The problem with getting a message on the phone that demands an instant list of five funds to invest in is that there are no ready names to give. Likewise, for tweets and other social media requests for names of two or three funds to invest in, there is no easy answer. Similar is the problem of somebody asking for a life insurance or a health insurance plan—how does one recommend a single product to a person who knows something about the product but not enough? They don’t know that anybody who takes the risk of advising without knowing more is not acting in their best interest. Mutual funds and individual insurance products have made it into the attention spectrum of the financially included, mostly urban middle-class Indians, but the on-boarding is still difficult, precisely because each person needs a unique solution according to his or her personal situation, goals, risk capacity and profile, but is unwilling to pay for advice and is looking for a quick solution. But there are no quick solutions in personal finance and most people find that the hard way.
Friday morning, 31 May 2019, was ripe with promise for stock markets. Eight thousand steaming people had witnessed the new government being sworn in. People had braved traffic and human jams at the entry gate, multiple security checks and then the worst summer day that Delhi regularly throws at its people. A 40-degree humid evening turned the water bottles kept on every seat into a hot beverage. Friday morning messages and rumours pegged Amit Shah as the next finance minister (FM) taking the markets up sharply—the markets seemed to like the fact that Shah understood the stock market and owned just short of 250 stocks himself. But as names of different ministers were announced, the market threw a small temper tantrum when its expectations were not met. But we know that markets are manic depressive in the short term and soon enough rethink the tantrum as news gets digested. By Monday morning the markets were back to feeling happy with the world and India’s first full-time woman finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Indira Gandhi’s brief additional charge as FM in 1970-71 leading a $62 billion GDP does not compare with the challenge Sitharaman faces to take the almost $3 trillion economy to $5 trillion over her tenure.