NEW DELHI: Capital markets watchdog SEBI may be among India’s most powerful regulators today but there was a time when people used to introduce its former chief U K Sinha as Chairman of SBI — a similar sounding acronym but of State Bank of India.
“At the start of my tenure at SEBI, people would introduce me as the chairperson of SBI, the State Bank of India (the country’s largest bank with a far flung branch network). Today, you go to a small village in India and they know SEBI,” says Sinha, who retired as SEBI Chairman last week after a six-year tenure — the second largest in nearly three decades of existence of the regulatory body.
Sinha’s remarks are part of a detailed case study on the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) done by Professor Suraj Srinivasan of the Harvard Business School.
The study titled ‘Securities Exchange Board of India: Developing and Regulating India’s Capital Markets’ has been done by Suraj along with research associate Radhika Kak.
According to the study, Sinha was reflecting on his past five years as the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) when he made these remarks.
“It was February 2016 and he had just been appointed by the Government of India to a second term as the Chairman of SEBI,” it noted.
While SEBI as a regulator has made significant strides over the past decade, it was during Sinha’s tenure that its powers increased manifold including for bringing to book entities guilty of insider trading and fraudulent investment activities such as illicit collective investment schemes.
SEBI’s tough actions against several large corporates even prompted some in recent years to call the regulator a ‘dragon’ and of acting like an activist.
Days before demitting office, Sinha told a press conference that SEBI was justly “harsh” with those threatening the integrity of markets and he was not “shy” to say so.
Regulators seem to have faced dilemma of being addressed differently mostly on account of lack of awareness about their roles.
Some time back, officials had reminisced that there were occasions when people used to ask whether Competition Commission of India (CCI) was into conducting some kind of competitive examinations.
“As of end-March 2015, more than 900 resource persons had conducted a total of 24,000 workshops across the country.
Partly due to this program, SEBI came to be better recognised nationally,” the study said. Sinha, a former IAS officer, also had the second longest tenure as SEBI Chairman after D R Mehta who served at the helm from 1995-2002.
Sinha’s last three predecessors had three-year tenures each and another senior officer Ajay Tyagi has taken over from him as the new SEBI Chairman with a three-year tenure.