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BW Businessworld

Empire Of Financial Services

Foremost stockbroker with a growing tribe of clients offers platforms for a plethora of financial services and education on the markets

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Serial Entrepreneur, Nikhil Kamath has spent the last decade building an empire of financial ser­vices companies, beginning with Zerodha in 2010. Zerodha is a disruptive brokerage platform that is now among India’s foremost unicorns and the coun­try’s number one broker platform. 

In 2019 the Kamath brothers founded True Beacon, an asset management company, which has given steadfast returns over the past year. The investment management firm is an ecosystem of proprietary invest­ment products, portfolio management and advisory, capital markets services and tailored programmes for strategic investors focused on Indian markets. The Zerodha initiative, Rainmatter, funds and incu­bates innovative Indian fintech startups. 

Kamath is also an active investor and has been interested in trading since he was a teenager. “I started trading around the age of 17 and had an active interest in stocks. This had been inculcated in me by my father and brother who were already investing at the time. And once you start making a little bit of money by trading, you get more inter­ested, and it has continued ever since,” says Kamath. 

To empower retail traders and investors, Zerodha runs a number of popular open online educational and community initiatives. The com­pany launched Varsity, a learning module to educate young investors who were investing in stocks for the first time. It also runs Trading Q&A, an active forum where traders and investors can discuss stock ideas, along with ‘Z Connect’, which is an interactive blog.                                                                    

Unconventional Career Path

Kamath’s quest for a true vocation began when he was just 17. He did some odd jobs and spent time working in a call centre to ensure that his talents reach the heights required to make a living. Before embark­ing on an unconventional career path in playing chess, he took the drastic decision to drop out of school. He spent two years playing chess at both the national and international level. “Chess teaches you how to work under a structure in a system and yet try and be creative within that system,” says Kamath. 

Today more than 15 per cent of India’s retail trades are done through India’s largest trading brokerage Zerodha, of which Kamath is the Co-founder and Chief Investment Officer. “We’ve been different in a way from other companies as in, we’ve never taken on investors or debt or never really raised any capital. Our ethos from the very beginning was to build a better product and word of mouth will bring the clientele to you,” says Kamath. 

To empower retail traders and investors, Zerodha runs a number of popular open online educational and community initi­atives. The company launched Varsity, a learning module to edu­cate young investors who were investing in stocks for the first time. It also runs Trading Q&A, an active forum where traders and investors can discuss stock ideas, along with ‘Z Connect’, which is an interactive blog. 

Unconventional Strategies

It took Zerodha nearly five years to get its first 50,000 customers. The company went zero-brokerage for equity delivery trades in 2015, the first broker in the country to do so, giving it a lot of press coverage that added to its business credibil­ity. “We all need to be aware that no one knows what will happen tomorrow or to a stock six months down the line. Markets are a com­bination of so many factors at play that it is impossible to predict direction at any point,” streses Kamath. 

Despite the pandemic, Zerodha has had its best year with 1.5 mil­lion users signing on. It is now India’s largest broker, based on the number of customers and the larg­est worldwide on the basis of its volume of trades. 

Speaking of the company’s future goals and approach, Kamath says, “We have built the best investment and trading apps and technological backbone and scale over the last ten years. Now, we’re going to focus on helping our customers become better inves­tors and traders”.