Some of the world's biggest foundations, including Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, pension funds such as CalPERS, university funds and endowments are registered as foreign institutional investors with the Securities and Exchange Board of India for several years now.
This clearly indicates that long-term, serious investors have had no problem in directly accessing booming Indian stock markets.
On October 25, Sebi Chairman M Damodaran announced changes in eligibility criteria to include new classes of investors such as pension funds, foundations, endowments, university funds and charitable trusts or societies to register themselves as FIIs.
But Sebi had been allowing serious investors into India by clearing their applications as FIIs on a case-to-case basis for several years now, said sources.
The California Public Employees Retirement System is registered as an FII with Sebi since 2004, Arkansas Teachers Retirement System is here from 1997.
City of Los Angeles Fire & Police Pension System has been granted registration in October 2002, Australian Retirement Fund got its FII registration in March 2005. City of Zurich Pension Fund is in Indian markets since April 2005.
Among the endowments registered with Sebi include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (March 2007), Boy Scouts of America, Commingled Endowment Fund (June 2006), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, (September 2005) and Washington University (January 2006).
Trusts and pension funds of global corporations registered as an FII in India include General Motors Welfare Benefit Trust (December 2004), IBM Personal Pension Plan Trust (January 1996), Lloyds TSB Group Pension Trust (February 2004), Kodak Retirement Income Plan (January 2002) and Shell Pensions Management Services (December 2003).
Among the famous foundations that are registered with Sebi as FIIs include Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (October 2003), University of Wisconsin Foundation (January 2007) and the Kaiser Foundation.
There are 1,100-odd institutional investors who have registered as FIIs. Most of the global names in the new classes of investors, who have been made eligible under the new FII regime, are already in India as FIIs, according to the list on the Sebi website.
"We have been approving applications from pension funds, foundations and societies on a case-to-case basis. Now, the new policy has only institutionalised the regulatory framework," said a Sebi official.
Asked about the lack of clarity regarding hedge funds, the official said applications of hedge funds would be treated on a case-to-case basis.
"They will be allowed to operate as an FII, provided they prove the eligibility criteria," he said.
The rules require that funds be regulated in their home countries to qualify as FIIs. Most of the US-based hedge funds are not regulated in their home country and, hence, there is an uncertainty regarding their eligibility to register in India as FIIs, according to experts.