The Millennium Mams team in the US and (below) Warren Buffett, whose investment advice is their gospel
If Mamata Banerjee pitches for American investment in Bengal with Hillary Clinton, guess whose brains enterprising Calcutta women pick for tips on value investing: Warren Buffett.
A group of 16 from Millennium Mams, a non-profit forum that helps homemakers learn the basics of the financial markets and make money through calculated investments, attended the annual general meeting (AGM) of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway on May 5 as part of a study trip to know how the world’s best-known investor made his billions through the bourses.
The bonus was shaking hands with the man himself and gifting him a copy of Millennium Mams’s annual magazine.
“We have been studying the stock markets for four years and investing in it. So meeting Buffett was a dream,” said Sireesha Kadiyala, one of the 16 women who sat through the six-hour meeting holding on to Buffett’s every word.
The biggest takeaway from their trip to Omaha, Nebraska? Learning about value investing in the most uncomplicated manner.
In stock market parlance, value investing is picking up a scrip when it is at a low and selling it at its peak before its price starts dipping.
“Anil Narang, an investor in Berkshire known to a well-wisher of one of the members of Millennium Mams, arranged for 16 passes to the AGM. We learnt about it last September. Narang was in Calcutta early this year to interact with us,” said Bishnu Dhanuka, who started Millennium Mams in 1994.
The 16 lucky women were in an audience of over 30,000 shareholders of the company listening to Buffett’s advice on investment strategies.
“This visit to Omaha was an eye-opener for us, given what Buffett said and the manner in which he did so…. He answered all 51 questions that were asked with minimal use of statistics, it was so easy to understand,” said Sunanda Awasthi, a member of the group.
Buffett has been consistently ranked among the wealthiest persons in the world by multiple surveys. Over the decades, his Berkshire Hathaway has grown into a multinational holding company that oversees multiple subsidiary firms.
“At the end of the six-hour Q&A session, we were as excited and enthusiastic as at the beginning of the session. Such was his influence,” said Sireesha Kadiyala, part of the Millennium Mams delegation.
Earlier, as the group was walking towards the AGM hall, they hoped for a chance meeting with Buffett. They had been told that it was “impossible” to meet Buffett at the AGM.
“Just as we were entering the hall, Buffett also arrived. We ran towards him but the security ring around him was impenetrable. We explained to a guard that we had come from India just to listen to him. The guard whispered something to Buffett, who soon extended his hands towards us. We managed to shake hands with him,” said Kadiyala.
A dinner the previous evening and an exhibition in which representatives of Berkshire subsidiaries participated gave the group a glimpse of how the legend of Buffett started.
“He was a newspaper vendor in his early days. The exhibition showcased a model house and Buffett threw a newspaper inside it, like vendors do every morning. Many assembled to see it but we missed that part,” rued Kadiyala.
Kadiyala and Awasthi are homemakers and managers of their family investments. The duo plan all investments for their families and even give tips to their husbands.
Dhanuka said others had started their own firms. “One woman runs an export company that employs 300 people,” he said.
Buffet’s philanthropic work, other than his wealth, is what makes him special to these women. “His life and work are an inspiration,” Awasthi said.