By Ashley Coutinho
For Ashish Kumar Chauhan, taking over as the next CEO of National Stock Exchange of India (NSE) will be a ghar wapsi of sorts; Chauhan had earlier spent seven years with the bourse as part of its founding team comprising RH Patil, Ravi Narain and Chitra Ramkrishna from 1993 to 2000.
Chauhan was instrumental in setting up the initial information technology infrastructure, including the first commercial satellite telecom network in India, for NSE. He was also involved in establishing the exchange traded derivatives market in Indian markets, conceptualising National Securities Clearing Corporation and th initial set-up of National Securities Depository.
It is an interesting time for a comeback, given that the exchange is dogged with controversies relating to the co-location scam, illegal phone-tapping of employees and the probe into the purported involvement of a mysterious yogi who dictated the actions of former chief executive Chitra Ramkrishna. Chauhan himself has often been a vocal critic of NSE and its corporate governance practices in the past.
“There is not much concern on the business front as NSE is the undisputed market leader in the country. His first task will be to manoeuvre through the myriad corporate governance issues facing the exchange and undo some of the reputational damage that the exchange has suffered over the past few years,” said a broker who has been associated with the BSE for several years.
Unlike Narain and Ramkrishna, Chauhan has enjoyed a clean image so far and has the ear of regulators and the finance ministry, according to people in the know.
That may come in handy as he navigates the exchange and his team through the regulatory quagmire and possible criminal investigations. His technological savvy may also stand in good stead. “Ashish is extremely tech-savvy and understands how to make tech work for you. Exchanges today are 80% tech so anybody with a strong tech background will always be on top of the game,” said a person familiar with the matter.
At BSE, Chauhan is credited with helping it become the fastest exchange in the world in 2015 with a median trade speed of six microseconds, with the technological upgrade taking place in a live environment.
He has also helped in the introduction of mobile trading, a state-of-the-art online real-time surveillance system and several market leading products.
Two of BSE’s successes have been the SME platform launched in 2012 and BSE Star MF, which has emerged as the platform of choice for investment in mutual funds. The total market capitalisation of all 367 companies listed on BSE SME platform reached Rs 48,481 crore at the end of FY22, with a market share of about 61%.
Chauhan also successfully saw the launch of India’s first international exchange, India INX, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2017 at Gandhinagar, Gift City.
The notional trading turnover of India INX’s derivatives increased by 46.2% to $2,624.28 billion in FY22 from the year-ago period. During the same period, trading volume increased to 1,514.72 lakh contracts from 1,264.19 lakh contracts.
Another of Chauhan’s achievements was to take the exchange public in early 2017 even as rival NSE’s plan for an IPO hit a regulatory hurdle. BSE’s IPO, which was pending for 10 years, was oversubscribed 51 times.
NSE and its shareholders will be hoping that Chauhan can repeat that feat.