NUS MBA student R. Suraj gives us a look into the inside of the famed Berkshire Hathaway AGM.
My flight to Omaha was delayed. I was stuck indefinitely at Denver airport. A long-winding chain of angry passengers stood in front of the United Airlines customer service counter. In front of me was a smartly suited man in his 30’s, busily typing into his Blackberry. He asked where I was heading.
“I am going to an AGM in Omaha. It’s a company called Berkshire Hathaway,” I said, hoping he would know the company.
“They call it the Woodstock,” he said.
“What?” I gave him a quizzical look.
“It is not any AGM. It is the Woodstock of Capitalism,” he reminded me. I nodded in acceptance.
He was a serial entrepreneur who was going to meet some Venture Capitalists in the sides of the AGM. He represented a microcosm of the diverse set of 30000 people who were to descend upon Omaha.
The BH road show started on May 2nd with the cocktail dinner party. There was a carnival atmosphere with millionaires and billionaires coming from across the globe. It amazed me that these people were down to earth and wanted to converse with us. Each snippet of conversation was a pearl of wisdom. A live band added to the extravaganza.
May 3rd was the day of the AGM. Our group of seven left for Qwest center (where the AGM was held) at 6.30 am. We were surprised to find a spiraling line nearly ½ km long. The earliest folks had arrived at 1 am. Considering how cold Omaha was, it was a miracle that these people hadn’t become statues!
The gates were opened at 8 and the main arena was filled to capacity in half an hour. I was awestruck by the size and grandeur of the arena. It transported me to the Roman ages and made me believe that I was in the Great Colosseum waiting for my hero to arrive.
A charming video presenting a snapshot of the BH companies was the curtain raiser. Warren Buffet and Charlie Munger (his partner) made a muted entrance to the stage. A six hour Q & A ensued. Warren Buffet was asked about every topic possible, ranging from sub-prime, investment tips, Chinese Olympics and a little girl asking what she had to do to become the next Warren Buffet. To which he answered, “Read the newspaper everyday.”
There were many lessons I learnt that day. The biggest of which was seeing a couple of 77 and 82 year olds, gulping their Cokes (which they happen to own!) and enjoying what they do after so many years. That was the secret to their success.
The curtains closed on the following day. Before which we attended another social gathering wherein my friends Neha and Colleen, conversed with the ex-CEO of Penguin without realizing who he was.
It was a weekend I will remember all my life. The lessons I learnt will follow me like a shadow. I thank everyone at NUS, from students to the people at the MBA office, for facilitating the trip. I conclude with Warren Buffet’s two famous rules in life.
“Rule no 1: Never lose money. Rule no 2: Never forget rule no. 1”
MBA Class of 2009