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This startup helps new users dabble in the stock market without investing real money

What if you had the chance to learn all about trading, investments and the stock market on a real platform, albeit with virtual money?

Bengaluru-headquartered technology startup StockGro aims to demystify the entire journey of buying and selling stocks through its customised app, but without involving any real money.

Founded by Ajay Lakhotia, a venture capitalist turned entrepreneur in January 2020, StockGro is a social commerce platform where individuals can discuss, share information, or ideas on stock market investment in a game-like environment.

StockGro snapshot

Social investing

When Ajay realised that people mainly based their decisions on shares on mere interactions with their circle of friends, family or acquaintances, he was surprised.

“People do not invest based on brokerage reports or fundamentals. They talk and then buy,” says Ajay.

Acknowledging that there was potential for a business idea here, Ajay started to build a small team to create the technology infrastructure necessary to make it simple for any user to make a virtual stock market transaction on Stockgro’s app.

The key selling point of StockGro is that it does not participate in the actual buying or selling of stocks, but helps users understand what the stock market is all about like the terms, rules, nuances, etc.

“Most of the stock market apps out there is built for professionals, and not for ordinary individuals,” says Ajay.

Interactive platform

What the app does is enable users to build their own portfolio, buy or sell a stock, and interact with others to share information, insights, and knowledge.

In short, StockGro helps you shadow what a typical investor does in a stock market, but without having to by any real stock.

“There is a large universe out there which is not investing in stock markets, and waiting for help to understand this market. We are building a social platform where people understand, discuss and figure out investment strategy,” says Ajay.

The users of StockGro can also enter into various leagues which are available on the app, where they can participate in competitions. Depending on their performance, they stand to win rewards which range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

According to Ajay, the whole idea was to gamify the platform so users could create their own investment circles, dabble in trading, and remove any fear attached to the stock market.

“The members at StockGro do not lose money while participating in trading but will be rewarded if they perform,” says Ajay.

Entry to real world

StockGro wants to be that platform that is just one step away from the real world of the stock market investments, where users can get comfortable with this entire environment before venturing out with actual money on the exchanges.

This startup has already held talks with a few stock brokerage houses on how StockGro can become the via medium to help people transit into actual investment platforms.

StockGro users today stand at around 1,30,000, growing from 400 when they first began operations in June 2020. The startup aims to touch a million users in the next couple of months.

In user demographics, around 80 percent of the platform’s users are new to stock markets, and their profile ranges from students, working professionals, housewives to even retired individuals.

StockGro Ajay Lakhotia

StockGro Founder Ajay Lakhotia

Ajay maintains that the growth is organic, and most users come on board through referrals and word of mouth.

In terms of fee, StockGro does not charge any user fee for access to the app. The platform hosts both paid and free games on the site, depending on the leagues a user would like to participate in.

While the platform covers all the information regarding Indian stock exchanges, in the future, it also wants to include details about foreign bourses. Besides, it also plans to start other trading activities of stock markets like futures and options (F&O), short selling etc.

Future plans

As part of its future plans, StockGro aims to create investment platforms in segments such as gold, mutual funds, bonds etc.

This bootstrapped venture received an angel funding of $1 million, largely from Ajay’s friends and networks.

The enterprising founder is planning on bringing aboard a few more influencers who can provide a deeper understanding of how the stock markets function.

Ajay says as of now, the startup does not have any direct competition for the segment they are operating in, but he strongly believes that given the size of the market, there is room for everybody.

As they continue their growth charter, it is not without challenges. There is the persistent issue of maintaining a technology infrastructure that is resilient enough to handle the high volume of users and messages. The startup is also very careful about quality users perusing the platform, as they feel it is important to have the right engagement culture.

Ajay signs off by stating that the larger impact the startup wants to make is democratising investments and “take it out of the clutches of the 2 percent of decision-makers who decide for the 98 percent of the population,” says Ajay.

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