Prof. Jayanth R. Varma’s Financial Markets Blog

A blog on financial markets and their regulation

XBRL – Is India missing the bus?

Nearly two months after the Securities and Exchange Board of India
(SEBI) launched its
XBRL enabled electronic filing platform, no XBRL tools are available
on this platform, while the corresponding platform in the US continues
to innovate in providing increasingly better and more powerful
interactive tools to view and analyze the data. On Friday, the US SEC
unveiled
its new XBRL tool, Financial Explorer, which prompted me to do a quick
comparison.

I looked up Infosys Technologies in the Indian filing system and got static
tabular data with which one cannot do anything meaningful except by
downloading it. Unfortunately, the site does not appear to allow the
data to be downloaded in XBRL or any other usable format. I then went
to the SEC’s Interactive
Financial Viewer
and could download the raw XBRL filing as well
export the data into Excel. I could also compare the filing of Infosys
with that of Satyam in parallel columns. The power of XBRL allows
similar elements in the two filings to be lined up correctly in this
tabulation while also providing data in each that is not present in
the other. The site also allows the user to chart the data choosing
the rows and columns of data that is to be charted.

I then went to the Financial Explorer page
and saw how various interactive charts could be produced from the XBRL
data. These charts rely on the semantic information embedded in
XBRL. For example, since XBRL encapsulates knowledge of what are the
elements of shareholder equity, it can generate a chart explaining the
changes in shareholder equity in terms of the changes in its
constituent elements.

Above all, the SEC is providing the source code for most of its
application at its XBRL viewers
page
and is encouraging software developers to take this and build
other tools based on this. In a couple of years from today, I expect
that financial data will be shared, analyzed and presented using XBRL
tools. I have previously argued
that one day financial statements will also be prepared using XBRL
tools.

SEBI certainly needs to do far more than it has done so far to
bring the power of these exciting tools to Indian investors.

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