To a lot of people, the long-awaited visit of Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most successful investors, to India was a bit of an anti-climax. He didn’t quite fit the bill for what we in India think a ‘dignitary’ should behave like. His only public appearance was basically a sales pitch. To get to see him, you had to have bought motor insurance from his Indian business, which is an insurance agency. If you weren’t already a customer, then you could still get an invitation, but you only if you became a customer by buying motor insurance. And if your car’s exiting insurance wasn’t due for renewal, no matter. You could renew it in advance from Buffet’s agency. All in all, a hard sales pitch indeed, one that was
dedicated to turning Buffet’s name into new customers. The price of attending the Buffett event was not fame or money, but premium paid for a car insurance.
Of course, to anyone who has read any of the Buffett’s famous letters in his company’s annual reports, this didn’t come as a surprise. The letters are invariably laced with copious encouragement for shareholders to buy products from Berkshire Hathway’s subsidiaries that put up stalls at the companies’ annual meeting. The latest one ends with exhortations to buy shoes, furniture, books, ice-cream, jewellery, candy, knives, fractional ownership of a private jet and of course, motor insurance.
So Buffett’s sales pitch to Indians wasn’t uncharacteristic, that’s what he does. I rather like this. A businessman should be focused on his business and not on holding forth on the state of the world. It reinforces the sensible, down to earth approach to business and investing that typifies the man. After years of speculation, Berkshire Hathway has entered India in a very small way, not in any Berkshire-sized business, but as a general insurance agent selling motor insurance.