From Trading Alone at the Age of 17 to Starting Up Zerodha: Nithin Kamath’s Inspiring Story

The Asian financial markets are ascending to new heights. The global financial crisis has reached a different stage all together, and this has exposed the market players to myriad challenges. If we were to go by the definition that an entrepreneur is someone who turns challenges into opportunities, it means that many opportunities are open for the startups in the financial domain. Reining in the Indian context, we observe that a good number of startups have emerged in the finance domain.

Here we chronicle one more player, Zerodha: an online discount broking firm, which aims to give lower costs to the clients, something that can be crucial in deciding the long term profitability of a person trading in the capital markets.

“Zerodha is Zero + Rodha (rodha means barriers in Sanskrit). Zero Barriers, is what we are trying to do. From the time we started our business, we have tried to stay as far away from traditional brokers, even with our name we wanted to project what we want to do rather than project saying you can make money,” says Nithin Kamath, Founder, Zerodha, explaining the spirit of Zerodha.

Nithin has been trading from the age of 17. He did attend an engineering college, like thousands of Indians do, and then did something not all these engineers do: became an entrepreneur! During college he used to spend more time on trading, and even went bust once, during the 2001 downturn. This forced him to take up work at a call-center. He worked at the call center during night and thus saved the day time for trading. I did this, working-trading, for almost 3 years during 2004-5, post which, I quit my job when I got my first client who asked me to manage money for him after looking at the positive returns on my trading account,” says a proud Nithin.

Soon he got more through referrals and also became a sub-broker when Reliance Money was launched. At Reliance Money, he was one of the most successful sub-brokers, sometimes giving volumes that were more than all the other 1000 odd sub-brokers. “But as a trader I was still finding something missing with the way RMoney was working, not really what a trader requires. That is when we decided to start Zerodha,” adds Nithin.

The core team of Zerodha comprises people who were with Nithin from his RMoney days. Nikhil his younger brother and a brilliant trader, manages the prop trading desk, risk management and everything related to trading. Venu and Hanan manage the compliance & back-office and customer service issues respectively. Today Zerodha has a team of over 60 people.

Although Zerodha has adopted a successful model; 80% of the business in the US happens through discount brokers, it has experienced its share of challenges, “The biggest challenge for us is credibility, because we charge so less, people assume that there is a catch or the service is bad,” says Nithin.

Now a profitable venture, Zerodha still has a long way to go! Also check out 5 Promising Startups from the Finance sector, and two recently covered finance startups, InvestPlus & Dynamic Levels.

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Shyamal Dave

Shyamal Dave

A wanderer in the startup space, Shyamal is currently managing a management degree at MICA. In the recent past he extended his interested in social media to game marketing. Talk with him about writing, art, social media, design, startups @duckingfesigner