Savings form an important part of the economy of any nation. With the savings invested in various options available to the people, the money acts as the driver for growth of the country. Indian financial scene too presents a plethora of avenues to the investors. Though certainly not the best or deepest of markets in the world, it has reasonable options for an ordinary man to invest his savings. Let us examine several of them:


Considered as the safest of all options, banks have been the roots of the financial systems in India. Promoted as the means to social development, banks in India have indeed played an important role in the rural upliftment. For an ordinary person though, they have acted as the safest investment avenue wherein a person deposits money and earns interest on it. The two main modes of investment in banks, savings accounts and Fixed deposits have been effectively used by one and all. However, today the interest rate structure in the country is headed southwards, keeping in line with global trends. With the banks offering little above 9 percent in their fixed deposits for one year, the yields have come down substantially in recent times. Add to this, the inflationary pressures in economy and you have a position where the savings are not earning. The inflation is creeping up, to almost 8 percent at times, and this means that the value of money saved goes down instead of going up. This effectively mars any chance of gaining from the investments in banks.

Post Office schemes

Just like banks, post offices in India have a wide network. Spread across the nation, they offer financial assistance as well as serving the basic requirements of communication. Among all saving options, Post office schemes have been offering the highest rates. Added to it is the fact that the investments are safe with the department being a Government of India entity. So the two basic and most sought for features, those of return safety and quantum of returns were being handsomely taken care of. Though certainly not the most efficient systems in terms of service standards and liquidity, these have still managed to attract the attention of small, retail investors. However, with the government announcing its intention of reducing the interest rates in small savings options, this avenue is expected to lose some of the investors. Public Provident Funds act as options to save for the post retirement period for most people and have been considered good option largely due to the fact that returns were higher than most other options and also helped people gain from tax benefits under various sections. This option too is likely to lose some of its sheen on account of reduction in the rates offered.

Company Fixed Deposits

Another oft-used route to invest has been the fixed deposit schemes floated by companies. Companies have used fixed deposit schemes as a means of mobilizing funds for their operations and have paid interest on them. The safer a company is rated, the lesser the return offered has been the thumb rule. However, there are several potential roadblocks in these. First of all, the danger of financial position of the company not being understood by the investor lurks. The investors rely on intermediaries who more often than not, don’t reveal the entire truth. Secondly, liquidity is a major problem with the amount being received months after the due dates. Premature redemption is generally not entertained without cuts in the returns offered and though they present a reasonable option to counter interest rate risk (especially when the economy is headed for a low interest regime), the safety of principal amount has been found lacking. Many cases like the Kuber Group and DCM Group fiascoes have resulted in low confidence in this option.

The options discussed above are essentially for the risk-averse, people who think of safety and then quantum of return, in that order. For the brave, it is dabbling in the stock market. Stock markets provide an option to invest in a high risk, high return game. While the potential return is much more than 10-11 percent any of the options discussed above can generally generate, the risk is undoubtedly of the highest order. But then, the general principle of encountering greater risks and uncertainty when one seeks higher returns holds true. However, as enticing as it might appear, people generally are clueless as to how the stock market functions and in the process can endanger the hard-earned money.

For those who are not adept at understanding the stock market, the task of generating superior returns at similar levels of risk is arduous to say the least. This is where Mutual Funds come into picture.

Mutual Funds are essentially investment vehicles where people with similar investment objective come together to pool their money and then invest accordingly. Each unit of any scheme represents the proportion of pool owned by the unit holder (investor). Appreciation or reduction in value of investments is reflected in net asset value (NAV) of the concerned scheme, which is declared by the fund from time to time. Mutual fund schemes are managed by respective Asset Management Companies (AMC). Different business groups/ financial institutions/ banks have sponsored these AMCs, either alone or in collaboration with reputed international firms. Several international funds like Alliance and Templeton are also operating independently in India. Many more international Mutual Fund giants are expected to come into Indian markets in the near future.

