Lately, I’ve been watching some Instagram reels for investment advice. It involves ‘finfluencers’ – people under-30 who have a social media following, explaining different investment options. One reel, for example, has two women dancing to a Justin Bieber trend, telling me how I can buy US stocks
sitting in India. Another one, has a young man in comedic situations with himself (in disguise), chatting about rent vs EMI. There’s another finfluencer – a tough word to say out loud while, say, eating popcorn – who gets her dog to bark every time she mentions a stock that’s rallying too much. Another one plays sad Mohammed Rafi songs every time a stock does not move.
You can laugh at me and say this is absolute nonsense, and one should listen to more ‘grown-up’ advice. Yet, if you think about it, what is ‘grown-up’ advice as we start Covid-’22? Some gent called Vishal or Mohit (or insert your choice of name here) from X Bank coming over to your house wearing a tie, giving you various pdfs of fund houses with various graphs on it, and saying, ‘Sir, this is the fund for you. Trust me. I will be there to handhold you through this.’?
And then three weeks later, finding out on Facebook that Vishal has left X Bank to run an Airbnb in Nainital with his fiancee. Vishal posts a photo titled ‘#blessed’ with pine trees behind him, leaving you with ₹X lakh invested in a fund called ‘dynamic growth New India aggressive balanced forever advantage fund’ or some such, whose value has halved even before Vishal has welcomed his first guest in Nainital.
Or is real wisdom from tie-wearing uncles and strangely hair-sprayed aunties on business news channels sitting between various tickers and graphics – kept on mute – that only play in doctors’ waiting rooms, office building and hotel lobbies?
In short, no one knows anything. The future of the markets will be what they will be, and business news anchors with their suits and Bloomingdalebergs, know as much as ‘finfluencers’ who tell you to invest because their dog barked on Instagram. Which explains why so many business families turn to soothsayers. And which also explains why, through the pandemic, so many young people have turned to apps like Zerodha or Groww or Upstoxx (or insert your crazy playschool name of choice), and are sitting at home not with an Xbox but putting money into TCS or HDFC after watching some finfluencer dance to a Badshah song trend.
Nowhere is this bigger than cryptocurrencies, advertised by Bollywood stars and comedians, both custodians of wise financial planning. Various celebrities have been marketing bitcoin as ‘safe and assured,’ which just proves, actors will read out any script without understanding a word, as long as they are paid in real coin.
I’ve been watching a comedian on YouTube have lengthy discussions on bitcoin and blockchain technology and mining. I was so sucked in, like the million others watching, that I walked around shouting words like ‘Cardano’, ‘Solana’ and ‘Altcoin’, till my wife was about to call a doctor. I almost thought this YouTube legend was Warren Buffet. But then I realised he was 22, doing this live stream from his mother’s pickle storeroom. Later, he invited another ‘expert’, an 18-year-old, who explained why dog coins were the future. And he sat between a meme of two types of Japanese dogs.
I was very close to putting in my entire life savings into cryptos, until the Reserve Bank of India slapped me – and the nation – saying this party was over. Much like a Mumbai police sub-inspector showing up at 2 am and telling the drunks to disperse.
You would think that the wise uncles and aunts at RBI want to regulate all this social media crypto finfluencer frolic because they understand the world more. They don’t. We are all just wallowing in the dark, hoping a dog meme is more valuable than a 100 rupee note tomorrow. And the only influencer worth anything is time.