How I Did It

Be disciplined and get rich

Vijay Athlye's story inspires us to get over our setbacks and take the right lessons from them

Be disciplined and get rich

Bhopal-based Vijay Athlye is a brave investor. He is brave because he has won many mental battles that would intimidate an average person. Vijay saw his father lose all his retirement money in equities. To make things worse, hundreds of share certificates were sold to a scrap vendor. But fortune favours the brave. Vijay's personal portfolio topped the magical mark of Rs 1 crore in 2013. Today, he invests Rs 50,000 per month through systematic investments plans (SIPs) and is an ebullient ambassador of mutual funds.

The tragedy
Vijay's father was a government official. Vijay completed his post graduation in 1987 and immediately started his pest-control business. "As a child, I didn't know what investing was, let alone saving. My parents never managed to save anything due to our education expenses. The first 'spare' money my family got was in the form of retirement benefit of my father. With it, he applied in almost every IPO at that time. Unfortunately, he lost all his retirement money and later sold hundreds of his share certificates to a scrap vendor at Rs 5 per kg," recalls Vijay.

It's not that Vijay's father, K L Athlye, always got allotment in bad companies. But due to the lack of facilities and tools required to understand what a good company is, Vijay's dad did not retain shares of good firms for long. He got original allotment in the Infosys IPO but sold the shares when the price appreciated. Similarly, one of Vijay's brothers was allotted Tata Elxsi's shares but immediately offloaded them to buy a colour TV!

The first investment and tryst with Value Research
From early days, Vijay understood the importance of saving. The pest-control business is very competitive and uncertain. "To avoid uncertainty, I realised that I have to not only save money but also invest it. Therefore, from the beginning, my emphasis was on saving money. Since I had seen the big losses faced in equity by my father, the other option was real estate," says Vijay, who purchased a small piece of land.

It was in mid-nineties that Vijay made two equity related investments. The first one was a tax-saving scheme of Kothari Pioneer Mutual Fund. That investment gave him multifold gains. During the same period, he bought 100 shares each of ACC and Sterlite Industries for a princely total sum of Rs 1 lakh. Unfortunately, he sold them a few years later almost at the same price.

In 2004, Vijay began to realise that land is a bad investment and one cannot rely on it if the funds are required on short notice. Secondly, Vijay says, one has to liquidate the entire land even if the fund requirement is small. He decided to up his investments in mutual funds. "The success of Kothari Pioneer Mutual Fund ELSS was in my mind so I started investing regularly in mutual funds in 2004. Initially, I started mutual fund investing with the help of an advisor. To gain knowledge about mutual funds, I found to be the best," says Vijay.

He started his first SIP in 2005 in HDFC Equity (now HDFC Flexi Cap Fund). "After regular reading of the articles on your website, I reached the conclusion that mutual funds are the best way to invest your money and one should go by the SIP route," remarks Vijay.

Investment mistakes
Vijay has not set any goal, but he knows that if one accumulates a handsome corpus, then it becomes easy to handle any situation that life throws at you. "In 2013, when my portfolio value reached Rs 1 crore, I withdrew Rs 35 lakh from my portfolio. I took a home loan for the balance amount to purchase a four-bedroom flat in Bhopal. Today, I think it was a very poor investment decision, considering that I have never lived in that apartment. I am also not getting any good return on it in terms of rent. The flat's value has also depreciated. Had that money remained invested in mutual funds, I would have got far better returns," Vijay confesses.

Vijay's investments
Vijay invests in direct plans of mutual funds. "Till 2013, I had been investing through an advisor. Once direct schemes came into the picture, I switched most of my investment and SIPs to direct plans," he reveals.

At present, Vijay invests Rs 50,000 per month through SIPs in nine schemes. Once he starts an SIP, he does not stop it. His ongoing SIPs are in HDFC Top 200 (now HDFC Top 100 Fund), ABSL Tax Relief 96, Franklin India Prima Plus (now Franklin India Flexi Cap Fund), ICICI Long Term Equity among others. He invests in growth options. His biggest allocation today is in HDFC Top 200. "It is now not performing like others, but I am still continuing with it because it has a long-proven record," Vijay points out, saying that he does not experiment too much and relies on the time-tested performers amongst funds.

Recalling his most trying times as an investor, Vijay, like many others, talks about the 2009 meltdown. "There was a lot of noise to stop SIPs and withdraw all the money, but Value Research helped me realise that it was the best time to accumulate maximum numbers of units for the future," Vijay says.

Vijay doesn't believe in timing the market. "As they say, timing the market is not important, time in the market is important. If the market is in a bull phase, then your investment is growing and if it is in bear phase, then you are getting more units. So, by investing in mutual funds through SIPs, you are always in a win-win situation if your investment horizon is long term," he says.

Emotions have never played a role in his investments. Vijay has never invested in gold bonds or insurance. Whenever he decides to make fresh investments, he looks at the Value Research five-star funds in different categories. He stays away from thematic funds and dividend-paying funds.

Vijay is clear that one has to take moderate and calculated risks to benefit from investing. By investing small amounts regularly, he attained over Rs 1 crore profit. Vijay says that any middle-class person can change his next generation's status by systematic and disciplined investing.

This story was first published in October 2018.

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