Anoop Vijaykumar: The Calm Investor

Anoop Vijaykumar is an ex-Infoscion, and currently a strategy consultant. He is also an investor, and runs a knowledge-sharing portal on investing titled ‘The Calm Investor’.

Anoop and I worked together in Infosys for a leading North American Insurance company, and I remember him as a no-nonsense, quiet and efficient person. He was a model employeeIf I remember right, he was featured as a model in one of the Insurance company’s catalogues :). He then went on to do his M.B.A and excelled in strategy consulting assignments. Though we did not keep in close touch after he left Infosys, Anoop used to reach out occasionally to help me with connects during my entrepreneurship days.

The Calm Investor shares insights into intelligent investing, and is a must-follow site for anyone serious about investing. So here goes, a brief conversation with ‘The Calm Investor’:

<– Begin interview with Anoop Vijaykumar –>

Q: ‘The Calm Investor’: there’s a zen-like quality to that name. Tell us the story behind this name? While you are at it, tell us about how/why this blog came about too?

AV: I’m glad you like the name. At one point, what I understood about finance and investing could’ve been written on the back of a postage stamp (remember those?) with space left over. In 2006, I started working as a management consultant where, as part of consulting cases, I would be analyzing industries and prospects of companies in those industries. That’s when I got curious about the link (or lack of) between company performance and stock performance. This led to reading the classic Intelligent Investor (by Ben Graham) and I was hooked. I saw that while there were many Indian sites offering buy-sell tips there were not as many talking about core investing concepts.

I wanted the name to signify something that I believe is fundamental to equity investing: that 15% is about finding the right stocks and 85% is about temperament, especially when markets move dramatically in either direction. That’s how ‘The Calm Investor’ came about.

Q: There’s a certain humility and honesty in your writing (so uncharacteristic of Management Consultants, let me add :)), that shines through, and makes a reader want to trust you right away. So the question is—tell us about the kind of effort you put in to research what you write about.

AV: Your dig about management consultants reminds me of this joke a client once told me.

“Q: If you’re driving your car and see a consultant on a bicycle, why should you never swerve to hit him?

A: It might be your bicycle”

I have never had a problem in saying “I don’t know”, sometimes to the frustration of my bosses. Prof. Richard Feynman, one of the smartest people to have lived, said there’s a difference between “knowing the name of something”, and actually “knowing something”. Most of the time when we think we know something, we’re only reproducing words we read somewhere. According to Feynman, the test of whether you know a topic is if you’re able to successfully explain it in your own words to someone who has no prior exposure. Writing about a topic forces me to test that difference. When I find I only seem to know the “name” i.e. my understanding is superficial, I go back to the literature and data to understand it better. I’m not always successful, but try to do that with most of the content on the site.

Q: Please give us an idea about the kind of returns have you made from the stock market personally (in what kind of timeframes, what sort of investments etc)

AV: I started investing in 2006 using a “quality stocks at any price” philosophy which worked for a short while. Then 2008 happened and my portfolio was down 60%. I started reading about various schools of investing, from momentum, to contrarian, to high return screens.

Now my philosophy is built on regression to the mean i.e., to buy ‘good’ companies from deeply unpopular sectors and to hold them for ‘reasonable’ periods of time, i.e. until they are no longer unpopular. Over the last ten years, I’ve seen a compound return that reasonably beats the NSE 500 (which I consider to be a fair benchmark since it represents 95% of all free float market capitalization in India). Having said that, it’s a constantly evolving process, and I find there are improvements to be made on a consistent basis, which is what makes it exciting.

Q: Your Linkedin profile also mentions that you are an investor—we are assuming the kind that puts money on entrepreneurs. If that’s so, what sectors/businesses do you focus on?

AV: I’m more of an investor in public over private companies given the ticket sizes, but on rare occasions, have put in some seed funding in ideas that I feel are promising and more importantly where I believe in the founders’ capabilities. I’m sector agnostic but find myself attracted to ideas around healthy eating and fitness, be it tech-enabled or purely offline business models.

Q: What’s the one thing you would do differently as an investor if you had the opportunity to go back in time?

AV: That’s easy: I would’ve started investing at least a decade earlier than I actually did, maybe earlier. Two reasons: a) investing is something you learn by doing, especially learning to understand your own emotions and their impact as markets move and b) of course, compounding. Morgan Housel of Collab Fund wrote this interesting piece where he estimated that if Warren Buffett had started investing at 22 years instead of at 10 years like he did, at age 30, he would’ve been worth $24,000 instead of $1M. From then, if he earned the same returns, he’d be worth $1.9B today. Not bad at all, but compare that to the $81B he’s worth today. Time-in- the-market matters more than almost any other parameter for investing success.

Q: What’s the road ahead for ‘The Calm Investor’?

AV: So far ‘The Calm Investor’ has only scratched the surface in terms of what’s possible for an investment site. Till recently, I stayed away from providing specific advice on asset allocation and portfolio construction although I was informally helping family and some friends manage their money.

However, as of November 2017 I’m a SEBI Registered Investment Adviser, which allows me to work with folks looking to get their financial plans in place including figuring out their equity portfolios for long-term returns.

So, lots more to come. Of course, the core concept to keep learning and improving investment philosophies will continue.

<– End interview with Anoop Vijaykumar –>

I hope you enjoyed this conversation. Here’s the link to his website:

Note: This was an interview I did as part of a side project (titled ‘Infypreneur’) where a friend of mine and I interviewed some of our ex-Infosys friends who went on to do something purposeful that they were passionate about.

Update July 2021: Anoop is now with Capitalmind, and managing a very successful Smallcase built around momentum picks. Please check out Capitalmind Momentum Smallcase.

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