The benefits on offer are many with good post-tax returns and reasonable safety being the hallmark that we normally associate with them. Some of the other major benefits of investing in them are:

Number of available options

Mutual funds invest according to the underlying investment objective as specified at the time of launching a scheme. So, we have equity funds, debt funds, gilt funds and many others that cater to the different needs of the investor. The availability of these options makes them a good option. While equity funds can be as risky as the stock markets themselves, debt funds offer the kind of security that is aimed for at the time of making investments. Money market funds offer the liquidity that is desired by big investors who wish to park surplus funds for very short-term periods. Balance Funds acter to the investors having an appetite for risk greater than the debt funds but less than the equity funds. The only pertinent factor here is that the fund has to be selected keeping the risk profile of the investor in mind because the products listed above have different risks associated with them. So, while equity funds are a good bet for a long term, they may not find favour with corporates or High Networth Individuals (HNIs) who have short-term needs.


Investments are spread across a wide cross-section of industries and sectors and so the risk is reduced. Diversification reduces the risk because all stocks don’t move in the same direction at the same time. One can achieve this diversification through a Mutual Fund with far less money than one can on his own.

Professional Management

Mutual Funds employ the services of skilled professionals who have years of experience to back them up. They use intensive research techniques to analyze each investment option for the potential of returns along with their risk levels to come up with the figures for performance that determine the suitability of any potential investment.

Potential of Returns

Returns in the mutual funds are generally better than any other option in any other avenue over a reasonable period of time. People can pick their investment horizon and stay put in the chosen fund for the duration. Equity funds can outperform most other investments over long periods by placing long-term calls on fundamentally good stocks. The debt funds too will outperform other options such as banks. Though they are affected by the interest rate risk in general, the returns generated are more as they pick securities with different duration that have different yields and so are able to increase the overall returns from the portfolio.


Fixed deposits with companies or in banks are usually not withdrawn premature because there is a penal clause attached to it. The investors can withdraw or redeem money at the Net Asset Value related prices in the open-end schemes. In closed-end schemes, the units can be transacted at the prevailing market price on a stock exchange. Mutual funds also provide the facility of direct repurchase at NAV related prices. The market prices of these schemes are dependent on the NAVs of funds and may trade at more than NAV (known as Premium) or less than NAV (known as Discount) depending on the expected future trend of NAV which in turn is linked to general market conditions. Bullish market may result in schemes trading at Premium while in bearish markets the funds usually trade at Discount. This means that the money can be withdrawn anytime, without much reduction in yield. Some mutual funds however, charge exit loads for withdrawal within a period linked to

Besides these important features, mutual funds also offer several other key traits. Important among them are:

Well Regulated

Unlike the company fixed deposits, where there is little control with the investment being considered as unsecured debt from the legal point of view, the Mutual Fund industry is very well regulated. All investments have to be accounted for, decisions judiciously taken. SEBI acts as a true watchdog in this case and can impose penalties on the AMCs at fault. The regulations, designed to protect the investors’ interests are also implemented effectively.


Being under a regulatory framework, mutual funds have to disclose their holdings, investment pattern and all the information that can be considered as material, before all investors. This means that the investment strategy, outlooks of the market and scheme related details are disclosed with reasonable frequency to ensure that transparency exists in the system. This is unlike any other investment option in India where the investor knows nothing as nothing is disclosed.

Flexible, Affordable and a Low Cost affair

Mutual Funds offer a relatively less expensive way to invest when compared to other avenues such as capital market operations. The fee in terms of brokerages, custodial fees and other management fees are substantially lower than other options and are directly linked to the performance of the scheme. Investment in mutual funds also offers a lot of flexibility with features such as regular investment plans, regular withdrawal plans and dividend reinvestment plans enabling systematic investment or withdrawal of funds. Even the investors, who could otherwise not enter stock markets with low investible funds, can benefit from a portfolio comprising of high-priced stocks because they are purchased from pooled funds.

