What do ‘Horn OK Please’ and ‘Mutual Funds are subject to Market Risks’ have in common?

Travellers on Indian roads would be very familiar with this sign. Almost every truck, specially the big inter state ones that cross highways, has this funny term written behind them “Horn OK Please”. I have seen it often, and have never quite understood its significance. Having asked a few people, even they seem to be unaware of the meaning of this term and why it is there. Some say it is a warning for drivers behind the truck to blow the horn before overtaking it, which seems to be the most plausible explanation. Others say that O.K stands for On Kerosene as trucks earlier were run on them, so it was a warning for vehicles trying to overtake such trucks. In any case, it seems like it was supposed to be some kind of a warning for people following a truck.

Perhaps, it is now just a meaningless tradition that most truck owners and drivers blindly follow – painting their trucks with a “Horn OK Please” sign without really meaning much. The funny thing is that no one cares for that sign too, except for some amusement factor. Sometimes not even that. No vehicle following trucks (other trucks included) cares for that sign or follows it – they overtake anyway as they wish.

So what’s the point? I got reminded of that funny sign behind trucks a couple of times today while watching a business channel. The first occasion was when watching a mutual fund ad, at the end of which there was this scrambled, hurried announcement. “Mutual Funds are subject to market risk. Please read the offer document carefully before investing.” And the second one was after a show discussing stocks, in which an expert just before wrapping up, announced a quick disclosure shown also on screen. “I, my company or our clients may have positions and interest in all the stocks discussed. Viewers are advised to take their investment decisions at their own discretion based on advice from their financial advisor.” Or something to that effect.

Both these statements and the manner in which they were made sounded to me like “Horn OK Please.” Almost all experts on the show (and all other shows) as well as all mutual fund ads ended with these statements. The people making these statements did not quite know why they were making it – perhaps they were following some tradition or regulation in this case. They were kind of making them blindly without really meaning much. Like the truck owners paint their trucks. And the people for whom these statements were made, presumably investors and traders, were not likely to take those statements seriously. They were, anyway, not going to read the offer documents, or were unlikely to neglect the advice or recommendation given just because someone had a vested interest in them. Perhaps similar to how other drivers view Horn OK Please. You read it, but you overtake anyway.

Neither the maker of the statement means them, nor do the readers take them seriously. Perhaps, both get some amusement out of it. Striking similarity with “Horn OK Please”?

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