India started permitting outside investments only in the 1990s. Foreign investments are classified into two categories: foreign direct investment (FDI) and foreign portfolio investment (FPI). All investments in which an investor takes part in the day-to-day management and operations of the company, are treated as FDI, whereas investments in shares without any control over management and operations, are treated as FPI.
For making portfolio investment in India, one should be registered either as a foreign institutional investor (FII) or as one of the sub-accounts of one of the registered FIIs. Both registrations are granted by the market regulator, SEBI. Foreign institutional investors mainly consist of mutual funds, pension funds, endowments, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, banks, asset management companies etc. At present, India does not allow foreign] individuals to invest directly into its stock market. However, high-net-worth individuals (those with a net worth of at least $US50 million) can be registered as sub-accounts of an FII.
Foreign institutional investors and their sub accounts can invest directly into any of the stocks listed on any of the stock exchanges. Most portfolio investments consist of investment in securities in the primary and secondary markets, including shares, debentures and warrants of companies listed or to be listed on a recognized stock exchange in India. FIIs can also invest in unlisted securities outside stock exchanges, subject to approval of the price by the Reserve Bank of India. Finally, they can invest in units of mutual funds and derivatives traded on any stock exchange.
An FII registered as a debt-only FII can invest 100% of its investment into debt instruments. Other FIIs must invest a minimum of 70% of their investments in equity. The balance of 30% can be invested in debt. FIIs must use special non-resident rupee bank accounts, in order to move money in and out of India. The balances held in such an account can be fully repatriated.