The economic reforms enacted by the PV Narasimha Rao government and steered by Manmohan Singh as the finance minister in 1991 were a landmark event in India’s history.
Liberalisation emerged as the gateway of opportunities for Indians with the opening up of the private sector. Since then, the Indian economy and the stock markets have grown multi-fold.
The BSE Sensex, the oldest stock index of 30 companies, has marched a long way since – through highs and lows – from about 1,440 points (average) in July 1991 to an all-time-high of 53,290.81 on July 16, 2021.
The markets emerged stronger after enduring turbulent times such as the Harshad Mehta scam of 1992, the Kargil War in 1999, the global financial crisis of 2008, demonetisation in 2016 and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 1991 reforms liberalised foreign investments and paved the way for private sector banks including IndusInd Bank, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.
The reforms led to the advent of several international companies into the country, transforming almost every sector – from automobiles (Ford, Toyota) and electronics (Sony, Samsung) to telecom (Nokia) and media and entertainment (Times FM, Star Plus).
Even food and beverage consumption patterns changed. Consumers in India had more options for their taste buds with McDonald’s and KFC joining traditional Udupi restaurants and Irani cafes. Indians began to relish global flavours in almost every industry and sector as the economy flourished.
The reforms proved to be a stepping stone for Indian companies that were in the early stages then and have now mushroomed into global entities. Infosys is a classic example. The information technology company has grown into a $90 billion company (by market cap) in almost three decades after it went public in 1993.
Today, India is said to be an emerging hub for startups and unicorns, many of which are now eyeing initial public offerings. Restaurant aggregator and food delivery company Zomato was the most recent to join the IPO league.
Over the course of three decades, the reforms have proved to be a boon for the country’s economy and have helped to establish and promote India as a brand at a global level.
As the country celebrates the 30th anniversary of its economic liberalisation, here’s a look at the journey through the lens of the Indian stock markets: