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In the olden days, many might recollect, that while talking to their father or grandfather, they often referred to “bluechips” in their portfolio.  Almost every household, well versed with the advantage of holding stocks, had these stocks - ACC, Gwalior, Indian Rayon, Orkay, Mafatlal Industries, Century, Great Eastern, DCW, Mukand, Tisco, Phillips, Standard Mills, L&T, Tata Chemicals, Scindia Steamship.  Voltas was such a favourite too – people took pride in saying that they owned a Voltas share. In MNCs, it was always Hindustan Lever or HLL as it was known.

More or less, these were the stocks which most people held. Arvind Lalbhai was the new kid on the block and his company, Arvind Ltd was also pretty popular.  Tata and Birla stocks were the most popular, as safe as a fixed deposit. Well, they continue to enjoy that reputation even today. Then came Reliance Industries and overnight, it changed the very culture of trading on the bourses. It was no longer, hold, hold and hold till you die but buy and sell, make money as you go! And that culture has now turned into day trading.

Sometimes, when you look at the stocks which currently rule the rooster and then look back at the stocks, which at that time, were the bellwether stocks, you cannot help but once again wonder at how this spiritual logic of impermanence is applicable even to the stock market; in fact more so to the stock market.

At that time, along with the name of the company, it was the reputation of the management which mattered the most.  Tisco, which is Tata Steel now continues to be an A listed stock but then, it was a stock popular because it was from the Tata stables and also because it was headed by Russi Modi. Tata Chemicals then was more popular than Tata Motors and that was all thanks to Darbari Seth. Ditto for ACC – it was well known more on account of Nani Palkhiwalah who headed it.  Birla companies meant Aditya Birla and such was the faith in his leadership that people bought stocks just because it came from his stable.  Isn’t that what happened with Reliance Industries? It was purely the reputation of Dhirubhai which made Reliance what it is today.

We have such companies even today – the same Tata group or Birla, Reliance, Infosys, L&T, Mahindra, all are equally popular but not because of the management but once again because of the past legacy and lineage. But then came the new age stocks like Zomato. Loss-making but merely its brand equity – that is the buzz word. New kids on the block are like a flash-in-the-pan. They come, sell an idea, set up a company with VCs and then sell out to become billionaires. Like the olden days, though attention is paid to the leader heading the company, it is not “the” deciding factor.

This separation of the individual from the company is a reflection of the changing times. Companies are professionally run organizations and there is simply no place for emotion, which to a large extent was the decisive factor then. Doesn’t this also reflect our behavioral change – we as a society have become more practical and less emotional. 

Sometimes, you need to look back to see where you are headed in the future. There are always valuable lessons to be learnt from history. And the coming and going of these “blue chips” shows that what is a big deal today, might be just another stock tomorrow. Today, we celebrate Maruti and TCS but who knows, a decade later whether they might continue to command the same respect and fancy as today. As industry matrices change, so does the choice.

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