It’s been nine years since we hit the trough post the 2008 crisis. No one would have ever imagined that a bull market would bring us this far, compounding return at 17% from a low of 8,160 (Sensex on March 9, 2009) to 33,835 as on March 14, 2018. Incidentally, the ensuing period also saw some reputed public fund managers hanging up their boots such as KN Sivasubramanian, who bid adieu to Franklin Templeton MF after a 20-year stint, even as others such as Kenneth Andrade, known for his mid-cap picks, moved out of IDFC Asset Management to start his own venture, Old Bridge Capital. Now it’s Sunil Singhania who is setting up his own firm, Abakkus Asset Managers. Singhania, who managed retail money for 14 years at Reliance Mutual Fund before moving to Reliance Capital, believes it is the right time for public fund managers to come into their own. “My belief is that increasingly investors will begin to look at the fund manager rather than the organisation,” says the 50-year-old, who topped the 10-year Outlook Business-Value Research ranking for individual fund managers in 2016. Just like Andrade, who today manages assets of over Rs.1,500 crore, Singhania is looking at starting out with an alternative investment fund. “Eventually, my goal is to create an asset management company,” says Singhania, who is renting out an office at the Bandra Kurla Complex.
The optimism of fund managers is also driven by the fact that for the first time in decades, retail and high networth investors have taken up to mutual funds in a big way, pumping in an average Rs.15,312 crore every month into equity funds last year. The sweeping victory of the Modi government after the scam-tainted-rule of the Congress-led UPA and the ‘reform’ blitzkrieg that followed kept the Street riveted and baying for more even as the government embarked on a surgical intervention of the statistical kind. The Central Statistical Organisation changed the base year for tabulating all prominent economic indicators such as GDP, industrial production and inflation from 2004-05 to 2011-12. In doing so, the Modi government managed to change the slowdown narrative — the 4.7% GDP growth rate of FY14 was revised to 6.9% (See: Now you see, now you don’t). While the Street lapped up th