Understanding Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Their Role in Investing

Understanding Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) and Their Role in Investing

An Exchange Traded Fund, popularly known as an ETF is a passively managed investment. Unlike traditional mutual funds, ETFs are traded on stock exchanges like other stocks. This means that their price fluctuates throughout the trading day as they are bought and sold.

What are Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)?

An Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is an instrument that tracks an index, a commodity or invests in money market instruments. 
The trading value of an ETF is based on the net asset value of the underlying assets it represents.

Types of ETFs in India

While ETFs are available across a range of indices, commodities and other assets, ETFs have different underlying asset classes:

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) in India:

  • Equity ETFs:
    Equity ETFs allow exposure to the equity markets in the same proportion of the Index it tracks. They have characteristics of a stock as they are listed on a stock exchange and can be bought and sold on the exchange during the trading hours.
    Imagine equity ETFs as a blend of stocks and equity mutual funds. Investors can buy or sell these funds in real-time at market prices, making them quite flexible.  
  • Commodity ETFs:
    They are used for actually tracking the price of commodities or a basket of commodities. In India, we have gold and silver ETFs. They track the prices of physical gold and silver respectively, and their value can change throughout the day based on the demand and supply of these precious metals in the market. 
  • Debt ETFs:
    These funds replicate an underlying bond index comprising securities like G-Secs, State Development Loans (SDLs), Government Companies’ Bonds, Money Market instruments, etc. Investing in these ETFs may help investors reduce the portfolio’s volatility by diversifying investment into these securities. 
  • International ETFs:
    If an investor is eyeing global opportunities, international ETFs may be one of the options. These replicate indices from foreign markets. 

    Please note that the above list of ETFs is not exhaustive. These basic types of ETFs may be a mechanism to get started on the passive investment journey. It is advised to understand the risks of each kind of ETF before making any investment decision.

    [1] Investors interested in exploring ETFs for their investment portfolio may visit Zerodha Fund House to view the ETF offerings. 

Factors to Consider Before Investing in ETFs:

Before you begin your ETF investments, it may be considered essential to weigh the following factors: 

  • Investment Objectives: It helps to have a clear understanding of investment objectives, risk tolerance, and investment horizon to select ETFs that align the best with an investor’s financial aspirations.
  • Expense Ratios: It is important to pay close attention to the expense ratios of different ETFs. 
  • Liquidity: It is important to ensure that the ETFs have sufficient trading activity. This may facilitate smooth transactions when buying or selling units of the ETF. 
  • Tax Implications: Understanding the potential tax implications associated with ETF investments is critical to make informed decisions. Tax implications will also depend on the underlying assets of the ETF.
  • Research and Due Diligence: Conducting a thorough research on the ETFs that an investor plans to invest in is very important. This can include analyzing their portfolio holdings, past performance and other factors.

​​Please note that the above list of factors is not exhaustive. There may be a whole bunch of other factors that come into play before making an investment decision. 


In the financial landscape of investment options, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may stand out as versatile, transparent tools for investors. ETFs provide investors with exposure to broad segments and subsegments of the equity markets, commodities, and debt.

[1]: Please note that the details provided here represent current offerings and are subject to change. This information should not be viewed as financial advice or a recommendation to invest in Zerodha Mutual Fund schemes. Investors are encouraged to consult with their financial advisor for personalized investment advice.

Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully

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