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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Informed Investors

Life for the retail investor in India should be easier now. In the ’90s, information was a scarce commodity; so informed decisions were the privilege of a few. Investment decisions were made on a hunch, word of mouth and whatever little data was available.Price data was not easily available, and it was tough getting real time access to company results. This information is now available online. Also, there is real time access to basic data.

All this should have made the task of investing simpler, and it has. But the new information age also has its own complications. Instant information has shortened the window of opportunity to react to data.Analysing business has become complex. Results are announced every quarter, compared to biannually earlier. In the past, companies earned revenues only from domestic and export markets. Now you have standalone and consolidated results, which involve two sets of calculations.

Then, segment results need to be analysed. Companies have substantial operations abroad; so you need to keep an eye on that country’s economy too.Earlier, investors only interacted with the company at its AGM. Now, they have web sites where they are bombarded with information. Share price information has also multiplied.

Besides, you have to track the futures market. This flood of information is good for the investor. But the quality of analysis has become more important.From the ’90s till now, a lot has changed for the retail investor. This has made investing less treacherous, but making money is still a difficult art.

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