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How to Invest in Index Funds in India

How to Invest in Index Funds in India

As India’s economy grows, index funds have become a smart and easy way for people to invest in the country’s booming stock market. Hence, take a look at what index funds are and why they’re popular choices for investors, along with the list of top index funds you can consider for investing.

Table of Contents

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Index Fund Definition

An index fund is a type of mutual fund that aims to replicate the performance of a specific stock market index, such as the Nifty 50 or the Sensex. It does this by investing in the same proportion of stocks as the index it tracks. 

Index funds offer diversification, low fees, and are considered a passive investment strategy, making them an attractive choice for investors looking to mirror the overall market performance rather than actively selecting individual stocks.

How to Invest in Index Funds in India

Investing in index funds in India is a straightforward way to get exposure to the overall stock market or specific sectors without the need for in-depth stock picking. Index funds provide a diversified portfolio that tracks a market index, offering broad market exposure, lower fees, reduced risk, and potentially competitive returns, making it a cost-effective and efficient long-term investment strategy for many investors.

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Mode of Investment in Index Fund in India

Mode of Investment in Index Fund in India

Investing in an index fund in India can be done in both online and offline modes, and we have discussed the process of both modes.

Online Mode

You can follow the below-mentioned steps for the online mode: 

  1. Select a Reputable Brokerage or AMC (Asset Management Company): Research and choose a brokerage or AMC that offers index funds in India. Popular options include HDFC AMC, ICICI Prudential, SBI Mutual Fund, and many more. Ensure that the AMC or brokerage is registered with SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India).
  2. Open a Demat and Trading Account: If you don’t already have a demat (dematerialized) and trading account, you’ll need to open one. Most brokerages offer the facility to open these accounts online. You’ll need to provide necessary documents like PAN card, Aadhar card, bank statements, and photographs.
  3. Complete the KYC (Know Your Customer) Process: You’ll need to complete the KYC process as per SEBI regulations. This typically involves submitting identity and address proof documents, along with a filled KYC form.
  4. Choose the Index Fund: Once your accounts are open, browse the available index funds and choose the one that aligns with your investment goals. Consider factors like the index being tracked, expense ratio, and historical performance.
  5. Investment Amount and Mode: Specify the amount you want to invest and the mode of investment. You can choose between lump sum mode and SIP (Systematic Investment Plan) mode.
  6. Online Fund Purchase: Use the online platform provided by the brokerage or AMC to purchase the index fund units. You’ll need to provide bank details for transactions and select the fund you wish to invest in. Make the payment through net banking or other approved methods.

Offline Mode

For offline mode, you can follow the below-mentioned steps:

  1. Identify a Physical Branch or Agent: Find a physical branch of the mutual fund house or an authorized agent who can help you invest in index funds.
  2. Visit the Branch or Agent: Go to the branch or meet with the authorized agent in person.
  3. Complete Necessary Documentation: Fill out the required application form to invest in the chosen index fund. You’ll need to provide identity and address proofs along with the filled-out application form.
  4. KYC Verification: Complete the KYC process by submitting the necessary documents for verification. The agent or branch personnel will guide you through this process.
  5. Choose Investment Amount and Mode: Specify the amount you want to invest and the mode of investment (lump sum or SIP).
  6. Make Payment: Pay for your investment by providing a cheque, demand draft, or other approved payment methods as specified by the mutual fund house or agent.
  7. Receive Statement and Account Information: Once the investment is processed, you will receive a physical account statement and account-related documents from the agent or branch.

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Top Index Funds to Invest in 2023

In India, there are various types of index funds designed to provide different investment strategies and preferences. Below, we have defined each of them along with the top index funds in each category: 

Broad Market Index Funds:

These funds track an entire market index, such as the Nifty 50 or BSE Sensex in India, providing investors with diversified exposure to a wide range of stocks across various sectors. They aim to replicate the performance of the overall market.

Top index funds in this category are:

  • UTI Nifty 50 Index Fund Direct-Growth
  • Axis Nifty Next 50 Index Fund Direct-Growth
  • HDFC Index Nifty 50 Plan Direct-Growth
  • Nippon India Index S&P BSE Sensex
  • ICICI Prudential Nifty 50 Index Fund Direct-Growth

Sectoral Index Funds:

Sectoral index funds focus on specific industry sectors, like IT, banking, or healthcare, by tracking corresponding market indices like Nifty IT or Nifty Bank. Investors can target particular sectors to align with their investment preferences or strategies.

Top index funds in this category are:

  • Nippon India Nifty SmallCap 250 Index Fund Direct-Growth
  • Axis Nifty Midcap 150 Index Fund Direct-Growth
  • Motilal Oswal S&P BSE Low Volatility Index Fund Direct-Growth
  • Motilal Oswal S&P BSE Enhanced Value Index Fund Direct Plan-Growth
  • IDFC Top 100 Fund Direct-Growth

Global Index Funds:

Global index funds invest in a diversified portfolio of international assets, offering exposure to global stock markets beyond India and often following benchmarks like the MSCI World Index. These funds allow Indian investors to diversify globally and benefit from international market performance.

