Radhakishan Damani is a Mumbai-based investor and entrepreneur. The self-made billionaire is the owner of the country’s third-largest mega-retail stores’ chain, 'DMart.' Radhakishan considers the first-generation investor Chandrakant Sampat as his mentor. He claims he has learned the techniques of dealing with risky business situations from Sampat. He started his career as a business trader, but a financial crisis at his home after his father’s death led him to become a stock-market investor. A few of Radhakishan’s initial years in the stock market were spent in observation and speculation. During this phase, he closely followed the stock-market strategies used by Manu Manek, one of the most dreaded market operators of the time.
Radhakishan gained a foothold in the business only after he overpowered the infamous Indian stockbroker Harshad Mehta. During the late 1980s and the early 1990s, Radhakishan invested heavily in multinational stocks and eventually became one of the leading stock-market investors in the country. He now holds stakes in companies such as the tobacco firm 'VST Industries,' the beer maker 'United Breweries,' and the logistics service provider 'Blue Dart Express Ltd.' Some of his best-performing stocks from his portfolio are 'VST Industries,' 'Sundaram Finance,' 'India Cements,' and 'Blue Dart.'
'Forbes' has ranked him as the 12th-richest person in India. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the Indian investor and trader who is regarded as the "Warren Buffet of India," considers Radhakishan his mentor. Always dressed in spotless white clothes, Radhakishan began his success story as a humble trader and now rules 'Dalal Street.'
Childhood & Early Life
Radhakishan was born in 1954, into an Indian Marwari family. His father, Shivkishanji Damani, was also part of the stock-market business. Radhakishan has a brother named Gopikishan.
Radhakishan attended the 'University of Mumbai' to pursue BCom but dropped out to start his career as a businessman.
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Radhakishan started his career as a trader in the business of ball bearings. Back then, he had no interest in the stock market. Unfortunately, the untimely death of Radhakishan’s father led him to step into the stock market.
Radhakishan closed his business and joined his brother, who was already part of the stockbroking business. Radhakishan was then in his late 20s then and had no practical knowledge about the business. Hence, Radhakishan’s first move was to observe and learn the functioning of the stock market. He began speculating and made his first stock-market investment at the age of 32.
However, Radhakishan soon realized that mere speculation would not help him establish himself in this risky business. He then began learning ways to invest and grow capital. During that phase, Radhakishan was profoundly influenced by Chandrakant Sampat, a value investor whom he had met in the early 1990s. Radhakishan had a few initial failures, as he lost some of his initial bets. Since then, he decided to make long-term investments. Soon, he began to succeed.
Radhakishan enriched his experience of the stock market by watching Manu Manek, the dreaded market operator of that time who ruled 'Dalal Street' in the 1980s. Radhakishan analyzed the operational strategies of Manek (often referred to as "The Cobra" by the brokers who disliked him) closely. It took him a few years to apply Manek’s strategies practically. This later helped him overpower Harshad Mehta, the mastermind of the 1992 'Securities Scam,' which is known as one of the biggest scams in the history of the Indian stock market.
Radhakishan vs. Harshad Mehta
From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, a period considered as the dark phase of the Indian stock market, Radhakishan combated Harshad in the business. To defeat the most powerful trader of 'Dalal Street' of that time, Radhakishan, along with a chartist named Raju and a young greenhorn (rookie) investor, formed a nondescript group that was locally called the ‘triple-Rs.’
Harshad and the ‘triple-Rs’ first invested in 'Apollo Tyres,' an Indian tire company. They soon realized that Harshad had bid high valuations for a tire company and hence began shorting the stock, according to their learnings from Manek. The stock-market battle between them continued for the next 2 years and was revealed in 1992, when Harshad was accused of a huge scam. Radhakishan ultimately won the battle and hence gained prominence in the stock market.
In 1998, Radhakishan and Harshad locked horns in the stock-market arena again. They now had eyes on the stocks of three companies, namely, 'Videocon,' 'BPL,' and 'Sterlite.' Eventually, the prices fell by over 60%, and Radhakishan made huge profits. The profit made was primarily due to his “short-selling” technique, which was not a usual stockbroking style of that time.
During this phase, Radhakishan, for the first time, faced accusations from stock-market regulators. He came to know that a few small shareholders were unable to exit the market because of their financial position. Hence, Radhakishan bought shares from these investors at a negotiated price. This led to a payment crisis. Radhakishan thus sold off a portion of his holding at a discounted price. Following this, he was accused of price hammering. However, he was eventually given a clean chit.
The Rise in the Stock Market
The Harshad Mehta scam affected Radhakishan, too. After the scam surfaced, he struggled a lot to turn into a long-term investor. Radhakishan was on the verge of bankruptcy. He thus focused on the fundamentals of the company and long-term investments. He started investing in various MNCs, banking companies, and consumer companies.
The period from 1999 to 2000 saw a huge technology boom. This led Radhakishan to adopt new stock-market strategies, as he was still using his old-school techniques of trading that had caused him losses.
Nonetheless, over time, Radhakishan transformed himself into a value investor of the stock market. Some of Radhakishan’s most prominent Investments have been for 'GE Capital Transportation Industries,' 'VST Industries,' 'Samtel Ltd,' 'Schlafhorst Eng (I),' 'Somany Ceramics,' 'Jay Shree Tea,' '3M India,' 'Century Textile and Industries,' 'Trent,' 'VB Holdings,' 'TV Today Network,' and 'Jubilant FoodWorks Limited.' Despite flourishing in the stock-market arena, Radhakishan quit all of a sudden and decided to enter the retail industry.
Radhakishan always had an affinity for consumer companies. He also had some experience in similar ventures, but as an investor. After quitting the stock-market business, Radhakishan founded 'DMart.'
Back in 1999, Radhakishan and Damodar Mall, the CEO of 'Reliance Retail,' had bought a franchise of ‘Apna Bazaar,' a Mumbai-based co-operative organization that had started in 1948. Radhakishan launched 'DMart' 2 years later. Following this, he also took over 'Apna Bazaar.' In 2002, he began 'DMart' with only one store in suburban Mumbai. He now has about 160 stores across the country.
'DMart's 'Initial Public Offering' (IPO) listing was made under its parent name, 'Avenue Supermarts.' It had an overwhelming opening on the 'National Stock Exchange' market and created a record. This placed Radhakishan on the list of the top 20 Indian billionaires. Following the March 2017 ‘IPO’ listing of 'DMart,' Radhakishan became India's retail king. The success of 'DMart' lies on its three pillars: its consumers, its sellers, and its employees.
Family & Personal Life
Radhakishan has three daughters. One of his daughters, Manjri Chandak, is the manager of 'DMart.' Radhakishan’s brother, Gopikishan, and his wife also help in the promotion of the hypermarket.
Radhakishan lives a simple life and barely interacts with the media. He also avoids public gatherings. The soft-spoken 'DMart' owner is often called "Mr. White," as he mostly dresses in white trousers and white shirts.