being "duped" into buying bad companies by fly-by-night advisors. 

The love and affection we have received and continue to receive from fellow members of ValuePickr and the investing community in general, remain the prime mover for us.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like the collection this consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.

The innings that changed Indian cricket forever

One of the greatest innings of modern times began 18 minutes past 11 o’clock with no television camera to record its brilliance. A bareheaded Kapil Dev, in a full-sleeve sweater and droopy moustache, “squinted up at the sun”, wrote R Mohan in Sportstar, as he walked in to bat.

In his hands a Slazenger V12. On his mind thoughts of survival. A few minutes on, Yashpal Sharma’s dismissal left India at 17 for 5.

Walking in at No.7, Roger Binny remembers Kapil saying: “We’ve got 53 overs to go.”



A sneak peak at the developments of manufacturing artificial organs, at scale

Betting on success for growing organs, Kamen compares scaling their manufacturing to the way Silicon Valley turned an understanding of semiconductors into creating transistors so small and cheap that the tech industry now churns out phones by billions. “So I thought, why don’t we do the same thing for living tissues,” he says. “There ought to be a way to make a high quantity of them, a high quality of them, and at a realistic cost for the American public that’s in desperate need when they have an organ failure.”



The phenomenon called Robinhood

Robinhood took the trend to its logical conclusion — trades that cost $0 — and converted it into an opportunity to connect around money with members of a 90-million-strong generation. It was shrewd: Not only is it easier to reel in newcomers than to peel users away from other services, there’s an opportunity to make them lifetime customers, gradually adding new (fee-based) services. That’s why lots of businesses, including brokerage and financial firms, are interested in young HENRY — “high earners, not rich yet” — clients.



The Big Cycles - Ray Dalio's mega serial soap opera continues

I am not a fan of Ray Dalio. I think he tends to oversimplify complex situations and overcomplicates simple ones!!! Nevertheless, this storytelling on the long cycles is good learning. Also, would urge everyone to read Niall Fergusson's The Ascent of Money or watch the documentary on youtube (link: https://youtu.be/fsrtB5lp60s). The documentary does have some stunning visuals and shooting locations. Worth the 4-odd hours.



Cyber-mercenaries on the rise

Israel is a world leader in private cybertechnology, with at least 300 firms covering everything from banking security to critical infrastructure defense. But while most of these firms aim to protect companies from cyberattacks, a few of them have taken advantage of the thin line between defensive and offensive cybercapabilities to provide clients with more sinister services.

The privatization of this offensive capability is still in its infancy. But it raises broad concerns about the proliferation of some very powerful tools and the way governments are losing the monopoly over their use. When state actors employ cyberweapons, there is at least the prospect of regulation and accountability. But when private companies are involved, things get more complicated.

“If you want to take down a plane, if you want to ground air power, you don’t go through the front door, the cockpit,” said Ben Efraim, a former fighter pilot. “You go after the airport. … You go after the logistics systems. You go after the iPads the pilots take home.” There are no “stand-alone entities anymore—everything is part of a network,” Ben Efraim added.


Disclaimer: Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. The blog posts should not be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like the collection this consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.

Stop using old models to understand a new world

There is a parallel between today’s stock market and Fischer random chess. The last time we faced a global pandemic was in 1918, and this might as well have been in the BC era. Few of us were alive then, but even the history books are not that useful, as the structure of the US and global economy, the central bank system, the diversity and dynamism of society, and the state of technological progress are nothing like the world knew then. Most of the mental models we as investors rely on are based on an environment that no longer exists. The only common denominator between now and then is that humans have not really changed that much – it takes a few millennia to rewire our DNA and thus our fundamental behaviour.

We need to confront this environment on its own unique terms: we have never been here before. We have to incredibly careful not to fall back on using old mental models. With every move we make, we have to reexamine our assumptions.



Rise of Livestream Shopping

Livestream shopping is a natural confluence of several current tech trends—streaming, influencers, social, commerce—and offers companies a new path to consumers' hearts and wallets.

In April, Huang Wei—known professionally as Viya—sold a rocket launch for around 40 million yuan ($5.6 million). The live, online shopping extravaganza the 34-year-old hosts most nights for her fans across China is part variety show, part infomercial, part group chat. Last month, she hit a record-high audience of more than 37 million—more than the “Game of Thrones” finale, the Oscars or “Sunday Night Football.”