Top index funds in this category are:

  • ICICI Prudential NASDAQ 100 Index Fund Direct Plan-Growth
  • Motilal Oswal Nasdaq 100 FOF Scheme Direct Plan-Growth
  • SBI ETF Hang Seng Index Fund Direct Plan-Growth
  • Nippon India ETF MSCI Japan Index Direct Plan-Growth
  • Kotak Nasdaq 100 ETF FoF Direct Plan-Growth

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7 Things You Must Know Before Investing in Index Fund

7 Things You Must Know Before Investing in Index Fund

Before investing in an index fund in India, there are several important factors to consider. Below, we have mentioned the 7 key things you must know before investing in an index fund:

  1. Risks and Returns: Before investing in an index fund, it’s essential to understand the potential risks and returns associated with it. Index funds are generally considered to be less risky than individual stock picking, but they are not entirely risk-free. The returns are typically tied to the performance of the underlying index, and market fluctuations can impact your investment.
  2. Expense Ratio: The expense ratio is the annual fee charged by the fund manager for managing the index fund. This fee is expressed as a percentage of the assets under management. Lower expense ratios are generally better because they reduce the overall cost of investing in the fund, which can significantly impact your long-term returns. Always compare the expense ratios of different index funds to find the most cost-effective option.
  3. Invest According to Your Investment Plan: It’s important to have a clear investment plan and understand where an index fund fits into that plan. Determine your financial goals, risk tolerance, and time period before investing. Index funds are often used for long-term investing, such as retirement savings, so make sure your investment aligns with your goals.
  4. Tax Considerations: In India, index funds are subject to capital gains tax, which can be both short-term and long-term. Index funds held for less than one year are subject to Short-Term Capital Gains Tax (STCG) based on your tax slab. Index funds held for more than one year are subject to Long-Term Capital Gains Tax (LTCG) at a flat rate, but they may have a tax-free allowance up to a certain limit. Ensure you are aware of the tax rules and their implications on your investment.
  5. Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT): Previously, mutual funds in India were subject to a Dividend Distribution Tax (DDT), which was paid by the mutual fund on the dividends distributed to investors. However, this tax was abolished in the Union Budget 2020, and investors are now liable to pay tax on dividend income as per their tax slab.
  6. Capital Gains Tax: When you sell your index fund units for a profit, you may be subject to capital gains tax. The capital gains tax on index funds in India depends on the holding period.
    • Short-Term Capital Gains (STCG) tax is applicable if you sell your index fund units within one year of purchase, which is taxed at 15%. The rate depends on your income tax bracket.
    • Long-Term Capital Gains (LTCG) tax is applicable if you sell your units after one year. LTCG of up to Rs. 1 lakh is exempt from taxation. LTCG exceeding this amount is subject to a 10% tax rate without the benefit of indexation
  7. Diversification: Index funds offer diversification by tracking a broad market index. This means your investment is spread across a wide range of assets, reducing individual stock risk. However, it’s essential to be aware of what specific index the fund tracks and whether it aligns with your diversification goals.

Monitoring and Managing Your Index Fund Portfolio

Monitoring and Managing Your Index Fund Portfolio

Investing in index funds doesn’t stop at the first investment. To make the most of your investments and ensure they align with your financial goals, it’s important to actively monitor and manage your index fund portfolio.

Below, we have highlighted some monitoring and managing steps for your index fund portfolio:

  • Importance of Regular Review: Periodic reviews of your index fund portfolio are essential. These reviews allow you to assess your investments’ performance, calculate whether they are on track to meet your financial objectives, and make adjustments if necessary. For long-term investors, this may mean conducting annual or semi-annual reviews. Short-term investors may need to do this more frequently. Regular reviews help you stay informed about your investments and make informed decisions.
  • Rebalancing Your Portfolio: Over time, your index fund portfolio may deviate from your initial asset allocation due to market fluctuations. Rebalancing involves realigning your portfolio to its original asset allocation. For example, if equities have outperformed bonds and your target allocation was 70% in equities and 30% in bonds, you might find that it has shifted to 80% equities and 20% bonds. Rebalancing would involve selling some equities and purchasing more bonds to restore the 70/30 allocation. This practice ensures that your portfolio remains in line with your risk tolerance and financial goals.
  • Understanding Dividend Payouts: Some index funds may distribute dividends to investors. It’s important to understand how these dividends work, especially when investing for income. Dividend payouts can vary between funds, and you need to be aware of the frequency and amount of payouts. Dividend income is usually taxed, so understanding the tax implications is crucial.
  • Tax Implications and Reporting: Index fund investments come with tax obligations in India. Gains from selling index funds may attract capital gains tax. Additionally, dividends may be subject to dividend distribution tax (DDT) before being paid out to investors. Understanding these tax implications is essential to planning your investments efficiently. You should also ensure that you maintain proper records and report your income accurately during tax filing season.

Conclusion

Investing in index funds is an excellent way to grow your wealth over time. Remember to conduct thorough research, choose the right fund, and stay committed to your investment strategy. Over time, index funds can help you build wealth and achieve your financial goals. It’s a simple, cost-effective, and reliable method for investors of all levels of experience to grow their money.

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About the Author

Vice President

With an MBA in Finance and over 17 years in financial services, Kishore Kumar boasts expertise in program management, business analysis, and change management. Notable roles include tenure at JPMorgan, Nomura, and BNP Paribas. He is recognized for commitment, professionalism, and leadership.

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