Abhishek Dalmia first hit the headlines with his bid for what was then known as GESCO Corp. A takeover battle ensued and it took quite some firepower from established business heavyweights to get him to agree to a ceasefire. Of late, Dalmia is busy shepherding Revathi Equipment with the much larger intent of making it a holding vehicle, à la Berkshire Hathaway, for his future investments. Dalmia is one of the very few owner-managers in India who is attempting to walk down Warren Buffett’s path
As you approach the end of your formal education, you are faced with one big question — what next? While the question is simple enough, the answer is anything but. To be able to come up with a good answer, you need to be able to answer another seemingly simple question — do you know yourself? For those who think this is a philosophical question, here is a reality check. Until you have a fair idea of what you are good at and equally importantly, what you are not good at, how do you expect to pick a career where you might excel? Happy accidents aside, the need to answer the “know thyself” question is as important in the professional context as it is in the spiritual. In my own case, I took the easy way out until I had a better answer — I joined the family business. But, although my mind was occupied, my heart continued seeking answers to this existential question.
While in my teens, I had heard of Warren Buffett as being one of the richest people in the world and that he did only two things — allocate capital and set compensation for top management. Those words had stayed with me for about a decade after I had first heard them. One day, at a bookshop, The Warren Buffett Way caught my eye. It was a thin book and I bought it out of sheer curiosity. It was the first in a series I then read on Buffett and investing. I also devoured Buffett’s letters to his shareholders written over two decades, starting 1977.
One of the tell-tale signs of a good teacher is that he cuts out the arcane and presents his ideas so simply that the subject comes alive. That is the exact effect Warren Buffett had on me. In fact, the ideas were presented so well that they seemed all too easy. The concept was to buy businesses that generate free cash and use that free cash to buy more businesses. Simple enough. Charlie Munger had once said that though it is simple, it is not easy. I was to find out why…