Each night, Viya’s audience places orders worth millions of dollars—typically for cosmetics, appliances, prepared foods or clothing, but she’s also moved houses and cars. On Singles Day, China’s biggest shopping event of the year, she did more than 3 billion yuan in sales. The spread of coronavirus, which put most Chinese people under stay-at-home orders, doubled her viewership.



Robinhood investing is here

Professional investors have largely abandoned the stock market amid the coronavirus pandemic, but sports bettors and bored millennials have jumped into the retail stock trading market with both feet.

They may be a driving force pushing U.S. stocks to their recent highs — and potentially driving them further.

43% of North American men aged 25-34 who watch sports also bet on sports at least once per week, and that's the same group that has flocked to Robinhood.



John Bogle did not invent the index fund - A lesson in history of the index fund

In the January 1960 issue of the Financial Analysts Journal, Edward Renshaw and Paul Feldstein published an article entitled, “The Case for an Unmanaged Investment Company.”

The fundamental problem facing individual investors in 1960 was that there were too many mutual-fund companies: over 250 of them. “Given so much choice,” the authors wrote, “it does not seem likely that the inexperienced investor or the person who lacks time and information to supervise his own portfolio will be any better able to choose a better than average portfolio of investment company stocks.”

The solution suggested in this paper was an “unmanaged investment company”, one that didn't try to beat the market but only tried to match it. “While investing in the Dow Jones Industrial average, for instance, would mean foregoing the possibility of doing better than average,” the authors wrote, “it would also mean that the investor would be assured of never doing significantly worse.”



Newton's Law of Productivity

In many ways, procrastination is a fundamental law of the universe. It's Newton's first law applied to productivity. Objects at rest tend to stay at rest. It works the other way too. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. When it comes to being productive, this means one thing: the most important thing is to find a way to get started. Once you get started, it is much easier to stay in motion.


Disclaimer: Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. The blog posts should not be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.


Good, Bad & Ugly! How Covid-19 can churn winners on Dalal Street

My article in Economic Times today:


The full text below:

Thursday, 11 June 2020

The Journey to be a Full-Time Investor

Since I turned into a full-time investor, I keep getting a lot of questions on how, when and what to do to quit a salaried job. I don’t have a prescription. But I can share what I thought and did. I hope it helps.

#1 – Not running away from your job
The most important determinant for leaving my full time job was to have a passion that I wanted to follow. If there is nothing to run towards, I figured that the day to day life would become very boring after the initial few days or weeks, even if I had enough money to sit and do nothing. A meaningful occupation or passion is the most important factor for deciding to call it quits.

Luckily for me, investing is my passion. It is something I would do even if I did not make any money from it.

#2 – Make sure your family is onboard with your decision
Leaving a professional career was not easy. It took me 2 years to convince my family that it is not an end of the world if I did not get up in the morning and go to a corporate job. Since, I come from a very typical middle class Bengali family, with practically all extended family members working as professionals or in corporate jobs, there supposedly was a “social” problem if I had no job! My family members were worried about simple things like what would they say if relatives asked what I did for a living.

The most critical aspect, in my experience, was the uncertainty of not having the month-end sms announcing your salary credit! That is something which is not very easy to get over. That leads me to my next point.

#3 – Make sure you get your basic expenses covered from fixed income
This was something that my friend Aveek Mitra told me a few years back. He said if I was planning to be a full time investor it is important to make sure that my investing capital is never ever required for my monthly expenses and that I should be able to run the household expenses from fixed deposits.

I strictly adhered to this. And this made the decision to quit all the more easy. Because it does not really matter at the end of the month if your salary is coming from a company you work for or from a bank FD you have.

This also helped in eliminating the uncertainty of leaving a job that I was accustomed to for nearly two decades.

I understand that this criteria makes it very difficult to consider quitting because it necessitates a fairly large corpus to be put aside for fixed deposits. Unfortunately, quitting a job, in Indian context is more or less a permanent decision. It is very difficult to be able to find a job after a couple of years in case it’s required by financial exigencies. Best to be conservative than to be repent it.

Of course, if you have a spouse who can contribute to covering part of the monthly expenses, then you are in a considerably better situation.

