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Sensex and the city Mumbai

You don't need bagfuls of money to enter the stock market, only an appetite for risk — and every Mumbaikar has that, writes Ravi Srinivasan.

business Updated: Sep 23, 2007, 03:26 IST
Ravi Srinivasan
Ravi Srinivasan
Hindustan Times

So what is in store for the Sensex, now that it has surged past the 16,000 point mark? Ask an analyst and you will get a lot of jargon about valuations and global cues and a heck of a lot of hedging. The crystal clear analysis, which beautifully explains the pushes and pulls which drive indices, usually happens after the event.

But ask any Mumbaikar with even a tiny bit of money in the markets, and they will have no hesitation in predicting the future movement — up. And when that happens, you can be pretty sure that they will be lining up to place their bets on a rising index and a better tomorrow. And back it with their hard-earned cash.

You do not need bagfuls of money to enter the stock markets. What you do need, however, is an appetite for risk which every Mumbaikar has in plenty. In fact, if they did not have the capacity to take risk, most of them would not even be here in the first place.

Risk-taking is hot-wired into Mumbai's genes. For centuries, Mumbai's only true native inhabitants — the 'kolis', its fishing community, risked everything they had — not just their cockleshell catamarans, but their very lives — in their daily battle with the elements, to wrest a living from the treacherous waters of the Arabian Sea.

They still do. And so do the millions who now occupy their space.

Everybody who lives in Mumbai is a risk taker. If they have come here from elsewhere, they have already taken the biggest risk of their lives.

Whether it is an investment banker from London or a cab driver from Bihar or a construction worker from rural Maharashtra, they all have one thing in common. They have risked getting out of the comfort zones of their known environments, for the potential rewards offered by this unforgivingly tough, but unequivocally fair city.

Of all Indian cities, Mumbai is the one place where hard work pays. And risk — taken intelligently — gets rewarded.

Global credit card issuer Mastercard released a survey of financial competitiveness a few months ago. Mumbai (the only Indian city to make it to the top 50), ranked forty-fifth. But it ranked tenth on another metric — financial flows.

Money does not get locked away in strong vaults here. It is put to work, moves from one hand to another, enriching both in the process. Mumbai clears double the number of cheques that Delhi does. Every day. It pays 38 per cent of the country's taxes, accounts for a healthy chunk of bank deposits, and an overwhelming share of the country's trade in stocks.

Almost all major financial deals are struck in Mumbai. The BSE and NSE account for 95 per cent of India's stock market turnover. They are national exchanges, with electronic trading terminals all over the country. Yet 70 per cent of the trades are from Mumbai.

Much has been written about the 'spirit of Mumbai'. Usually when it rains a lot. But if you want to see Mumbai's real spirit in action, all you need to do is stand in the street and look at the ebb and flow of humanity around you. Or watch the stock ticker.

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