End of 315-week rally: Vessel is now changing; hope masala doesn't run out

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A brief was asked by the bosses for a ‘periodical’ for the Smart Investor pages sometime around Diwali of 2011. The initial plan was to have a twice a week and 500-word column, to try and capture broad trends in the stock market, and explain regulatory developments around it.

Overcoming some initial hiccups and mental blocks, the first piece on increasing tussles between investors and investees was sent out in the third week of November. The clumsy ‘Beating around the Bulls’ alternative made the choice easy and Street Food was born.

For six years, it has discussed people, policies and practices that shape and influence the Street. It has striven hard to keep the Tuesday date despite far-flung assignments, official and personal. Once it was cooked with a cranky BSNL dongle in flood-hit Uttarakhand’s Shrinagar. On another occasion, it came through a phone call from a bus stop in rural Rajasthan where a certain son-in-law had been on a land buying spree, and then from a shabby guesthouse in West Bengal’s Azimganj. Many times, it was typed from a Windows mobile phone and recently from a desktop at the grandfather’s place.
This piece will be the last as I am leaving Business Standard this week.

In this six-year period, the Sensex has more than doubled. It closed at 16,167 on November 28, 2011, the day before the opener was published, and is closing on 35,000 as this swansong is being typed. But, it has not been a linear journey. Though the new highs have been seen more in the past one year or so, the index did its hard work in the first half of this period, when it clocked in two-thirds of that number.

The new Companies Act and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code took shape and have been changing the way businesses are begun, done and closed. The period saw two chairmen of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), three Reserve Bank governors, three finance ministers and two prime ministers. All these men, their actions and omissions have been subjects.

In the initial years, there were a lot of quotes and one-liners from recent movies. While the attempt was to be clever and light hearted, some serious readers thought this took away the focus. But, when it became straight, there were those who missed those Bollywood dialogues.

Much has changed in these half a dozen years. The global push towards transparency and curbing of illicit money flow, and anti-fraud measures taken after the Satyam Computer scandal, have had their sway.

Prodded by regulators and provoked by proxy advisory firms, institutional shareholders have become more aware. Though it would be a while before they throw their weight around, it is far more difficult for promoters to get away with abusive related party transactions and management to walk away with obscene pay packets.

The market page column also tried its hands on corporate history when the house of Tatas became a battleground, following the dismissal of Cyrus Mistry. It also took keen interest in the scams that hit the market over the years. It sought to supplement the news reporting, sometimes not to the liking of the subjects.

Some tried to communicate their displeasure. Others in the establishment tried to take the suggestions positively and act on these. There were others who tried to do ‘inception’ of ideas just in time for the next edition. But, these bouncers were hooked, fended off and sometimes ducked, almost on instinct.

All these different spices brought their own taste and flavour to Street Food. The vessel is now changing; hope the masala doesn’t run out.

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