The Big Bull of Indian Stock Market
Harshad Mehta, a name that once resonated throughout India’s financial landscape, was born on July 29, 1954, in a modest Gujarati family residing in Mumbai. He emerged as a stock market icon, known for his ability to manipulate stock prices and orchestrate colossal financial deals. His life’s journey is a roller coaster ride of ambition, success, controversy, and eventual downfall.
Early Life and Background:
Growing up in the suburb of Rajkot in Mumbai, Harshad Mehta displayed a strong affinity for numbers and an early fascination with the workings of the stock market. After completing his education, he took up a job as a jobber, executing buy and sell orders for brokers on the Bombay Stock Exchange. This early exposure to the market laid the foundation for his intricate understanding of market dynamics.
Mehta’s career took a pivotal turn when he founded his own brokerage firm, Growmore Research and Asset Management, in 1984. His approach was unique; he embraced research and analysis, often challenging the conventional wisdom of the market. His charismatic personality and sharp insights soon attracted a loyal following of clients.
Mehta’s most significant achievement was his role in triggering the infamous “Harshad Mehta effect.” In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he discovered a loophole in the banking system that allowed him to manipulate stock prices using funds meant for government securities. This resulted in an unprecedented bullish trend, attracting scores of investors hoping to ride the wave of success.
Contributions to Financial Manipulation:
Harshad Mehta’s financial acumen shone in his ability to exploit the disjointed nature of India’s banking system. Through a practice called “circular trading,” he orchestrated a complex web of transactions involving banks, stocks, and securities. Mehta artfully manipulated demand and supply to inflate stock prices, allowing him to secure large bank loans against these artificially inflated shares.
Challenges and Triumphs:
With his meteoric rise came increased scrutiny. Regulators and investigative agencies began to take notice of the unexplained and sudden surges in stock prices. Yet, Mehta’s influence and charisma seemed to shield him from suspicion. His dazzling success story continued to captivate the imagination of ordinary Indians, making him a symbol of rags-to-riches aspirations.
Fall from Grace:
The year 1992 marked a turning point. The stock market crashed abruptly, revealing the gaping holes in Mehta’s financial empire. His manipulation of the market, often referred to as the “big bull run,” had led to an unsustainable bubble. The subsequent crash wiped out investors’ savings and exposed Mehta’s fraudulent practices.
Legal Battles and Legacy:
Facing a barrage of criminal charges and legal battles, Harshad Mehta spent years entangled in court proceedings. In 1999, he was convicted in connection with the securities scam and sentenced to prison. Tragically, on December 31, 2001, Mehta passed away due to a heart attack while still in custody.
Impact on Indian Stock Market:
The Harshad Mehta scandal reverberated far beyond his individual story. It unveiled systemic weaknesses in the banking and financial sectors, leading to a slew of reforms. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) was empowered, regulations were tightened, and transparency was prioritized to prevent similar manipulations.
Harshad Mehta’s journey is a cautionary tale that transcends the realm of finance. It’s a story of a man who scaled dizzying heights through ambition and cunning, only to be consumed by the very forces he harnessed. Mehta’s legacy is a reminder of the ethical and regulatory challenges that accompany the pursuit of financial success, and his name is forever etched in India’s financial history as a symbol of both aspiration and recklessness.