Do you go to a cardiac surgeon only if has undergone a cardiac transplant?

This was the response Mr. GV Ramakrishna (GVR) gave to the reporter who asked him whether he traded in shares. The occasion was GVR being appointed SEBI chair in 1990. On seeing his IAS bacakground, a journalist thought of making a point by asking the share question. The journalist was obviously taken back by the response of GVR and relation with the media changed.

This and several other anecdotes are there in GVR’s autobiography – Two Score and  Ten: My Experiences in Government. It is interesting not much has changed ever since. SEBI continues to be run primarily by IAS officers who do not seem to have much of a background of financial markets.  They do seem to have had a tenure in Finance Ministry’s capital markets which is not valued much by markets and media. They surely know how to answer the question based on GVR’s response! 

As an IAS officer, GVR had multiple tenures which he describes in the book. However, I just read about his term at SEBI (and Disinvestment Commission). Needless to say, it was quite a tenure. He was instrumental in getting SEBI Act passed and brought many regulatory powers from government to SEBI. He was at helm when the famous 1992 scam broke out leading to many other changes which followed like NSE. 

A great read. More than just the person at the helm, the book tells you about several issues and developments in Indian securities market. On one hand the market was ripe for growth but on the other it was highly inefficient with powers to manipulate concentrated in few. What followed was a classic tussle between incumbents and the new regulator which was in no mood to relent. More importantly, the government was supportive on most of the steps and policies taken by the regulator. With political support, things obviously become a lot easier. However, it was the same lack of political support which led to his ouster as well.

The author has included several press clippings both during and after his tenure on various subjects. That make for a wonderful read as it tells you how things change over a period of time. How media assesses the institution and its people at one time and whether it changes positively or negatively.

The book shows how these early foundations led SEBI to continue to make efforts to develop Indian security markets. These things seem to have been institutionalized pretty early on and it did not matter whoever came and went.

True, there have been deficiencies but given the time period few can doubt that Indian capital markets particularly the equity ones have only strengthened overtime. That too without much fanfare or media coverage.

As this blog keeps emphasising, we need to know more and more about way Indian capital markets have developed. Especially the institutional history. In it we have lots of amazing stories and lessons as this book shows…

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