#4 – Think about what you will do with your time
Being a fulltime investor sounds very cool and sexy. But it’s not. It is a lonely pursuit. Unless you love sitting and reading for hours every day, it is very easy to get bored very easily. It is best if you do not work from home. I have found working from home as a full time investor to be very difficult. My family thinks I don’t do anything and keep interrupting!! This wasn’t the case when I was working in my job. Have a network on friends who are also full time investors who you can speak to during the day because most of your other friends or family will be occupied in their own jobs and businesses. It is also important to have a hobby for time-diversification. As long as you are working, investing was possibly your hobby. But once your job is done with, you need something else to fall back on to divert your mind and relax.

#5 – Build a daily routine and be disciplined
Once you are a full time investor, you need to have a routine which you follow. Else you run the risk of slowly falling into chaotic stupor. I, for example, break up my work day into 2-3 big blocks of 1-2 hours each. I spend reading (books, magazines, articles, blogs), listening to concalls or videos or podcasts, stock specific work, moderation work and going through threads in ValuePickr, researching quant ideas etc. I will take each of these and put them on my calendar for each day.

#6 – Enjoy the journey
This is perhaps the most important and most overlooked. Unless you enjoy the process of investing and love the learning process, just running after the returns will be very boring and unrewarding. Only if you love what you are doing and feel energized every day, will it really be all worthwhile.


Abhishek Basumallick is the Head of the equity advisory www.intelsense.in for long term wealth creation and a pure quant focused newsletter at www.quantamental.in. Nothing in the article should be construed as investment advice. Please do your own due diligence before investing.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


If you like the collection this consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate.

Systems Thinking - a deep dive (Must Read!!)
Systems thinking is holistic; it attempts to derive understanding of parts from the behavior and properties of wholes, rather than derive the behavior and properties of wholes from those of their parts. Disciplines are taken by science to represent different parts of the reality we experience. In effect, science assumes that reality is structured and organized in the same way universities are.

This is a double error. First, disciplines do not constitute different parts of reality; they are different aspects of reality, different points of view. Any part of reality can be viewed from any of these aspects. The whole can be understood only by viewing it from all the perspectives simultaneously.

Second, the separation of our different points of view encourages looking for solutions to problems with the same point of view from which the problem was formulated.



100,000 year old extinct bird come back

The Aldabra white-throated rail bird was declared extinct, a victim of rising sea levels almost 100,000 years ago.

However, the flightless brown bird has recently been spotted – leaving scientists scratching their heads as to how – and why – the species has come back to life.

According to research in the Zoological Journal of Linnean Society, the re-incarnated Aldabra bird is a product of ‘iterative evolution’. That’s when old genes thought to have died out re-emerge at a different point in time.

While iterative evolution has previously occurred in species such as turtles, it has never been seen in the realm of birds.

“We know of no other example in the rails, or of birds in general, that demonstrates this phenomenon so evidently,” said paleobiologist David Martill, in a statement.

“Only on the Aldabra, which has the oldest palaentological record of any oceanic island within the Indian Ocean region, is fossil evidence available that demonstrates the effects of changing sea levels on extinction and recolonization events.”



The rise and rise of TikTok

TikTok has become the best way to create and consume short videos on mobile. It rode the wave of AirPods and audio memes to over 1 billion DAU’s (Daily Active Users), and is likely worth ~$200 billion. This would make it not only the world’s most valuable "startup” but one of the world’s most valuable companies, period.



Journey to take back control of your info on the internet

Deciding to delete your information online is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out where to start.

For many, the obvious answer would be focusing on consumer-facing services such as Facebook and Google, where we willingly -- if not always consciously -- hand over data about ourselves on a daily basis.



Take a few deep breaths

He started small by taking three deep breaths each time he sat down at his desk.  He found it helped him relax. After three breaths became a habit, he expanded to a few minutes a day. He found he was more patient, calmer, more in the moment. Now he does 30 minutes a day. It restores his perspective while enabling him to take a fresh look at a question or problem and come up with new solutions. Deep breathing exercises have been part of yoga practices for thousands of years, but recent research done at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital document the positive impact deep breathing has on your body’s ability to deal with stress.


Saturday, 23 May 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

I especially try to not post Corona related articles as that is all one gets to read in all traditional media.


