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BW Businessworld

From Open Outcry To Online Trading

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Inside India's most widely held company
After creating stockmarket history with the largest ever public issue of equity shares (Rs 43.61 crore) in May 1981, the Bharuch (Gujarat)-based Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Company drew up ambitious plans.

Ambani's Hour
On 20 May, Dhirubhai Ambani (52) chairman of Reliance Textile Industries created history by hosting over 10,000 of the company's investors on Bombay's Cooperage football grounds. It was held outdoors as no public hall in the city was large enough to accommodate the investors.

The Boom Year
The signs were already there. In a frenzied bout of bull fever, the Bombay Stock Exchange's (BSE) 30-share Sensitive index leapt more than 200 points in just two months. On 8 June, the index stood at 628.63, just a hop, step and jump from its all-time peak of 664 achieved in February 1986.

Trusted Bull
As far as the stockmarkets were concerned, the bully was M.J. Pherwani, chief of Unit Trust of India. He did much to fuel the takeoff in 1985. He arrested the bust in 1987. And when he stepped in, both equities and the index jumped to newer peaks.

The Bull charge
The BSE Sensitive index hit the 1000-mark on 25 July. And by 30 July, the index touched 1100.

The Harshad Fallout
Even as the Congress top brass raced to New Delhi in the wake of Big Bull Harshad Mehta's claim that he had paid Rs 1 crore to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, it seemed clear that there would be no immediate move to depose the PM. 

Promoters vs Shareholders
Shareholder activism began. The Mahindras had wanted to allot shares of Mahindra & Mahindra to themselves at Rs 70, a discount of 66 per cent of the market price of Rs 210. However, under pressure from financial institutions, Keshub Mahindra had to scrap the allocation.

Paperless Trading
The trading mode on the market changed with the launch of the National Clearing and Depository System (NCDS).

The Arrival Of Mutual Funds
The green signal given to private sector funds including foreign fund management companies to enter the mutual fund industry in 1993 provided a wide choice to investors and increased competition in the industry. At least 11 private sector funds had launched their schemes.

End Of Regional Exchanges
The arrival of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) saw the gradual erosion of regional stock exchanges. Within a year, NSE emerged as the largest stock exchange in India.

Coping With A Crash
The perils of being part of the networked world were now visible. As the economy and the financial markets coupled into the global system, the average Indian investor was shaken out of his cloistered existence. Now, the market would react to what happens in other corners of the global village and could make him prince or pauper.

Bright Ideas Don't Shine On Their Own
The Malegam Committee was set up to look into the matters of disclosures in public issue prospectuses. Along the way, the report went on to address a wide spectrum of issues relating to the development of the stockmarket.

(Cover Design By Jyoti Thapa Mani)

Long Shadow Of The Big Bull
Corporate India was scared. And not without reason. The Supreme Court ruled that Harshad Mehta's shares worth Rs1,200 crore could be sold off to pay his income tax liabilities. But the 100-odd companies in which Mehta owned chunks of shares and which were once proud to be on Mehta's shopping list cringed. Their fear: if Mehta's stocks fell into the wrong hands, they could become easy pickings for a takeover artiste. However, their fears proved to be unfounded.

The Dot Com Bubble
The tech-heavy US index Nasdaq crashed in April 2000. In India too, technology companies were beaten badly on concerns that they would not be able to keep up with the growth expectations. The Sensex dropped from 6150 in February to 3943 in May. In the same period, the BSE IT index fell by 71 per cent.

The Unmaking Of Ketan Parekh
After Ketan Parekh was arrested the Sensex continued to fall. It slid 1063 points from 4247 on Budget Day to 3183 points on 12 April. By then, the Securities and Exchange Board of India had prepared a shortlist of brokers who it suspected of manipulating the market.

BSE brokers taking orders on the phone (Reuters)

After The Storm
The Indian markets were the worst hit among emerging markets in the sell-off. The BSE Sensex had fallen 15 per cent from its 2007 high of 14724, against an average drop of 8 per cent in Asian and Latin American emerging markets. That is not very surprising, since the local market had also risen the most in the emerging markets rally that commenced in late-April 2003.

Same Battle, Different Turf
Sebi won the first round but round two in the Ulips dispute went in favour of Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda). Ahead of any court verdict, the government issued an ordinance amending the Reserve Bank of India, Sebi and Irda Acts, which said that the life insurance business would be regulated by Irda.


Death Of The Small IPO
Some things have not changed: companies making small IPOs — less than Rs 150 crore — still have a hard time raising money. In fact, over the past 10 years, small IPOs have declined steadily.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 12-12-2011)