investors: Women turn investment hobbies into habit

(This story originally appeared in on Sep 25, 2021)For Lucknow-based Nandini Bhargava, investing in stocks has become a self-sustaining model. When she started investing in stocks twenty years ago in her late 20s, it was more like a hobby.

Bhargava started her career in the corporate world where she spent eight years. Later, she took a break in her career and got married to a business family, and also set up a consultancy for travel agencies. But she never gave up on her hobby of investing in the stock markets. “When you become financially independent, you start spending on the luxuries. I decided to put some in the stock markets as well, mostly in blue-chip companies and through IPOs. When I started seeing the kind of profits and gains I was making, it boosted my confidence and I began analysing things and that motivated me to keep investing in the markets,” says Bhargava.

Gradually, as Bhargava decided to spend more time investing in stocks, the gains she has made through this “hobby” now more than meet her financial needs. “Every year prior to the pandemic, I have sponsored foreign trips for my family through these very gains. I have never borrowed money from my husband because I pay for all my bills,” says Bhargava.

Travel consultancy is now a mere hobby for Bhargava while investing in stocks is a full-time job. Fifty-year-old Anjana Desai, who is self-employed, started investing in the markets when she was 33 and working for an advertising agency. Even though Desai has taken career breaks due to personal reasons, it is these very regular investments she made in MFs and SIPs that have helped her when she did not have a regular income. “When my mother’s health condition was not good, and I had to take career breaks, I used to wonder where I would get funds in case of any emergency? That’s when the investments I made in the stock market helped me immensely,” says Desai.

Now, Desai invests regularly in such avenues and has good faith in the appreciation value of her portfolio. Studies reveal that women’s participation in the capital markets — in the range of 20-30% — is still way behind men. Five years ago, the number was less than 25%, according to a CDSL survey in 2016. According to a survey by DSP Mutual Fund and Nielsen two years ago, only 33% of women took independent investment decisions compared to 64% of men. The survey also revealed that one-third of the women who did take their own investment decisions were encouraged by their spouses.

The tide is changing for the better. Kuvera saw women’s participation increase from 19% to 27% on its app, in the last 10 years. Research suggests that women make better investors as they tend to be more patient and more goal-based.

At Upstox, out of the total women customers, more than 60% of women are millennials and nearly 80% of women are from Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities. Upstox co-founder Kavitha Subramanian, says: “Women are known to have an aptitude for managing finances and savings, both at home and office. Many women took the lockdown as an opportunity to educate themselves and participate in the stock market. Increasingly, we are now seeing women investors challenge gender stereotypes and achieve their financial goals all by themselves.”

Sujaya Banerjee, CEO, Capstone Consulting, says women form about 20% of active traders in India. This number has interestingly been on the rise during the pandemic. There is a 32% increase in trade accounts by women of which 35% are housewives, says Banerjee.

During the pandemic, when business took a hit, what helped Bhargava’s family were these very liquid assets.

“Women have traditionally shied away from stock investments, given it’s a male bastion. Also their conditioning of saving rather than investing and expanding. Good to see women busting the myth that they lack knowledge of the stock market,” says Banerjee.

Finsafe India founder Mrin Agarwal says women have generally preferred low-risk traditional investments as compared to men who are willing to take more risk with their investments. Women also tend to hold investments for the long term as compared to men. “These days I do find many women interested in equities but it may be due to the feeling of being left behind,” says Agarwal.

An internal survey by Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund shows women are more willing to start a new SIP in their 20s (33%) than men (22%). This shows that women have a higher propensity to start their SIP journey in their 20s — a major shift in investment behaviour of the category which is a reflection of shifting social norms driven by higher access to education, skill-building, and awareness towards financial freedom. What’s more, Bhargava says since her kids were teenagers, she wanted to give them her full time. “My investments in stocks gave me the flexibility to not only be with my kids but also be financially independent,” she adds. Hope women are listening.

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