Emphasising the need for fair and transparent business practices, Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said regulators have to be well advanced and ahead of the curve in understanding digitisation to ensure that there is no misuse of technologies.
Sitharaman, who is helming the ministries of finance and corporate affairs, said the decade from 2020 and beyond will be infused with digital methods and also stressed that there should be firewall mechanisms in the context of digitisation.
Speaking at an event to flag off ‘Iconic Day’ celebrations of the corporate affairs ministry as part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM), she noted that digitisation will have an impact on markets.
Consequently, the Competition Commission of India (CCI), National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA) and others have to be ahead of the curve to see where the regulations are falling in place, where the norms need a soft touch, where the regulations will have to be a strong deterrent.
Underlining that there should be fair, accountable and transparent practices, the minister said everyone has to be seized of the fact that digitisation is going to pervade all aspects of society.
“We cannot be behind the curve… the regulators will have to understand at what level and with what effect they need to come in. We have to be well advanced in this kind of situation rather than being caught unawares,” she said.
Delving into the topic of digitisation, the minister also said it is very well for regulators and institutes to benefit from digitisation. At the same time, there has to be strong manpower, which constantly looks at ways in which they can evolve firewall mechanisms to safeguard the digital platforms and digital world that have been created for our convenience.
“Every institution will have to give equal attention to experts who have to be deputed on a constant basis to understand the challenges, where they come from, and strengthen the firewall mechanism. Or else that which made our lives easy, that which is making our lives continuously easy, can become the biggest (challenge)…,” she said.
Mentioning various institutions under the corporate affairs ministry, Sitharaman said CCI, which is “remaining a shadow but without affecting functionalities”, has made a major contribution.
“(It has been)… making its presence felt but not trying to make any obstruction… Controlling mergers in a very soft but significant way, giving consumers the necessary protection…,” she added.
The corporate affairs ministry is uniquely placed as it is facilitating people while regulating. It has impacted the lives of common Indians, be it in their small businesses, or part of larger business or even small investors, she said.
Sitharaman noted that the ministry kept itself on its toes while facing challenges due to COVID-19 and came up with various steps so that even during the lockdown, people could go about their normal businesses without having to worry about compliances.
The minister also said during the pandemic, there has been a very significant increase in retail investor numbers.
“Retail investors have come in a big way that they seem to act like shock absorbers… if FPIs went away, our markets did not really have to show their ups and downs in a very distinct way because small investors in the country have come in a big way,” she said.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Rao Inderjit Singh said the country’s economy has grown in the last eight years.
He emphasised on the need for responsive governance in the face of an ever-evolving corporate landscape for sustained economic growth of the country.
While mentioning that the progressive change that the country has witnessed in the last 75 years will pave the way forward, he also said that “somehow, we still have not been able to address the population issue the way it should have been addressed.” Corporate Affairs Secretary Rajesh Verma said the ministry will be coming out with various tools, including for compliance management, and emphasised its focus on technology-driven platforms to facilitate ease of doing business.
Various measures have been taken in the last eight years to ease the compliance burden, he noted.
At the event, the National CSR Exchange Portal was launched. Among others, a commemorative postal stamp on investor awareness was released and a special window for those 75 years and above with respect to claims was launched by the Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority (IEPFA).