Nikhil Kamat, Co-Founder of Zerodha, is one of the youngest traders today.
There’s an old guitar in his office – it’s a tropical green building – and it stands in a corner of his personal space, purely for aesthetic value. That’s not to say 29-year-old Nikhil Kamat does not enjoy music, it’s just that his mind is constantly preoccupied with market analytics and trading details. From being a national level chess player as a teenager to taking a keen interest in trading derivatives when he was just 16, Nikhil Kamat, Co-Founder and Head Of Trading, Zerodha, is one of the sharpest and youngest traders in India today. RITZ catches up with the man who has a track record of being profitable for 36 months in a row.
Nikhil Kamat is an astute trader with over a decade of experience and specializes in designing trading systems to Profit from market inconsistencies using various derivative strategies. He also has keen interest in nurturing young innovators in financial technology markets and has started a fund and incubator called Rainmatter. He likes to mentor ‘Fintech’ (financial technology) start-ups and has invested in two such ventures. He also invests across hospitality and other business verticals on a regular basis. With over 14 years of firsthand financial and trading experience, prior to co-founding Zerodha he created and managed Kamath Associates, a successful financial advisory with over 500 active clients.
For someone who doesn’t have a formal education post class 10, Nikhil, with his penchant for biking and playing football, comes across as an average young man with an easy-going attitude. But his manner is not one to be taken lightly. From 8:00 am each morning till close to 11:00 pm every weeknight, the dedicated trader is hard at work in his spacious office watching the markets and their performance. Weekends are the only time he takes to relax and then it’s back to the grind for him. He’s constantly innovating on the technology side of the trading business, working with his 25-member strong tech team to create new and more cutting edge trading platforms, which he soon wants to take to countries like Singapore, United States of America, Sri Lanka, Mongolia and other markets which he thinks have potential.
“We have drifted from being a broker more towards being a technology firm today,” explains Nikhil. “Our company, which is a little over six years old, has an approximate client turnover of ` 11,000 to 15,000 crores per day. That puts us at an approximate 5 to 6 percent turnover of the entire stock market in India. We are one of the biggest players in the country and most likely the biggest in South India,” he says, reiterating the fact that though he has big plans to take their technology platform to shores outside of the country, India is and will remain their biggest trading market. “While countries like the US have nearly 80 percent penetration into the stock market, in India the figures stand at just 2 percent. We have huge scope here and we want to concentrate on encouraging more people to take to trading here, while we’re very sure of the fact that we want to popularise our technology platforms overseas,” he adds.
More than 50 to 60 percent of Zerodha’s clients are under the age of 40. “We’re a firm who are free of financial advisors and wealth managers. We do not believe in telling our clients what to invest in or how much to invest. Our model is completely online and we encourage our clients to research the markets before they invest so they know what they’re doing and are aware of the risks involved,” he explains to us. “If you have an idea of what to do with your money we can help you manage it. As a client, we would never tell you what to do with your money. The decision of how to invest your money has to be yours.”
For a company that started in 2010, Zerodha has grown by leaps and bounds in six short years. “When we started it was me, my older brother Nitin and oneor two others. Today we have more than 400 employees. In our first six months we had 500 clients, today we have more than a lakh and a half clients whose portfolios we manage. We work on a referral model alone, no advertising at all. We believe word of mouth is the most effective way of marketing,” says the man as he casually sips on his cup of green tea.
Nikhil holds various stock commodity exchange certifications and his other interests include chess, reading, poker and biking. “Our growth has been very chaotic and very organic. When we thought something made sense we did it, if it didn’t then we skipped it. I take care of the risk management, the prop side of the business, while my brother is more the face of the company. I am more involved with the prop desk which we manage, so I choose to stay indoors and monitor daily situations from my desk,” he shares. And when he’s not at his desk you will most likely catch a glimpse of him zipping on one of the city’s ring roads or elevated expressways on his bike. But come Monday and he’s back at his desk, watching his array of computer monitors churn up derivative data, resorting to mind stimulating computer games on the office LAN when he needs a few moments to destress.