As has been discussed, mutual funds offer several benefits that are unmatched by other investment options. Post liberalization, the industry has been growing at a rapid pace and has crossed Rs. 100000 crore size in terms of its assets under management. However, due to the low key investor awareness, the inflow under the industry is yet to overtake the inflows in banks. Rising inflation, falling interest rates and a volatile equity market make a deadly cocktail for the investor for whom mutual funds offer a route out of the impasse. The investments in mutual funds are not without risks because the same forces such as regulatory frameworks, government policies, interest rate structures, performance of companies etc. that rattle the equity and debt markets, act on mutual funds too. But it is the skill of the managing risks that investment managers seek to implement in order to strive and generate superior returns than otherwise possible that makes them a better option than many others.

The above description is aimed at lay investors, people who wish to invest in mutual funds but do not understand the mechanics of their funcioning. For more structured and formal definitions of terms related to mutual funds industry,

The site has been designed to help investors like you to invest in mutual funds in India. There is ample scope of generating decent return by some thoughtful investments, which will require little bit of extra effort on your part in understanding the fund of your choice. You can visit various sections of the site and familiarize yourself with the contents and features. As you go on navigating the site, you will feel more comfortable about the mutual funds and will gradually turn into a savvy mutual fund investor. You can achieve more clarity about your concepts related to mutual funds by going through our section of


A Mutual Fund is a trust that pools the savings of a number of investors who share a common financial goal. The money thus collected is invested by the fund manager in different types of securities depending upon the objective of the scheme. These could range from shares to debentures to money market instruments. The income earned through these investments and the capital appreciations realized by the scheme are shared by its unit holders in proportion to the number of units owned by them. Thus a Mutual Fund is the most suitable investment for the common man as it offers an opportunity to invest in a diversified, professionally managed portfolio at a relatively low cost. The small savings of all the investors are put together to increase the buying power and hire a professional manager to invest and monitor the money. Anybody with an investible surplus of as little as a few thousand rupees can invest in Mutual Funds. Each Mutual Fund scheme has a defined investment objective and strategy.


The first open-end mutual fund,  was founded on , , and after one year had 200 shareholders and $392,000 in assets. The entire industry, which included a few closed-end funds, represented less than $10 million in 1924.

The  slowed the growth of mutual funds. In response to the stock market crash,  passed the  and the . These laws require that a fund be registered with the  and provide prospective investors with a prospectus. The SEC (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) helped create the  which provides the guidelines that all funds must comply with today.

In 1951, the number of funds surpassed 100 and the number of  exceeded 1 million. Only in 1954 did the stock market finally rise above its 1929 peak and by the end of the fifties there were 155 mutual funds with $15.8 billion in assets. In 1967 funds hit their best year, one quarter earning at least 50% with an average return of 67%, but it was done by cheating using borrowed money, risky options, and pumping up returns with privately traded "letter stock". By the end of the 60's there were 269 funds with a total of $48.3 billion.

With renewed confidence in the stock market, mutual funds began to blossom. By the end of the 1960s there were around 270 funds with $48 billion in assets. The first retail index fund was released in 1976, called the First Index Investment Trust. It is now called the Vanguard 500 Index fund and is one of the largest mutual funds ever with in excess of $100 billion in assets.

One of the largest contributors of mutual fund growth was  (IRA) provisions made in 1975, allowing individuals (including those already in corporate pension plans) to contribute $2,000 a year. Mutual funds are now popular in employer-sponsored defined contribution retirement plans (), IRAs and Roth IRAs.

As of April 2006, there are 8,606 mutual funds that belong to the  (ICI), the national association of Investment Companies in the United States, with combined assets of $9.207 trillion USD.

Terms to be understood

Net asset value

The net asset value, or NAV, is a fund's value of its holdings, usually expressed as a per-share amount. For most funds, the NAV is determined daily, after the close of trading on some specified financial exchange, but some funds update their NAV multiple times during the trading day. Open-end funds sell and redeem their shares at the NAV, and so only process orders after the NAV is determined. Closed-end funds may trade at a higher or lower price than their NAV; this is known as a premium or discount, respectively. If a fund is divided into multiple classes of shares, each class will typically have its own NAV, reflecting differences in fees and expenses paid by the different classes.

