Stockbrokers who had traded at the Ahmedabad Stock Exchange (ASE) when it was located at the Manekchowk building prior to 1996 are emotionally to the structure and are against it being sold off. They want it to be preserved as a heritage structure.
They have fond memories of their participating in the open outcry system of trading and learning the tricks of the trade on the exchange floor. They say that shouting to make bids and trade shares on the floor of the exchange at Manekchowk gave a very different kind of satisfaction, besides helping them earn more money on a daily basis. All this changed in 1996 when trading went digital and the exchanged shifted to its building in Panjrapole.
Mitesh M Sheth, who was introduced to the stock exchange at Manekchowk in 1985, said he and his friends are emotionally attached to the historic building.
“We grew as brokers over there. By selling the building for a few crore rupees, the second oldest stock exchange of India will lose its fame and charm,” Sheth said.
Most stockbrokers did not attend the extraordinary general meeting of the ASE on Tuesday where it was decided to sell off the building and a piece of land in Ellisbridge for urgently needed cash to meet conditions set by Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). “We knew that the directors wanted to sell off the Manekchowk property but we have been opposing it. Hence many of us did not attend the meeting,” Sheth said. He added that of the 334 member brokers of the ASE, merely 30-35 attended the meeting where the resolution to sell off the properties was passed.
Sunil Shah, who had traded at Manekchowk from 1989 to 1996, accepted that it is now a question of survival for the ASE which needs money to meet Sebi conditions or face closure.
“However, instead of selling off the Manekchowk building, the directors of the exchange should have come up with some other solution. The building is very close to our hearts as we sweated and toiled there for many years of our lives,” Shah said.
Samindra R Shah is another veteran of the Manekchowk days of the ASE. Even today when he goes to the area late in the evening to eat Bhaji Pav with his family, he proudly tells those younger to him that he learnt the basics of the stock market in this building.
“I worked for 12 years as a broker in this building. I think it should be preserved. I have also suggested that the interior of the building be renovated and reused. It is rare to find a stock exchange of British times when architectural designs were very different,” said Samindra Shah.
However, some brokers like Bhavesh I Parikh take a more practically view of the decision to sell off the building though they too are very attached to it.
“I worked at the Manekchowk building for four years before the exchange was shifted. Its woodwork is of the finest quality but, otherwise, it is of no use. It would require a lot of money to repair and preserve it. It is the practical thing to sell it off as ASE is left with no other option,” Praikh said. Mahesh Sheth is a second generation broker who had traded at the Manekchwok building for 12 years.
“Not only I but even my father, Ajit Sheth, had worked there. But looking at the current situation, there is no option but to sell the building. This will at least keep the name, ‘Ahmedabad Stock Exchange’, alive,” he said. Interestingly, the apex industries body, Confederation of Indian Industry, has suggested that ASE should preserve the Manekchowk building. “Old stock exchanges have been preserved all over the world and they have become wonderful tourist destinations. Take the case of Wall Street in the US, the exchange in Frankfurt and in many other western countries. The exchange has remained as it always was. ASE is part of Gujarat’s tradition. Hence, the ASE should preserve the Manekchowk building,” said former president of CII, Yatindra Sharma.