The understanding of the stock market by the Indian common man has evolved quite remarkably. The latest reports reveal that the Indian investors are preferring Tesla, Nio and Riot blockchain among the US stocks over the ‘FAANG’ stocks which include Facebook,Amazon,Apple, Netflix and Alphabet (formerly Google). Though Indians are still debarred from investing in foreign stock directly, they keep investing through exchange traded funds (ETFs) and through overseas fintech platforms likeWinvesta, a UK based firm, which allows investments for Indians through 3500 US stocks.
During the pandemic, when the Indian stocks were not performing well, many Indian investors took the ‘passive investment’ route through ETFs to invest in foreign stocks. There has been a growth of 25 % investment through the ETF method in the pandemic period. For the Indian investor, the changes in the Indian stock market must have been a great learning process. We saw how the focus of transactions first moved from Calcutta Stock Exchange to Mumbai. Digitisation came and the jobbers disappeared. Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) would not initially accept online trading. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) forced it to change. Security and Exchange Bank of India (SEBI) was initially unwelcome. Transparency was always a big issue in the stock market and despite the scams of Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, SEBI finally did take full control of the stock markets in India. The regional stock markets, including that in Kolkata, virtually became nonexistent and the two major stock exchanges today are both online – BSE and NSE.
But ‘to be or not to be’ an investor in the stock market is still a question mark among average Indians today. Even while the Calcutta Stock Exchange was in its heyday and business had not shifted to Mumbai, the average middle class Bengali shunned investment in the stock market. Though today a lot of the youngsters are enthusiastic about investments, they still consider the stock market a ‘risk’ and choose the safer mutual fund route. To a larger mass, the stock market remains ‘phaatka’ or speculation and in spite of an awareness programme conducted by SEBI, the youngsters would hardly have the patience to learn the ‘technicals’ and ‘fundamentals’ of the market. The rationality that goes behind the operation of the stock market is still an unchartered territory to many. The youngster today is certainly more down to earth than their previous generations. They do talk about being ‘atmanirvar’ – and slowly try to move out of the mind set of ‘jobseekers’ and sometimes dream of being entrepreneurs; but still fail to realize the importance of understanding the operations of a stock market which is at the centre of knowing the rules of wealth creation.
But perhaps things are changing for the better. There have always been smarter people, however small a group, among the Indian investors. They have reached out to the international markets and have realized the importance of the ‘electric vehicles’ (EVs) like Tesla being the future. The ‘bitcoin’ is still a strict ‘no no’ in India. But that too is the future. We can demand transparency in the bitcoin operations but it will be difficult to keep the Indian investor away from what is inevitable to come. In India, Star TV was a ‘disruption’. Doordarshan couldn’t hold it back. The old ‘jobbing’ system had to give way to ‘digitisation’ in the stock market. Disruptions in investments through bitcoin too will happen, if transparency prevails. Rationality in stock market should be household knowledge. Bitcoin is a disruptive force. It is already changing the rules of investment. It will change stock market. And banking too. Digital media will make its knowledge accessible to the mass, and not let it be confined to a few. The government’s role is to facilitate the knowledge for the mass not ban the inevitable.