The chatter in the trading room of Geojit Financial Services Ltd’s Vile Parle branch, a western suburb of Mumbai, is of stock prices, the Sensex and price earnings multiples. But, what is different is that it is also mixed in with talk of schools, mother-in-laws and anniversaries.
Business hour: Geojit’s women-only trading branch at Vile Parle, Mumbai. It also has two such branches in Kochi and Chennai.
That’s in part because it is a branch for women investors run by women.
India’s stock market boom has captured the imagination—as well as savings and wallets—of many, including more and more women who are actively investing. While there is not much data, anecdotally it appears that more women are investing on their own and Geojit’s women-only branch is a recognition of this trend.
Geojit also has women-only branches in Kochi and Chennai. Across the three branches alone, the brokerage says it has some 500 women investors. Now, Geojit is planning to replicate the concept in Saudi Arabia, where it has tied up with Khalid Al Johar Development Co. to form Aloula Geojit Brokerage Co. That all-women branch is set to open by June.
“Five years back, among every 100 investors we had, one was a woman, but now there are six for every 100 investors,” says Rajan Shah, chief investment officer at Angel Broking Ltd, a domestic brokerage. His firm holds investor education camps across cities, gets around 400-500 investors in each camp and about 15% are women.
Learning curve: Chetna Sheth (centre, in red) watches as dealer Vrushali Pawar (on her right) tracks market moves online.
Deena Mehta, the 46-year-old managing director of Asit C Mehta Investment Intermediates Ltd, has been a broker for 20 years. She isn’t sure whether women are investing in a big way, but she has noticed that women are coming forward to understand the market. “In investor education meets, we see several women wanting to take active part in the market,” she says. “There are women investors in small places such as Nagothane in Raigad district or Athni in Belgaum district in Karnataka.”
The growth in number of such investors has prompted a few brokerages to take special initiatives. Kotak Securities Ltd, another large domestic brokerage, is planning to set up a centralized call centre that will have women dealers and relationship managers and cater to women investors only. “Women investors are still on the learning curve and tend to hesitate in asking basic questions to male dealers during the trading hours. There is always a fear of being looked down upon. Over the past few months, most of them have written to us requesting for a female dealer who can explain jargons and strategies to them in a simple way,” says Prasanth Prabhakaran, senior vice-president at Kotak Securities.
At Geojit’s Vile Parle office, the branch manager, two dealers and the housekeeping staff serve about 130 women investors.
At least 15 of them visit the branch on a daily basis, sit at two trading terminals, keep a close watch on the television stock ticker. They give each other advice on what to buy, sell or hold. When they are not here, they are trading from home, talking to the dealers here by phone.
Typically, the branch comes to life at 9.50am when Vrushali Pawar and Smita Thale, the two dealers, get surrounded by women clients competing with each other to grab a chair closest to the trading screen.
Jyotsana Shah travels an hour every morning by train to make it to the branch before trading starts. There is Sussama Davidson, who comes from central Mumbai to manage her stock portfolio, is always glued to her seat until the close of the trading at 3.30 pm. The trading screen is what keeps Davidson glued to her chair even though others may be chatting or eating pau bhaji and vada pau.
Some of them, who live in the neighbourhood, come to the branch by 10.30-11am after finishing their household chores. In the afternoon, they step out to pick their kids from school or to cook lunch before returning ahead of the closing bell.
Others who have full-time jobs are known to skip work early and drop in at the branch for a few hours once in a while.
Chetna Sheth is a 40-year-old housewife who shuttles between her home and the Geojit’s trading branch, where she manages her father-in-law’s stock portfolio as well as her own. She was encouraged to get into futures trading by one of her friends at the branch.
“Every month, I don’t need to ask my husband for the school fees of my children or buying groceries,” she says. “I buy futures of a stock and roll it every month. I make Rs30,000-35,000 every month and at times it goes up to Rs50,000 also.”
Unlike male traders, these women seem to take it easy even when the market is quite volatile. After a few hours of trading, they gossip, order lunch and return to the trading screen before the market closes. But, when it comes to understanding the nitty-gritty of the market, they are as savvy as any other trader and some of them regularly trade in the more complex futures and options as well.
“From reading women’s magazines, they have graduated to reading financial papers,” says C. J. George, managing director and chief promoter of Geojit Financial Services. A birthday is cause of celebration but also more trading as Geojit, in a savvy move, gives 75% discount on fees for all transactions that day. Of course there are the usual cakes or pastries, organized by fellow traders.
Most of the women traders in Geojit’s Vile Parle branch re-invest the profits they make in the market.
“Such exposure has given a new confidence to women. They take decisions on their own which goes a long way in giving them a meaningful status in their family. I see major social changes due to this. Children who normally gravitate towards their father on financial matters would also show respect to their mother’s financial acumen in future,” says Mehta of Asit C Mehta Investment Intermediates.
Devina Mehra, managing director, First Global Stockbroking Pvt. Ltd, says more and more women coming into stock market is an indicator that financial decision making in Indian families is shifting in their hands. “However, the market risk remains regardless of the gender of the participant,” she notes.
One December afternoon, a 60-year-old lady, who didn’t want to be named in Mint, walks into the Geojit’s trading branch and tells Davidson, her friend: “I want to understand the business of upper and lower circuits and price targets. Will you please teach me?” She says she is still uncomfortable with the idea of her family and friends being aware that she is trying to learn the language of stock markets.