Some mutual funds own securities which are not regularly traded on any formal exchange. These may be shares in very small or bankrupt companies; they may be ; or they may be private investments in unregistered financial instruments (such as stock in a non-public company). In the absence of a public market for these securities, it is the responsibility of the fund manager to form an estimate of their value when computing the NAV. How much of a fund's assets may be invested in such securities is stated in the fund's prospectus.


 is a measure of the amount of securities that are bought and sold, usually in a year, and usually expressed as a percentage of net asset value. It shows how  the fund is.

A caveat is that this value is sometimes calculated as the value of all transactions (buying, selling) divided by 2; i.e., the fund counts one security sold and another one bought as one "transaction". This makes the turnover look half as high as would be according to the standard measure.

Turnover generally has tax consequences for a fund, which are passed through to investors. In particular, when selling an investment from its portfolio, a fund may realize a , which will ultimately be distributed to investors as taxable income. The very process of buying and selling securities also has its own costs, such as brokerage commissions, which are borne by the fund's shareholders.

The  consultancy studied stock mutual fund returns over the period from 1984 to 2000. Dalbar found that the average stock fund returned 14 percent; during that same period, the typical mutual fund investor had a 5.3 percent return. This finding has made both "personal turnover" (buying and selling mutual funds) and "professional turnover" (buying mutual funds with a turnover above perhaps 5%) unattractive to some people.

Sale Price

Is the price you pay when you invest in a scheme. Also called Offer Price. It may include a sales load.

Repurchase Price

Is the price at which a close-ended scheme repurchases its units and it may include a back-end load. This is also called Bid Price.

Redemption Price

Is the price at which open-ended schemes repurchase their units and close-ended schemes redeem their units on maturity. Such prices are NAV related.

Sales Load

Is a charge collected by a scheme when it sells the units. Also called, ‘Front-end’ load. Schemes that do not charge a load are called ‘No Load’ schemes.

Repurchase or ‘Back-end’ Load

Is a charge collected by a scheme when it buys back the units from the unit holders.

Load and expenses

A  or  is a  paid to a  by a mutual fund when shares are purchased, taken as a percentage of funds invested. The value of the investment is reduced by the amount of the load. Some funds have a  or . In this type of a fund an investor pays no sales charge when purchasing shares, but will pay a commission out of the proceeds when shares are redeemed depending on how long they are held. Another derivative structure is a  fund, in which no sales charge is paid when buying the fund, but a back-end load may be charged if the shares purchased are sold within a year.

Load funds are sold through  such as brokers, , and other types of registered representatives who charge a commission for their services. Shares of front-end load funds are frequently eligible for  reduction in the commission paid based on a number of variables. These include other accounts in the same fund family held by the investor or various family members, or committing to buy more of the fund within a set period of time in return for a lower commission "today".

It is possible to buy many mutual funds without paying a . These are called  funds. In addition to being available from the fund company itself, no-load funds may be sold by some discount brokers for a flat transaction fee or even no fee at all. (This does not necessarily mean that the broker is not compensated for the transaction; in such cases, the fund may pay brokers' commissions out of "distribution and marketing" expenses rather than a specific sales charge. The purchaser is therefore paying the fee indirectly through the fund's expenses deducted from profits.)

No-load funds include both index funds and actively-managed funds. The largest mutual fund families selling no-load index funds are  and  though there are a number of smaller mutual fund families with no load funds as well. Expense ratios in some of these no-load index funds are less than 0.2% per year versus the typical actively-managed fund's expense ratio of about 1.5% per year. Load funds usually have even higher expense ratios when the load is considered. The expense ratio is the anticipated cost to the investor per year. For example, on a $100,000 investment, an expense ratio of 0.2% means $200 of annual expense, while a 1.5% expense ratio would result in $1,500 of annual expense. These expenses are before any sales commissions paid to own the mutual fund.

Many  financial advisors strongly suggest no-load funds such as index funds. If the advisor is not fee only but instead is compensated by commissions, the advisor may have a  in selling high commission load funds.

