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Investing overseas assume greater importance
June, 20th 2008

 Tough times often open doors to new avenues. If doors to the Indian stock markets do not seem to be in a welcoming mood at the moment, there is a whole world awaiting the investors, literally, outside the domestic circuit. That was the theme of the recently concluded Global Investment Marathon organised by ING Investment Management, one of the world's leading asset management companies, in Mumbai.

The two-day summit aimed at creating awareness about the investment opportunities available around the globe, through a series of workshops and panel discussions conducted by leading experts in the investment arena.

Attended by over 300 financial planners from across the country, the summit was rightly christened a marathon, given that 12 workshops, each addressing a unique global investment aspect, were held on day one, followed by extensive panel discussions on day two.

According to Vineet K Vohra, MD and CEO, ING Investment Management, India, the marathon was aimed at broadening the minds of the delegates to enable them to look beyond the conventional investment avenues. The ceremony was inaugurated by AP Kurian, chairman, Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), who stressed on the need for broadening the base of the mutual fund industry.

"For several decades, the Indian mutual fund industry remained in-house," he said. "It was only in 1986 that the road to the world was opened for us but it was in 2007 that this road actually widened. While there is a scope for improvement in certain areas, we are in touch with the regulators who are giving it a serious thought," he added.

Covering various aspects of investing, the expert panel discussed at the legal and regulatory aspects of global investing, evaluation and selection of global strategies, use of quantitative techniques for evaluating asset allocation and evaluation and mitigation of investment risk in global investment strategies.

Highlighting the regulatory overview in India for investing abroad, the former chairman of Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), M Damodaran, said that India had covered a long journey in terms of evaluating investment oppor-tunities abroad.

The mindset of the Indian policymakers has undergone a radical change since the time India became a member of the international community. The overseas investment limit has gone up from $25,000 to $2,00,000 over a period of time and may be raised further as the markets move forward. With a problem of a different kind that the markets are facing currently, which is of absorption of inflows into India, investing overseas has assumed even greater importance.

The Raghuram Rajan committee report on the financial sector reforms in India has also recognised the active participation of Indian investors in the overseas markets as one of the methods that could help manage the excessive flow of funds into the country. As a measure to allow retail participation in the overseas market, mutual fund industry was permitted to offer products that invest certain portion of their assets in overseas markets.

While certain quantitative limits of the amount that can be invested overseas by each individual fund house as well as the industry as a whole do exist, today, the country is in a position to raise these limits if there is a demand for these products.

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