22 February 2008

Ragiguda Stock Exchange - A Story

On my latest visit to Ragigudda, I found Sandeep Pandey looking gloomy, morose and melancholic.

In those days, I used to visit Ragiguda regulary in my role as the financial consultant implementing ERP solutions for XYZ Corporation. Sandeep was a member of my implementation team as a key user in charge of payables process. On every visit, I used to find Sandeep very happy, cheerful and pleasant. A slap on the back, a cheerful 'Good Morning' or a bright smile - Sandeep had them all. In fact I used to feel that Sandeep was becoming cheerirer on every next visit of mine. I attributed this to his approval of the way our team was implementing the ERP solution in his organization.

That was why I was surprised - and concerned - when I found Sandeep Pandey gloomy, morose and melencholic. My immediete thought was that something has gone wrong with the implementation.

I asked Sandeep if this was true. He reassured me that everything was fine with the implementation. He, however, refused to divulge the reason for his - for want of any better word, shall I say - melencholia.

Since Sandeep refused to divulge the cause of his gloom, I approached Anantha, who was a member of our team and has been in the customer site from the commencement of the implementation. It was said of Anantha that 'he missed nothing and nothing missed him'. He was the 'know it all' of the team and was sure to know the reason for Sandeep's gloom. He likes to share what he knows or heard (you might call it gossip, but he prefers 'information gathering and sharing'). And sure, he knew why Sandeep was sad, and was happy to oblige me.

"Do you know 'Bhavesh Bhai'?" Anantha asked me.

Of course, you don't know him", Anantha continued without waiting for my response, "he is the clerk in the finance department. He expired recently".

Now I understood. Sandeep and Bhavesh must have been close friends. The sudden demise of a friend would have been hard for Sandeep to handle.

"Must have been close friends, Sandeep and Bhavesh" I observed with sadness.

"No, no, you have got it all wrong" added Anantha hastily, "Yes, Sandeep is sad because Bhavesh is no more. But his sadness is not attributed to friendship or anything like that".

Now I was puzzled. "Then why is Sandeep sad?" I enquired to Anantha.

Anantha asked me a counter question. "Do you notice any other sad faces in the finance department?"

I tried to think. The finance department in XYZ Corporation was not the one which was known for its exuberance. In fact, even on a wonderful spring day, the only cheerful face that can espy was that of Sandeep. The members of the finance department were habitually sad and sadder on special days, as it were. A life time of handling credits and debits had to take its toll somewhere.

"There was a general air of despondency in the department" I agreed with Anantha.

"These guys lost a lot of money when Bhavesh died", informed Anantha.

Suddenly it all became clear. Bhavesh must have borrowed a lot of money from his colleagues. His sudden demise meant that these guys lost all that money. I could sympathise with these guys.

"Why did Bhavesh borrow so much money from these people?" I queried.

"No, no, you are wrong again" said Anantha, "Bhavesh did not borrow anything from them".

"But then how, what...?" I was thoroughly confused by now.

"These guys gave money to Bhavesh" informed Anantha.

Tight fisted guys like those in Ragiguda do not come these days. They have lost the mould. It could not visualize them voluntarily parting with their brasses. That Bhavesh must have been a heck of a guy to get them to part with their money.

"Why did they give money to Bhavesh?" I asked. I was very curious by now.

"Let me tell you the whole story" said Anantha

"This must have happened around 7 months ago" continued Anantha, "ICICI had come up with its online share trading portal named ICICI Direct. Though ICICI aggressively marketed their portal here in Ragiguda, people were not excited by the idea of online share trading and did not open accounts. The concept was new and people were sceptical of the portal performance and the network connectivity and the safety of their investments. The market which was down in the dumps at that time did not help matters either."

"No one opened account with ICICI except Bhavesh Bhai. He invested a small sum in the market thru ICICI Direct, in safe blue chips. No one took any notice till markets suddenly turned around and Bhavesh's investment tripled in about a month."

"In place like Ragiguda, these things tend to go around. Soon people came to know of Bhavesh's tryst with Midas and he got the reputation of a wealth creator. Being born with business acumen, Bhavesh decided to brand and sell his wealth making knowledge".

"Thus", said Anantha, " 'Ragiguda Stock Exchange' was born".

"Of course, there was no stock exchange" (as you would have guessed, said Anantha) "Bhavesh encouraged people to give him a small sum of money, around a lakh (Rupees One Hundred Thousand (Approximately $2500), for all you non - Indians reading this) which he promised to double in two weeks. Bhavesh took a 10% commission on the gains made by him on his customer's portfolio. Market was in the early stages of a major upmove and Bhavesh was able to keep his promise to his customers. While the notional wealth of his customers increased manifold, every fortnight Bhavesh was able to take home his real commission of 10%. Market was looking good, the share prices were going up, the customers were happy, Bhavesh was happy. Even the morose guys in the finance department shed an occasional smile....."

"There was a general air of exuberance in Ragiguda. You must have noticed it in the finance department " observed Anantha.

I had. And had attributed it to the fact that our team was doing an excellent job of implementing ERP solution in the organization. How silly...

"You would have attributed this to the excellent work done by our team" commented Anantha reading straight out of my mind. "It had nothing to do with that. The fact was that the wealth had increased manifold. For example, the initial one lakh invested by Sandeep had grown to 5 lakhs in 4 months".

"The only sad faces in the finance department were of those who had totally missed the Bhavesh Bus and did not invest at all.

"Everyone else was making money", continued Anantha, "None more than Bhavesh. The proverbial 'little 10% commission' had grown enough to build him a double storied house in the prime locality in Ragiguda"

"Wasn't the whole deal illegal?" I enquired

"Of course, every participant in this game knew that it was illegal. However the system worked on trust and worked smoothly for over 6 months. Ragiguda Stock Exchange (RSE) was well and thriving" said Anantha a trifle melodrammatically.

"And then what happened?" I could hardly contain my curiosity.

"And then Bhavesh died" informed Anantha.

"So?" I couldn't understand what he was driving at.

"You see, Bhavesh died suddenly without leaving any documents. Since what was being done was illegal, his family is now refusing to give back to the investors either their networth or even their initial investment."

"That must have hurt" I observed, "No wonder Sandeep is gloomy"

"Of course it hurt. But that is nothing compared to the knowledge that the value of their investment is now more than 10 times and growing. For example, Bhavesh invested Sandeep's money in a company at a price of 50 and now it is worth about 600 and going up. Can you imagine the grief that you will feel when you open the morning paper and see that you are richer by a lakh today than you were yesterday? And know that this is a notional wealth which will always remain notional for you?. Boy, it must hurt" commented Anantha.

"Mate, with the mood in finance department as it is, you are going to face some tough times in your financials implementation" observed Anantha drily.

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