Types of Mutual Fund Schemes

Mutual fund schemes may be classified on the basis of its structure and its investment objective.


An open-end fund is one that is available for subscription all through the year. These do not have a fixed maturity. Investors can conveniently buy and sell units at Net Asset Value ("NAV") related prices. The key feature of open-end schemes is liquidity.


A closed-end fund has a stipulated maturity period which generally ranging from 3 to 15 years. The fund is open for subscription only during a specified period. Investors can invest in the scheme at the time of the initial public issue and thereafter they can buy or sell the units of the scheme on the stock exchanges where they are listed. In order to provide an exit route to the investors, some close-ended funds give an option of selling back the units to the Mutual Fund through periodic repurchase at NAV related prices. SEBI Regulations stipulate that at least one of the two exit routes is provided to the investor.


Interval funds combine the features of open-ended and close-ended schemes. They are open for sale or redemption during pre-determined intervals at NAV related prices.

By Investment Objective


The aim of growth funds is to provide capital appreciation over the medium to long term. Such schemes normally invest a majority of their corpus in equities. It has been proved that returns from stocks, have outperformed most other kind of investments held over the long term. Growth schemes are ideal for investors having a long term outlook seeking growth over a period of time.


The aim of income funds is to provide regular and steady income to investors. Such schemes generally invest in fixed income securities such as bonds, corporate debentures and Government securities. Income Funds are ideal for capital stability and regular income.


The aim of balanced funds is to provide both growth and regular income. Such schemes periodically distribute a part of their earning and invest both in equities and fixed income securities in the proportion indicated in their offer documents. In a rising stock market, the NAV of these schemes may not normally keep pace, or fall equally when the market falls. These are ideal for investors looking for a combination of income and moderate growth.


The aim of money market funds is to provide easy liquidity, preservation of capital and moderate income. These schemes generally invest in safer short-term instruments such as treasury bills, certificates of deposit, commercial paper and inter-bank call money. Returns on these schemes may fluctuate depending upon the interest rates prevailing in the market. These are ideal for Corporate and individual investors as a means to park their surplus funds for short periods.

Other Schemes


These schemes offer tax rebates to the investors under specific provisions of the Indian Income Tax laws as the Government offers tax incentives for investment in specified avenues. Investments made in Equity Linked Savings Schemes (ELSS) and Pension Schemes are allowed as deduction u/s 88 of the Income Tax Act, 1961. The Act also provides opportunities to investors to save capital gains u/s 54EA and 54EB by investing in Mutual Funds.

Special Schemes

  • Industry Specific Schemes

Industry Specific Schemes invest only in the industries specified in the offer document. The investment of these funds is limited to specific industries like Infotech, FMCG, Pharmaceuticals etc.

  • Index Schemes

Index Funds attempt to replicate the performance of a particular index such as the BSE Sensex or the NSE 50

  • Sectoral Schemes

Sectoral Funds are those which invest exclusively in a specified sector. This could be an industry or a group of industries or various segments such as 'A' Group shares or initial public offerings.

Exchange-traded funds

A relatively new innovation, the exchange traded fund (ETF), is often formulated as an open-end investment company. The way ETFs work combines characteristics of both mutual funds and closed-end funds. An ETF usually tracks a stock index (see ). Shares are only created or redeemed by institutional investors in large blocks (typically 50,000 shares). Investors typically purchase shares in small quantities through brokers at a small premium or discount to the net asset value through which the institutional investor makes their profit. Because the institutional investors handle the majority of trades, ETFs are more efficient than traditional mutual funds and therefore

tend to have lower expenses. ETFs are traded throughout the day on a , just like closed-end funds.

Equity funds


Some mutual funds focus investments on companies of particular size ranges, with size measured by their . The size ranges include  , , , and . Fund managers and other investment professionals have varying definitions of these market cap ranges. The following ranges are used by   include:

  •  ($54.8 - 539.5 million)
  •  - small cap ($182.6 million - 1.8 billion)
  •  ($1.8 - 13.7 billion)
  •  - large cap ($1.8 - 386.9 billion)

Growth vs. value

Another division is between , which invest in stocks of companies that have the potential for large , versus , which concentrate on stocks that are undervalued. Growth stocks typically have a potential for larger return, however such investments also bear larger risks. Growth funds tend not to pay regular .  focus on specific industry sectors, such as  or .  tend to be more conservative investments, with a focus on stocks that pay dividends. A  may use a combination of strategies, typically including some investment in , to stay more conservative when it comes to risk, yet aim for some growth.

