GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) is likely to help attract trillions of dollars of investment into India, says top exchange BSE’s CEO Ashish Chauhan who envisions Hong Kong like model for India’s first global financial services centre.

Going forward, he also sees it raising funds for several smaller countries, including those in Africa, from investors across the world ranging from “Japanese housewives to royal families in the Gulf”.

GIFT City, an ambitious pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeks to compete with global financial hubs like London, New York Singapore, Dubai and Hong Kong, is developing fast with several domestic and global entities setting shop there.

BSE has set up an international exchange in GIFT City, near Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar, which went live earlier this year and is now in process of conducting roadshows across major global centres to attract investors and businesses.

In an interview to PTI , Chauhan said the exchange in GIFT City is one of the key focus areas for the group right now. “It is a new baby and it is very exciting as it will compete with places like Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong, US and London markets and it requires that kind of skill set and that kind of manpower. Unlike other markets, which run for 6-7 hours a day, that (GIFT City exchange) is running 22 hours a day,” he said.

Chauhan said it is early days for BSE’s GIFT City bourse, but there has already been USD 4-5 million of trade in Sensex 50, which is an index that has been recently been created.

Asked about the steps being taken to scale up the operations of the new GIFT City exchange, he said roadshows are also starting now. “It is a separate company with a separate board and a separate CEO. Even the clearing corporation there in GIFT City is separate with a separate team. The people who are running that exchange, are going to do roadshows and participate in different industry events in India and abroad,” he said.

Chauhan said the target audience for the exchange is basically those investing from abroad. “So, for example if people are trading in Indian products through Singapore, or people who are trading in Singapore in commodities, or in Dubai for example, the target is how we can bring that trade here.

“Indians are not allowed to transact in that zone. So, we are targeting foreigners — it could be Japanese housewives, it could be people in Gulf, family offices,” he said.

Chauhan said that trading at the exchange initially would be limited to Indian products, but that would change later.

Drawing parallels, he further said, “If you look at Hong Kong and China, Hong Kong is part of China, but not exactly part of China. It is what people call one country and two systems. China does not have an Anglo-Saxon system, courts and supreme court etc, whereas Hong Kong has all those.

“So, over the last 35 years, China has used Hong Kong strategically to bring trillions of dollars of investments into China and that’s how China has become the centre of manufacturing in the world.

“If we can use GIFT City to attract investment into India, as a gateway to invest into India, and in the process also help other countries for example in Africa, in South East Asia, to raise funds from investors across the world.”

The BSE CEO said GIFT City does not need to service only Indian firms, but it could potentially serve others as well as it has got benefits of better connectivity and better talent.

“Today’s markets are basically about connectivity. Earlier, stock exchanges always used to be on the sea shores, because trade used to happen through the sea route. But, today the equivalent of that shore is the IT network which can connect everyone.

“So, if you can conceptualise GIFT City in India as a Hong Kong in China, it can have a very large role to play. If India requires 2-3 trillion dollars for manufacturing, for infrastructure etc over the next ten years, then almost one trillion dollars can be raised through GIFT City, whether it is through masala bonds, or foreign currency bonds or equities. That is how we visualise it,” he said.

Talking about the BSE’s exchange in that zone, Chauhan said it being a trading centre would have derivatives, commodities and currency trading among various products. “It would need to help India raise funds and help foreigners do things in a regulatory environment that is as easy as trading through Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong or London.

“Ease of operations is what needs to be implemented. Some of them have already happened with SEBI, RBI and IRDAI all other regulators creating newer regulations. Corporate Affairs Ministry has created a new framework for GIFT City.

“Over a period of next 10-12 years when it grows up, we should see GIFT City becoming a place through which people would invest in India.

“Also, it would help other countries that cannot afford such high-end infrastructure to use our facilities for raising funds for their companies,” he added.

Chauhan further said raising of funds there should not be only by companies, but also for the governments — for central government, for states and for municipalities. “If we can create that kind of expertise there, which is very much possible, we should be able to utilise it for India to grow going forward,” he said.