I write this piece from Lucknow where CNBC TV18 hosted an investor camp over the weekend. While I was thrilled to see hundreds of investors turn out on a Sunday despite the unfortunate incidents of the last few days, I was taken aback by the utter scepticism I saw in many of the attendees. Even after such a fabulous multi-year bull run, it seems a large part of India is not convinced or participating. The wealth created in the stock market is being shared by a miniscule portion of our urban population. It is a bit like the India Shining campaign. It worked for a few people but did not touch a much larger cross-section of people.
I sensed a whole range of emotions in Lucknow. Frustration, anger, fear, obstinacy, reluctance and denial. Frustration at not having invested enough. Anger at all sorts of people: brokers, friends, media, analysts on not having "got them in" in time. Fear of big scams like the Ketan Parekh and Harshad Mehta ones ending this bull market. Reluctance to get in now for fear of high valuations and imminent corrections. Denial that they actually need to get in now and that missing out in this fashion is not a clever thing to do, instead justifying their action with a number of imagined scenarios. I did not think so many ghosts need to be slayed, so many memories buried before people can participate in what is perhaps the biggest bull market in our history. I never thought people can think of think of so many reasons not to buy into our stock market while ignoring all good reasons to buy. I sometimes wonder if there is something in our genes that makes us more cynical as a people.
I monitor new demat accounts quite closely and try and figure how many new investors are coming into the market, directly or indirectly. And while there is some silver lining in channels like insurance, the numbers are still pitifully small. If such a roaring bull run cannot bring people out of their shells, what will, I wonder. Call me patriotic and jingoistic, but it would be truly sad and unfortunate if this multi-year bull run passed by with foreign investors making a pot of wealth, with more promoters getting into the billionaire list while the middle class Indian household remained a spectator.
He is the Executive Editor, CNBC-TV18