Index funds versus active management

An  maintains investments in companies that are part of major stock indices, such as the , while an  attempts to outperform a relevant index through superior stock-picking techniques. The assets of an index fund are managed to closely approximate the performance of a particular published index. Since the composition of an index changes infrequently, an index fund manager makes fewer trades, on average, than does an active fund manager. For this reason, index funds generally have lower trading expenses than actively-managed funds, and typically incur fewer short-term  which must be passed on to shareholders. Additionally, index funds do not incur expenses to pay for selection of individual stocks (proprietary selection techniques, research, etc.) and deciding when to buy, hold or sell individual holdings. Instead, a fairly simple computer model can identify whatever changes are needed to bring the fund back into agreement with its target index.

The performance of an actively-managed fund largely depends on the investment decisions of its manager. Statistically, for every investor who outperforms the market, there is one who underperforms. Among those who outperform their index before expenses, though, many end up underperforming after expenses. Before expenses, a well-run index fund should be average. By minimizing the impact of expenses, index funds should be able to perform better than average.

Certain empirical evidence seems to illustrate that mutual funds do not beat the market and actively managed mutual funds under-perform other broad-based portfolios with similar characteristics.  finds that nearly 1,500 U.S.A. mutual funds under-performed the market in approximately half the years between 1962 and 1992. Moreover, funds that performed well in the past are not able to beat the market again in the future (shown by Jensen, 1968; Grimblatt and Titman, 1989. However, as quantitative finance is in its early stages of development more accurate studies are required to reach a decisive conclusion.

Bond funds

 account for 18% of mutual fund assets.  Types of bond funds include , which have a fixed set of time (short, medium, long-term) before they mature.  generally have lower returns, but have  advantages and lower risk.  invest in corporate bonds, including high-yield or . With the potential for high yield, these bonds also come with greater risk.

Money market funds

 hold 26% of mutual fund assets in the United States.  Money market funds entail the least risk, as well as lower rates of return. Unlike  (CDs), assets in money market funds are  and redeemable at any time. The interest rate quoted by money market funds is known as the .

Hedge funds

 in the United States are pooled investment funds with loose  regulation, and should not be confused with mutual funds. Certain hedge funds are required to register with SEC as investment advisers under the Investment Advisers Act.  The Act does not require an adviser to follow or avoid any particular investment strategies, nor does it require or prohibit specific investments. Hedge funds typically charge a fee greater than 1%, plus a "performance fee" of 20% of a hedge fund's profits. There may be a "lock-up" period, during which an investor cannot cash in shares.

Mutual funds vs. other investments

Mutual funds offer several advantages over stock investments, including  and professional management. A mutual fund may hold investments in hundreds or thousands of stocks, thus reducing risk of any particular stock. Also, the transaction costs associated with buying individual stocks are also spread around among all the mutual fund shareholders. As well, a mutual fund benefits from professional fund managers who can apply their expertise and dedicate time to research investment options. Mutual funds, however, are not immune to risks. Mutual funds share the same risks associated with the types of investments the fund makes. If the fund mainly invests in stocks, the mutual fund is usually subject to the same ups and downs and risks as the

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The advantages of investing in a Mutual Fund are:

  • Diversification: The best mutual funds design their portfolios so individual investments will react differently to the same economic conditions. For example, economic conditions like a rise in interest rates may cause certain securities in a diversified portfolio to decrease in value. Other securities in the portfolio will respond to the same economic conditions by increasing in value. When a portfolio is balanced in this way, the value of the overall portfolio should gradually increase over time, even if some securities lose value.
  • Professional Management: Most mutual funds ...

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