Jayesh Gandhi’s first brush with the stock market happened when he and six friends pooled their money together to invest in the early 1990s. They were all studying to become Chartered Accountants. Given the lack of information during those times, they would do some collective research before zeroing in on their investment ideas. By the end of 1994, the fund which started with a corpus of Rs.1.5 lakh had grown to Rs.2 lakh — not bad for a bunch of amateurs.
While Gandhi didn’t nurse any ambition to become a fund manager before the investing experiment, he got a whiff of the possibilities in the stock market. It would go on to lay the foundation of his investing career that spans more than two decades now. Today, Gandhi is a senior portfolio manager at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC managing assets of nearly Rs.4,000 crore.
In 1992, after completing his CA, Gandhi joined the Dalal Street Journal as a research analyst before moving to JM Share and Stock Brokers (JM Financial) as an analyst in their PMS division for a year. He got his first chance to manage a portfolio at JV Gokal, a proprietary investment and trading firm, where he joined in 1995 and stayed put for the next six years. After working for three years as an analyst, he was made a portfolio manager. His stint at JV Gokal would have a major influence on his investing career due to their extensive research process and training in portfolio management. These were still early days for the stock market, which was undergoing reform. Average corpus of funds were smaller; Birla Sun Life, Alliance Capital and Kothari Pioneer (later sold to Templeton) were the only major private funds at the time.
This was also a time when some of today’s most marquee companies hit the market with their IPOs. Gandhi didn’t miss the best of them. In 1995, HDFC Bank came with an IPO priced at Rs.40 and Gandhi put out a buy recommendation, even though the stock was richly valued at 4x-5x P/B. He was convinced that retail banking which was at a nascent stage back then,