THE falling spectre of the BSE has sent shivers down the spine of domestic brokers. Trying to maintain a cool facade and a brave front, they are stressed out, to say the least. It was quite evident last week when the Big Bull, scam-accused Harshad Mehta, addressed a stress management seminar for city stockbrokers. Attributing the ability to endure post-scam strain to his strong faith in God, the Bhagwad Gita and yoga—in that order—he said to the rapt audience: "If I could endure all the stress for the past four years, you could certainly face the stress of everyday life."
According to the brochure called Stress and the Stockbroker, "A number of factors have combined to increase stress for the stockbroker. A move from the traditional ring to electronic trading, decreasing business, a credit squeeze, direct trading by institutions, FIIs controlling market trends, a loss of investor confidence, bad deliveries and broker defaults have all contributed to difficult times.
How should the stockbroker conduct business in these diffi-cult times? How can he min-imise the effects of stress on his business and health? These are questions that require systematic and sensible answers."
While market pundits are reaching for their stock responses, some 120 Mumbai stockbrokers decided to find the answers in a two-day workshop on stress management organised by Mumbai-based surgeon S.U. Nagarkatti and sponsored by P.R. Shah & Co, a stock-broking firm run by Mrs K. Shah.
BSE President M.G. Damani said in his inaugural address: "It’s about time something like this happened in the city. Everybody from the broking fraternity needs to relieve stress, especially during these times." Broker Pashupati Advani explained the safeguards in client-broker transactions while Nailesh Dala’s topic was "altruism: helping others to help yourself". Tax consultant Anil Harish—of D.M. Harish & Co—addressed the gathering on avoiding and managing income tax search and seizure. With SEBI’s recent raids on several stockbrokers in Mumbai and Pune, Harish’s address was well appreciated.
But the stars of the show were the Mehta brothers. Says Anil Sanghvi, a big-time broker of Sterling Consultancy: "What I particularly liked was the sharing of Harshadbhai’s experience. He told us of the first 11 days of his arrest when practically every investigating agency in India was interrogating him round the clock and how he coped with the stress."
Equating the BSE with the Premier Padmini car and the NSE with Maruti, younger brother Ashwin blamed technology for the ills and the crisis of today. "But this same technology which has created the crisis will also gives you better opportunities," he said. He suggested disposing of the huge edifice of the BSE Towers and shifting to cheaper real estate locations. "All of you should also get NSE cards and operate on-line from whichever location is cheaper," he said.
Dennis Grubb of Price Waterhouse, which is setting up the depository for the BSE, presented a western perspective. "When the bourses in the West went through a similar bear phase, margins suddenly nosedived. But the government out there introduced futures and options. Once that happens liquidity will flow back into the market. Depositories too would help investors and FIIs regain their faith in the system and the market would perk up," he noted.
Interspersed with speeches from the marketmen were lectures by doctors, yoga teachers, hypnotherapists and even bhajans. In fact, fitness instructress Banoo Batliboy took the younger brokers through an aerobics class to relieve stress, while Dr Ashit Sheth conducted a hypnotherapy workshop to control negative emotions for elderly brokers.
This two-day seminar is expected to be followed by occasional workshops for brokers who have evinced a keen interest in future therapy sessions for stress relief. In this connection, sleep therapy is also being offered by Ramji Bhai in Mumbai. Says N.G.N. Puranik from Enam who has been attending for the past two months: "This is a weekly programme that rids you of stress and other ailments."
Indeed, in the tug of war between bulls and bears, stress might be the only asset the brokers gain. And the way markets are poised right now, stress management could well be the new fad waiting to hit the city of Mumbai.