| Lahiri: Of pious stock. Picture by Pabitra Das
Don’t get bogged down by risks, there are returns galore lying in stock at the capital market. This was the message being spread by Share Baba, seated in the tiny — but hugely popular — stall at the “first finance and investment fair” being held in town.
In saffron, yes, but not with flowing beard or locks. A portly clean-shaven middle-aged man sporting a string of rudraksha, but with the mouse as a more prominent motif.
Clicking on his computer to track another scrip, Arunangshu M. Lahiri, an “IIM Calcutta alumnus”, saw nothing odd in slipping into the robes of the bourse baba.
“Those who can forecast the future have become babas. I help people in tracking their shares, which can give them high returns. What’s wrong if I use the name Share Baba'” demanded Lahiri, between selling his short-term courses — both for beginners and traders — on how to make money regularly from the stock market.
And there were more than a few takers. Calcuttans in search of options to park funds seemed star-struck by the software sadhu. Others, focused on finding funds to live out their dreams, were drawn to the more conventional wisdom on offer at the ICCI Prudential Life Insurance, Tata Home Finance and Bajaj Capital counters.
The turnout on Day One of the Ice Skating Rink fair, organised by Walia International, was enough indication that Calcutta now takes its personal finances seriously.
“The market for home loans in the city is around Rs 100 crore per month and with interest rates slipping southwards, the list of applicants is growing every day,” said Pravin Choudhury of Fiscal Hut, an associate of Standard Chartered Bank.
With banks and finance companies chasing customers to help them live beyond their means and buying everything in sight, the rush at the loan counters was all too visible at stalls like Birla Home Finance and GE Countrywide.
Through the bustle, the shrill tone of Share Baba’s cellphone rang out repeatedly. “The common man on the street no longer treats investment into stocks as gambling and the interest level is rising,” said Lahiri, opposite the HCL counter, using his cellphone to connect to the Net.