Tricoloured balloons and flags adorn the walls and cubicles of Reliance Mutual Fund’s office in Lower Parel on the eve of India’s Republic Day celebration. But the mood on the Street is far from cheerful, with the market continuing to tumble thanks to poor earnings and a struggling economy. However, Sunil Singhania, the 47-year-old chief investment officer of the country’s third largest mutual fund house is not buying into the doomsday prophecies. “The first attribute that one needs in investing is to be optimistic. Why are we even talking of India’s growth story unravelling even before it has played out? Abhi humne dekha hi kya hai? If you believe India is going nowhere over the next five years, then you are getting into a defensive mode, and that is no fun,” he says. That sense of unbridled optimism is also one of the reasons why Singhania has topped the 10-year return track record, even as his company leapfrogged from being an also-ran to emerge as India’s third largest fund house, managing Rs.156,000 crore in assets.
Singhania got hooked to investing in college, and that passion continued during his CA articleship. After completing his CA, Singhania began working with his uncle, himself a chartered accountant. Although Singhania made a tidy sum by partaking in IPOs back in college, it was only by poring over balance sheets of companies that he gained insights into businesses and their potential. “In the ’80s, you did not have too many annual reports. So, I used to analyse whichever balance sheets I could lay my hands on,” says Singhania, who joined a small broking outfit and later moved to Advani Share Brokers, which was among the very few institutional broking houses catering to FIIs back then. It was also around this time that Singhania completed his CFA.
But it was hardly a cakewalk for Singhania, as back in 2001-2002, nobody was interested in buying anything other than tech stocks. “It was a frustrating time, as stocks of really good companies were available at multiples of 2-3x. Though we believed that these companies had it in them to grow tenfold, no one was willing to buy,” recalls Singhania. Even if he did manage to sell some ideas, clients would give him an earful if they ended in the red. Although mutual funds w