Two remarkable men breathed their last. Both of them started off as rank outsiders. But, they ended up right at the top. In stock market parlance, they would be penny stocks that went on to become the bellwethers. It is the perennial dream of every investor on the Street to wake up and pick such a multi-bagger. Is it possible to spot such an outlier in the present market?
Let us analyse what Ponty and Tiger did. They got into a territory dreaded by others and made it their own. They built their own empires there and began an onslaught on conventional masters. When the alignments clicked, they enjoyed their time in the sun, lording over others. Even when the tide turned against them, they managed to ringfence themselves. How were they able to do it? Did their enemy’s enemies help them? Probably, yes.
In one case, the business interests helped the politician while in the other the favourable political leadership pushed the businessman’s ventures to make super normal profits. Is this ethically correct? Probably not, but does anybody care?
A few years ago, investors would have lapped up such success stories. Ends would have justified the means. But today as regulators grow in number and gain more teeth, governance is fast becoming the buzzword around the globe. Investors are equally concerned about the ends as well as the means.
People have realised that unconventional means and managing the environment through right connections are not sustainable business strategies. Investors also have come to hate the volatility such unconventional practices and friendships bring with them.
The Street finds itself at a crossroad here. There are numerous politically connected small stocks that were threatening to tear the skies when the going was good. Some promoters even openly flaunted these connections in global investor meets. But the chest-thumping was short-lived as the stocks have gone back to the holes they came from.
Even in politics, business connections are proving to be costly. Ask our friends from Haryana and Nagpur. Transparency has been given a big boost by filings going online and the advent of Right to Information. It is not easy for business and politics to have clandestine affairs anymore, more so, with Kejriwal-charged media lurking around.
But despite all the stigma of Kejriwal-induced hatred for crony capitalism, chief ministers (CMs) and former CMs cutting across state boundaries and party lines came to pay last respects to the liquor baron-turned realty czar. Captains of industry were conspicuously present in Shivaji Park. But there were also some conspicuous absentees at both events-- probably an indication of the dilemma that is haunting them.
What do these mean? Should businesses keep out of politics and can politics do without businessmen? It is in everybody’s interest that they maintain a safe distance. The onus is more on the political class to ensure that the distance remains safe enough, while the businesses should find ways to make their voices felt in a transparent and acceptable manner. But then for the Street, not many penny stocks would become bellwethers. Isn’t that supposed to be so?