June 22, 2024

Understanding Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) in India: A Beginner's Guide


Investing can often seem overwhelming, especially with the myriad of options available. One investment vehicle that has gained popularity for its simplicity and versatility is the Exchange Traded Fund, or ETF. This guide will break down what ETFs are, how they work in the Indian market, and why they might be a good fit for your investment portfolio.

What are ETFs?

An Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is a type of investment fund that is traded on stock exchanges, much like stocks. In India, ETFs hold assets such as stocks, commodities, or bonds and generally operate with an arbitrage mechanism designed to keep trading close to its net asset value, though deviations can occasionally occur.

Key Features of ETFs:

Diversification: ETFs often contain a diverse range of assets, which helps spread risk. For example, a single ETF can include stocks from various companies, sectors, or even countries.

Liquidity: Since ETFs are traded on stock exchanges like the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), they can be bought and sold throughout the trading day at market prices, providing flexibility and liquidity to investors.

Cost-Effectiveness: ETFs generally have lower expense ratios compared to mutual funds. They also have fewer brokerage commissions due to their stock-like trading nature.

Transparency: The holdings of ETFs are usually published daily, allowing investors to see exactly what assets the ETF holds.


How Do ETFs Work?

ETFs are designed to track the performance of a specific index or asset. They are managed either passively or actively.

  • Passively Managed ETFs: These aim to replicate the performance of a specific index by holding the same assets in the same proportions as the index.

  • Actively Managed ETFs: These have a fund manager who makes decisions about the allocation of assets in order to outperform a particular index.

Example of How an ETF Works:

Let's say you want to invest in the top 50 companies in India but buying shares in each company individually would be expensive and time-consuming. Instead, you could invest in the Nippon India ETF Nifty BeES, which tracks the Nifty 50 index. By purchasing shares of this ETF, you effectively own a small piece of all 50 companies in the index.

For instance, if you buy 10 units of the Nippon India ETF Nifty BeES at ₹100 each, you spend ₹1000. The ETF then invests this money in the 50 companies that make up the Nifty 50 index. If the overall value of these companies goes up by 10%, the value of your ETF units also increases by about 10%. So, your investment of ₹1000 would now be worth ₹1100.

Benefits of Investing in ETFs in India:

Diversification: By holding a variety of assets, ETFs can help reduce the risk of your investment portfolio.

Flexibility: ETFs can be bought and sold easily on stock exchanges, allowing investors to react quickly to market changes.

Cost-Effective: Lower expense ratios and fewer fees make ETFs an affordable investment option.

Accessibility: ETFs offer exposure to a wide range of markets and sectors, making it easier for investors to achieve their investment goals.


Considerations Before Investing:

Market Risk: Like all investments, ETFs are subject to market risk. The value of the ETF can go up or down based on the performance of its underlying assets.

Tracking Error: Sometimes, the ETF might not perfectly replicate the performance of its benchmark index, leading to a tracking error.

Liquidity Risk: While ETFs are generally liquid, there can be times when trading volume is low, potentially affecting the ease of buying or selling shares.


Popular ETFs in India:

  • Nippon India ETF Nifty BeES
  • ICICI Prudential Nifty ETF
  • SBI – ETF Nifty Next 50
  • HDFC Gold ETF
  • Bharat Bond ETF

Track all the ETF listed on NSE India here

ETFs offer a flexible, cost-effective, and diversified way to invest in various markets and asset classes. In the Indian market, they have become an increasingly popular choice for both new and experienced investors. Whether you’re looking to diversify your portfolio or seeking a simpler investment option, ETFs provide an accessible path. As always, it’s important to do your research and consider your investment goals and risk tolerance before diving in.

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