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Timeless lessons for a lifetime

Getting to truly understand Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger is as much an unlearning process as it is a learning one

As a young Chartered Accountant starting out in financial services, the first time I heard of Warren Buffett was in 1995. We were in merchant banking (as investment banking was known those days, mainly doing IPOs) and had approached one institutional investor to pitch for shares we were issuing. The investor said, “Oh, don’t tell me about prospects for a year or two. I am a long-term investor like Buffett.” I heard that and in the hectic work days of merchant banking, I promptly forgot about it. Later one would sporadically hear about Warren Buffett and his track record but I never got curious enough to know more. In fact, the jury was out in the late 1990s whether he was too old school and could not adapt to the new world of internet companies. I had no strong views but I failed to understand how a company could suddenly be valued differently the moment it changed the company name to indicate a technology business. I was leaning towards Buffett’s views that there was something like a bubble forming.

That somewhat indifferent approach changed in the years 2000-2003. A few things happened then. The dot-com boom came to an end. 2001 was the year I joined Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services (PPFAS) but, before I joined, I had a few weeks break. During that break, my wife redeemed a few of her credit card bonus points and we headed to a bookstore for our periodic book buying binge. It was then that I came across a somewhat fat book, Of Permanent Value: The Story of Warren Buffett by Andy Kilpatrick. I was hooked. I had joined PPFAS on the fixed income brokerage desk but I had the good fortune of interacting with people such as Chandrakant Sampat and Parag Parikh and also made a deep friendship with Nirjhar Handa. There was no looking back from that time. In 2003, I effectively abandoned the fixed income desk and moved to equities full time.

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