Opinion

Below The Line: Das as SEBI chief?

Our Delhi Bureau | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 16, 2016

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Never has a bureaucrat’s career movement attracted as much attention as the number cruncher in the Finance Ministry and presently Secretary, Economic Affairs, Shaktikanta Das.

Almost as soon as the government declares its search for candidates for key regulatory positions, Das’ name props up first in the corridors of power.

Earlier, he was in news for the pivotal post of RBI Governor, and now it is for the post of chairman of the capital and commodities market regulator, SEBI.

It doesn’t stop here. Das, whose name was once said to be in race for top position in RBI, is now being spoken about as one of the prospective deputy governors. The reason for this buzz: the advertisement says applicants should have at least 25 years’ experience in public administration, or in a public finance institution.

TAPI ‘breathing heavily’!

Not a day goes by without a discussion on the strained ties between India and Pakistan. The first impact of any political tussle is on economic relations. Everyone has been speaking about MFN status, electricity grid, and bilateral trade relations, but what about the ambitious Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline?

Unlike Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI), TAPI had American backing; so will it become a reality or remain a ‘pipe’ dream? If you are looking for an official answer — the best you’ll get is a smile! Make your interpretations.

But there are optimists as well, who say, “TAPI is alive, but breathing heavily right now.”

Chinese checkers

Commerce and industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman is optimistic that her Chinese counterpart Wang Shouwen’s assurance about taking steps to bridge the rising trade deficit between the two countries was sincere.

At a recent press conference, she said that this time it seems they are ready to act.

While on the face of it there is no reason to doubt the Chinese Minister’s intentions, the problem is that Chinese politicians including the Premiers, both past and present, have been making such promises regularly for the last many years.

Despite that, the trade gap has only worsened with no measures actually been taken by China to buy more from India. Whether this time would be any different only time would tell.

Discount frenzy

A pioneer of sorts in the Indian electronic wallet space had an interesting take to the ongoing discount frenzy among e-wallets and e-commerce platforms.

This player, who mostly stayed away from discounting model, likened the current craze to offer freebies including cash backs and discounts to giving “blood to a lion”. Once a lion is used to tasting blood, you know what happens. It is only going to go after more blood! Same goes for the Indian e-commerce customer who will keep platform-hopping till he is satiated with best discounts/offers. It now seems clear e-commerce players perforce need to sustain this discounting frenzy, to survive in this rat race.

Changing Tunes

Many e-commerce startups that have perfected discounting model to acquire customers are now facing some tough questions from investors. It’s no more “burn the money as you like” approach even for companies which have been funded well, say couple of hundred million dollars. One of the startups’ founders recounted as how the first board meeting was great — it was all ‘about show us the GMV (Gross Merchandise Value), how will you go about achieving more GMV’. Now after a few meetings it is all about “profitability”. Board members are saying ‘show us the profitability or the profitability roadmap or how do you intend achieving it’? The game is no longer about long-term, GMV or subscribers.



Published on October 16, 2016
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