Expand your mind

No, my worry is that, especially now that you’re out of college, you won’t put enough really excellent stuff into your brain. I’m talking about what you might call the “theory of maximum taste.” This theory is based on the idea that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness. If you spend a lot of time with genius, your mind will end up bigger and broader than if you spend your time only with run-of-the-mill stuff.

The theory of maximum taste says that each person’s mind is defined by its upper limit—the best that it habitually consumes and is capable of consuming.



Branded face masks coming!

Disney is selling cloth face masks featuring Anna and Elsa, Woody and Buzz Lightyear and Baby Yoda, among other characters. Sports leagues like the NBA and NFL are also selling licensed face masks with team logos.

One startup, MaskClub.com, even offers a monthly subscription service that launched in early April for reusable cloth face masks featuring a few thousand licensed designs such as Betty Boop, NASA and images from iconic TV hits like Beverly Hills 90210.



Is medicine good for us?

Problems arise because of a few structural features of medicine. A prominent one is the profit incentive. The pharmaceutical industry is extremely profitable, and the fantastic financial gains to be made from selling drugs create incentives to engage in some of the practices above. Another prominent feature of medicine is the hope and the expectation of patients that medicine can help them, coupled with the training of physicians to actively intervene, by screening, prescribing, referring or cutting. Another feature is the wildly complex causal basis of many diseases, which hampers the effectiveness of interventions on those diseases – taking antibiotics for a simple bacterial infection is one thing, but taking antidepressants for depression is entirely different.



Do less to achieve more

We’ve been taught that if we want more — money, achievement, vitality, joy, peace of mind — we need to do more, to add more to our ever-growing to-do list. But what if we’ve been taught wrong? What if the answer to getting more of what we want isn’t addition at all, but subtraction?

As it turns out, evidence supports that if we want to ramp up our productivity and happiness, we should actually be doing less.

We need to identify what not to do. But this determination can’t be random.



Tech for tomorrow

A reasonably detailed, yet high-level view of the changes happening in the tech world.



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Friday, 15 May 2020

Weekend Reading

Here come the Bots

Miquela, the digital avatar and music artist created by an L.A.-based entertainment company has signed as CAA’s first virtual client.

Miquela, aka “Lil Miquela,” launched on Instagram in April 2016 without explanation — and today she has 2.2 million followers, plus almost 550,000 on TikTok. The freckle-faced, CGI-generated teen robot is the invention of startup Brud, which positions her as a “Gen Z tastemaker” and has inked brand partnerships for Miquela with companies including Samsung, Prada, Calvin Klein and YouTube.

CAA said it will work with Miquela (pronounced “mih-KAY-lah”) in all areas, including TV, film, and brand strategy and commercial endorsements, raising the prospect of a movie or show featuring the character.



Buffett says, "I don't know"

Between the lines of “You can bet on America” were warnings not to be overconfident in predicting what the future might hold.

His positivity, even during difficult economic moments, always radiated with a clear sense of certainty. After all, he is known as the Oracle of Omaha.

That’s why it was unsettling on Saturday to hear him repeatedly say “I don’t know.” He was careful to say the markets would improve in the long term — though his time frame for certainty was decades, not months or not even necessarily years from now.

He said the $137 billion he had on hand “isn’t all that huge when you think about worst-case possibilities.” Let that seep in. He added: “We don’t prepare ourselves for a single problem, we prepare ourselves for problems that sometimes create their own momentum.” That’s coming from the same man who once famously said, “Every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the economic skies, and they will briefly rain gold. When downpours of that sort occur, it’s imperative that we rush outdoors carrying washtubs, not teaspoons.”



Reinventing the supply chain to optimise security

Industrial machine producers, of the kind that make a huge contribution to the German economy, have begun shifting priorities from making the supply chain as cheap as possible to making it as secure as possible.

When it comes to the use of robotics in industrial production, Germany is among the world leaders, behind such countries as Singapore and South Korea. Even mid-sized companies like Arburg are increasingly embracing them. They can be used around the clock, they don't get sick and they don't have to go on vacation. They also don't have to stay 1.5 meters away from each other in times of pandemic. In short, they make it possible for production to continue in Germany.



