Forex trading is a relatively new and quite exciting investment option in India. Even though authorities have implemented tough restrictions on this activity, speculating on the Forex market is legal in the country and it attracts an increasing number of people.
Before looking into the specifics of trading on the foreign exchange market in India, we need to consider several essential facts about this exotic and very interesting country. This is the second-most populous country, and with a population of 1.35 billion, it is home to nearly 17.5% of all people in the world. Interestingly enough, over 65% of Indians are below the age of 35 and an increasing number of people are moving to the cities where they can find better job opportunities. The working class is expanding and many more people have access to the Internet and new technologies than ever before.
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Forex has become popular in India in the past decade but in the beginning, it was characterized by a large number of broker scams. Paired with the risky nature of Forex trading, all this urged authorities to put various restrictions on the Forex trade in place. Currently, Indian citizens are allowed to trade on the foreign exchange market but they need to comply with a wide range of rules and limitations.
India Forex Legislation
The Indian Government has placed severe restrictions on the way individuals can trade on the Forex market. Generally speaking, buying and selling on the foreign exchange market is a legal activity as long as transactions are made only on pairs that include the Indian rupee (INR). Even this type of trading is highly regulated and allowed only through a licensed broker.
The main piece of legislation dealing with the Forex market and all market participants in the country is the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). It was passed by the Parliament of India and replaced the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA), an act from 1973 that prohibited trading on the foreign exchange market. The new law was in line with the liberalization policies of the Government and it made foreign transactions easier, among other things.
Under FEMA, Indian residents are not allowed to send funds overseas to foreign exchange brokers. Converting INR into other currencies for the purpose of trading on the Forex market is prohibited. This means that Indian traders have just a handful of options when buying or selling Forex pairs – they are allowed to trade in currency derivatives and pairs that include the rupee plus several major currencies, USD, EUR, GBP, and JPY.
Moreover, traders need to make sure they are trading through Indian exchanges and with the help of licensed brokers. The exchanges offering Forex instruments are the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. (NSE), BSE (formerly Bombay Stock Exchange), and MCX-SX, which stands for the Metropolitan Stock Exchange. Overall, retail traders in India can trade currency options (options contracts for USD/INR) and currency futures – USD/INR, GBP/INR, EUR/INR, and JPY/INR.
Traders are required to make a deposit into the exchange through an intermediary (i.e. a broker) and a margin is used when offering currency derivatives. When it comes to futures, lot sizes are 1,000 per unit – there is an exception for the JPY/INR currency pair, which is 100,000 units. Futures cycles can be anything from 1 to 12 months. Of course, trading non-INR pairs is illegal under the current legislation.
All this suggests that the financial markets are not fully open in India. Although the foreign exchange market is, generally, a decentralized, global market that can be accessed freely by anyone, things are quite different in India. Still, the country is expected to continue with its liberalization policies, which is great news for all traders. It should also be noted that many traders prefer working with unregulated, offshore brokers – this may come with certain risks, though.
Indian Financial Regulators
The financial markets and all Forex activity taking place in India is regulated by several central authorities. One of them is the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which as the country’s central bank, is responsible for the issuing and supply of Indian rupees. It regulates the entire banking sector of India, including all commercial banks and non-banking financial companies. Its main purpose is to secure the monetary stability of the country.
The main Forex and securities market regulator in India, however, is the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The agency was established in 1988 but it was not until 1992 that it was given a formal statute following the passing of the SEBI Act. When it was given statutory powers in 1992, it became an autonomous authority that regulated and protected the interests of issuers of securities, investors, and intermediaries.
To operate legally within the country, Forex brokers, as well as stock exchanges must be licensed and authorized by SEBI. The authority also imposes certain restrictions on the types of trading allowed in India, the maximum leverage allowed by brokers, and the currency pairs that can be traded.
Indian Forex Payment Methods
Even though India is becoming more technologically advanced than it has ever been, digital payment methods are still used by only certain groups of people – those who live in the cities and have at least average income. Indeed, cash is still king in this country but not when it comes to Forex trading online. Those who invest in this market prefer credit and debit cards, followed by online banking, and digital wallets.
Most brokers accepting traders from India accept cards by Visa and Mastercard – two brands that are well-known around the world and available to Indians, as well. Debit cards are much more popular than credit cards, though. Another option is RuPay, a local card scheme introduced by the National Payments Corporation of India. These credit and debit cards can be used practically anywhere in India, as well as in the UAE, Bahrain, Singapore, and Bhutan. They are also accepted by international websites and Forex brokers supporting Discover Financial Service.
Indian investors can also fund their trading accounts using online banking. The availability of this type of service depends on the bank they have an account with. Moreover, online banking transfers are usually slower and more expensive than using a card or an e-wallet.
When it comes to e-wallets, we must say that they are not as popular in India as they are in Western countries. However, they are quickly growing as more people are starting to recognize their convenience and cost-effectiveness compared to traditional payment methods. Traders in India can use PayPal, Skrill, PayU, Citrus Pay, and the mobile wallet MobiKwik.
Popular Trading Software in India
One of the most important things to look for when choosing a good online broker for Forex trading is the software platform offered by the brokers. The choice of software is essential since each platform comes with its specific features and functions. Some types of software were designed specifically for trading currency pairs, while others are suitable for stocks or futures. Moreover, some trading systems are extremely advanced and complicated, catering to the needs of experienced, knowledgeable traders.
The vast majority of Forex traders, however, prefer using MetaTrader 4, a type of software that was released in 2005. It was developed by MetaQuotes Software and is currently being used by approximately 90% of all Forex traders in the world. India is not an exception, of course, and most Indian investors interested in currency pairs tend to execute their trades through MetaTrader 4.
MT 4, as it is usually referred to, is an electronic trading platform that supports all currency pairs, commodities, equities, and futures. It comes with 30-built-in technical indicators, 24 graphic objects, customization tools, tutorials and news feeds. Moreover, the platform can be used by traders free of charge since it is provided by their brokers. Of course, this is not the only good software for trading foreign currency pairs – there are plenty of other options, including cTrader, NinjaTrader, ZuluTrade, and many more.
Mobile Trading in India
The foreign exchange market is incredibly popular among retail traders for just a handful of reasons. First of all, it offers great liquidity and it is decentralized, meaning that everyone can access it easily and freely through an intermediary, namely an online broker. Moreover, traders can take advantage of these exciting investment opportunities around the clock.
Probably the greatest tool for accessing the Forex markets at any time and from any place is the mobile phone. It keeps investors up-to-date with economic news and market trends and helps them in determining their next move. Being able to track the markets and their trades from their mobile devices, traders are more likely to be informed and properly prepared for what is to come in the following hours, days, or weeks.
In India, as it is everywhere around the world, more and more investors prefer to trade on the go. The country is seeing a sharp increase in mobile use driven by the affordability of mobile devices and Internet subscription plans. Moreover, the majority of Forex brokers offer fast and seamless native apps that can be downloaded for free from Google Play or Apple’s App Store.
Whether the app is for an iOS or Android device, traders should take into consideration a couple of things – if it is available in their native language and if the broker processes payments in INR. These could be a little tricky since just a few of the major online brokers support INR as a base account currency or Hindi. In most cases, Indian traders will need to settle for an English-language app.