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Shiv Sena turns to investor education

December 20, 2007 01:35 IST

The Shiv Sena, the party that champions the cause of Maharashtrians, has turned this year's stock market boom, which saw the Sensex rise some 700 points, into a political opportunity.

Sensing a dwindling support base, especially among the younger generation, and rising interest in the stock market, the Sena made the twain meet by jettisoning street-fighting politics for investor education.

Ealier this month, the party organised four workshops on the stock markets in Goregaon, a suburb on Mumbai's Western railway line with a sizeable Marathi-speaking population.

National Stock Depository Limited Senior Vice President, Chandrashekhar Tilak and stock broker Vasudeo Samant were roped in to lecture on the stock market and address queries from participants.

The man behind the idea was local MLA Subhash Desai, who is also the party's general secretary and a close aide of the party's working president Udhav Thackeray.

The political agenda is the same: to help Maharashtrians become more prosperous.

As Desai explained, "Besides fighting for the right of Maharashtrians to have a sizeable share of jobs in various public sector banks, insurance companies, airlines and the hospitality industry of Mumbai, the Sena always wanted them to enter business and not be satisfied in some secure jobs."

Although he takes pride in the fact that the Sena encouraged Maharashtrians to set up small businesses in the late sixties and seventies, he said they remain a conservative, salaried class that is getting edged out of Mumbai to the distant suburbs.

"If we want to ensure that Maharashtrians are not pushed out of Mumbai completely the only answer is to raise our income levels and the only option left is the stock market," Desai said.

"If others can benefit from the booming stock market and become crorepatis, why not us? That's how the idea of starting workshop to introduce Maharashtrians to the stock market was born," he added.

The workshops, he said, have received "overwhelming" response from voters and Sena activists. Now Sena workers from other parts of Mumbai want to organise similar workshops.

The workshops are a combination of stock market history and education.

For instance, NSDL's Tilak speaks on broader issues like the current state of Indian economy, why there is a boom in the stock market, how stock market transactions have become transparent and safer, the role of the regulator and so on.

Stock broker Samant guides investors on how to identify good stocks, introduces them to the technical jargon of Price Earning ratios and Earnings Per Share, how a balance-sheet should be read and what information they should seek before investing.

Samant explains that many Maharashtrian youths working in IT or other service industries now have large disposable incomes that they want to invest in the stock market.

"They find themselves in a dilemma as we've been taught that the market is nothing but satta or, even worse, horse-racing," he said.

Those who overcome this want to invest in stocks but don't know where to start since there is nobody to guide them and there is very little coverage of business in Marathi newspapers.

"This kind of workshop helps them take the plunge and prosper," Samant claimed.

Confirmed Santosh Walawalkar, a Life Insurance Corporation agent, "Due to the Sena's initiative, I can understand how to read the stock market because the workshop was conducted in Marathi."

Walawalkar has opened a demat account and now trades regularly.

Makarand Gadgil in Mumbai