China is starting to face a backlash from Europe

If 2019 was the year when Europeans began having serious doubts about Beijing’s geopolitical intentions, 2020 may go down in history as the moment they turned against China in defiance. The EU’s diplomatic service assembled a report on the disinformation campaigns being waged by China and that other usual suspect, Russia. China promptly made a bad situation worse, leaning on the publication’s authors to tone it down. At this, members of the European Parliament took even more umbrage and demanded assurances that the EU will not self-censor under Chinese pressure.

Even before the pandemic, Europeans were becoming disappointed by the one-sided nature of these “partnerships,” both economically and politically. China’s largest trading partner in Europe, Germany, has also put up its guard after several Chinese companies took stakes in German technology firms ranging from a robot maker to a power company. Last year, Berlin tightened the rules on such sensitive acquisitions. The EU followed suit, with a common investment-screening approach taking effect this year. Meant to preserve Europe’s technological and industrial autonomy, it implicitly aims to keep China at bay.



A short history of who owns the roads - cars or pedestrians?

"In the early days of the automobile, it was drivers' job to avoid you, not your job to avoid them," says Peter Norton, a historian at the University of Virginia and author of Fighting Traffic: The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City. "But under the new model, streets became a place for cars — and as a pedestrian, it's your fault if you get hit."

One of the keys to this shift was the creation of the crime of jaywalking. Here's a history of how that happened.

This was also part of the final strategy: shame. In getting pedestrians to follow traffic laws, "the ridicule of their fellow citizens is far more effective than any other means which might be adopted," said E.B. Lefferts, the head of the Automobile Club of Southern California in the 1920s. Norton likens the resulting campaign to the anti-drug messaging of the '80s and '90s, in which drug use was portrayed as not only dangerous but stupid.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Thoughts on Markets

Tussle between Bulls and Bears

Currently, there is a boxing match going on between liquidity & low-interest rates on one hand and business and economic uncertainty on the other. In March, round one had gone to uncertainty and in April, in round two, liquidity won. So, right now, round wise we are 1-1 but uncertainty had struck heavier blows and has more points (the market is down more than up)! 

Just to understand the liquidity situation, let’s look at what is happening around the world.
  • US: $5 trillion stimulus package announced. Roughly, 25% of GDP.
  • UK: GBP 500 billion stimulus package announced. Roughly, 25% of GDP.
  • Eurozone: Euro 3.2 trillion stimulus package announced. Roughly, 24% of GDP.
  • US: Yen 108 trillion stimulus package announced. Roughly, 20% of GDP.
So, both sides are strong and it is not very clear who will win the next few rounds. 

The central banks globally are using their 2008 playbook and have jumped in very quickly to the rescue. That is why even Warren Buffett is sitting holding his 130+ billion dollars of cash. But no one is calling to offer him great deals that he got in 2008 because the guys who need the cash have now got it from the central banks in some roundabout way.

Compare this with what the Indian government and RBI has done for the industry – practically nothing. And unless some significant measures come in, India is going to have to pay for the consequences for a long time. 

The Way Forward

I am of the opinion after speaking to a large number of business owners over the last few weeks that the next 1-1.5 years will be extremely tough. The level of uncertainty is only going to go down as and when a vaccine is found and is delivered to the masses and is effective in preventing a further outbreak. Till then we are going to be wary of the circumstances. The more the duration of the lockdown goes on and the more social distancing norms gets mainstreamed, the more persistent behaviour changes are likely to be. The scars of this event will be there for a fairly long period in my opinion.

The urban salaried and business class are likely to be badly affected with reduced income from salaries or businesses. This is likely to have a negative impact on discretionary spending. So, sectors like real estate, both residential and commercial; 4 wheelers, luxury items, leisure travel are likely to be hit much longer than people are currently factoring in. 

Another area of concern for me is how the startup space will play out. The “thin-air” valuation model is likely to come under severe scrutiny and make way for more profitable and cashflow oriented business models. The concern is that in the last few years, the bulk of incremental jobs in India, especially at the lower end of the spectrum, has come from these “non-profitable” enterprises (the likes of Oyo, Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, Uber, Flipkart, Amazon, Paytm etc). Impact to such businesses would mean a chain reaction and lead to joblessness. 

Civil Distress

History tells us that severe economic contractions most of the time lead to social unrest, civil wars and even full-scale wars between countries. I am not suggesting we would have it this time around, but we need to be aware of such an outcome. Already social tensions have started rising and with more duress in daily life, it is likely to escalate. The government does have a significant role to play in this through various social schemes. 

Silver Lining

Some areas which give me comfort is that a very large section of Indians depends on agriculture and that has been the least impacted in the crisis. With, hopefully, a good monsoon, we should be able to see rural demand coming back.

Another silver lining is the reset in labour laws that states are now resorting to. Times of crisis such as these are great opportunities for policy reset which is particularly difficult to get done during normal times. Labour and land reforms are the two most critical issues that have been holding back Indian industry and any progress on these should be welcomed. 

In times like this, it is better to remain cautious. There are 3 positions an investor can take in the market at any time – i) be a buyer, ii) be a seller and iii) wait outside. 

Now seems a good time to be waiting outside.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week.

Signalling as a service: A super article
Most of our everyday actions can be traced back to some form of signalling or status-seeking. Our brains deliberately hide this fact from us and others (self-deception).
eBooks have never caught up with paper books despite being more convenient. On the contrary, physical book sales have remained stable (and in some markets even increased) in recent years. Interestingly though, people spend less time reading them. Their value seems to stem from lying around the house to impress visitors (see also coffee table books) – a benefit digital books simply can’t offer.

The hidden agenda in reporting and the secret to reading critically
The secret to reading critically? Ask yourself this:
Why am I reading this article NOW?
Just do that. You’re not saying that the article is a lie. You’re not saying that the article isn’t important. You’re saying that there is a metagame at play here with the author and the sources of that article. You’re saying that you are aware of that metagame and you’re going to take that into account before deciding your behaviour in reaction to that article.
Who are the Writers of the World-As-It-Is? They are Republicans. They are Democrats. They are central bankers. They are pundits. They are politicians. They are oligarchs. They are in every nation on Earth. They have ONE thing in common. They’re Writing for their own political and economic advantage. And they’re really, really good at shaping our behaviours with their words.
It’s never been more important to read critically and think critically. Not because you’re a nihilist or you believe in nothing. But because you believe in yourself. Because you’re smart enough and wise enough to make up your own damn mind.

Why is Xerox (or others) making hand sanitizer?
Xerox is going to soon start manufacturing hand sanitizer. It's also getting into the ventilator business. Earlier this month, a partnership with a technology firm was announced that will help Xerox manufacture a specific type of ventilator and monitor for hospitals and emergency response units.
If you asked their executives a year ago if they planned to get into the hand sanitizer or ventilator business, they would react as if you'd lost your mind. But now these businesses might turn out to be potential longer-term revenue streams. Who knows?
Hand sanitizer might be the foundation of a new strategy to make and sell other office-related supplies that could be positioned to dovetail nicely with Xerox's workplace offerings. The manufacture of ventilators will certainly keep the company’s workforce engaged and thinking during these slower times, and who knows what new techniques for making office equipment will be discovered while in the process of making hospital equipment? And hey … with Xerox’s existing infrastructure, maybe manufacturing ventilators is more profitable than manufacturing printers. This could be an entirely new venture. Again, who knows?

What drives private markets in India - growth or alpha?
The growth we computed as the return in the financial performance of the investee company from the time of entry to the time of exit. We determined Alpha by calculating the difference between overall IRR and Growth. This represented the PE/VC fund’s ability to invest at a valuation multiple lower than that at which it could exit from the investee company.
Since private transactions incorporate something of a discount for lack of marketability (DLOM), our initial hypothesis was that Alpha’s contribution to IRR would be substantial. Instead, we found Growth accounted for 31.3% and Alpha just 5.1% per year of IRR (Total IRR = [(1+ growth%) * (1+alpha%) -1].
So to return to the question posed in our title, our analysis of PE/VC backed Indian IPOs since 1 January 2015 gives a clear answer. Funds generated the vast majority of the 38% average IRR because they invested in high-growth companies in their early years.
Growth, not Alpha, then is the key driver of PE/VC returns in India.

The new digital currency in China
China will begin trialling payments in its new digital currency in four major cities from next week. In recent months, China’s central bank has stepped up its development of the e-RMB, which is set to be the first digital currency operated by a major economy. State-media outlet China Daily said it had been formally adopted into the cities’ monetary systems, with some government employees and public servants to receive their salaries in the digital currency from May.