How to invest in the Bombay Stock Exchange from the UK

By   |   Verified by Andrew Boyd   |   Updated 8 Sep 2023

  • Information about the workings of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
  • Easiest ways to invest in the BSE, whether or not you have ties to India.
  • Pros and cons of investing in the BSE.

The Bombay Stock Exchange, now known as the BSE, is owned and operated by BSE Limited and is located in Dalal Street, Mumbai. It was first established in 1875, and is the oldest stock exchange in Asia.

There are seven recognised stock exchanges in India: the BSE, the National Stock Exchange (NSE, New Delhi), the Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE), the Indian Commodity Exchange (ICEX, Mumbai), The Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India (MSE, Mumbai), the Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX, Mumbai) and the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX, Mumbai).

The BSE is not the largest stock exchange in India measured by trading volume — that title goes to the NSE — but with more than 5,000 listed companies, the BSE (also the world’s fastest stock exchange for trade speed) is a popular investment destination for UK investors, especially those with ties to India.

This is your complete guide to investing in the Bombay Stock Exchange from the UK.

What can you invest in?

Ways to invest in the Bombay Stock Exchange

For people with ties to India

There are limits to direct investment in Indian companies by non-residents of India. According to the Reserve Bank of India, Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) are allowed to invest in Indian shares and debentures directly, although to a limited extent, most commonly amounting to 10% of the company’s total paid-up equity capital. To do this they must open a Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS) and also have a demat account.

Some companies, such as Nexus Software Ltd and DSQ Biotech Ltd, have already reached their limit, so that no further shares can be sold to NRIs and PIOs. Overall, investing directly in Indian shares from the UK is a complicated process, but don’t worry – there are plenty of other ways to invest in Indian company shares.

For everyone, including those with ties to India

To avoid the complicated paperwork and restrictions that apply to direct Indian share investment from the UK, choose one or more of the following options instead.

Invest in Indian companies listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE)

There are currently around 10 companies listed on the main board of the LSE, and about 20 listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) sub-board for companies not yet able to meet the listing requirements of the main board. You can buy shares in these companies through an online share broker operating in the UK.

Large Indian companies listed on the LSE main board include Reliance Industries (LSE: RIGD), Tata Power Company (LSE: TPCL), and State Bank of India (LSE: SBID).

Buy units in Indian Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)

An ETF is an investment which pools the funds of unit holders to purchase a basket of shares or other securities to track the performance of a particular market sector or investment strategy. By purchasing ETF units you can spread your risk (because you’re not exposed to the ups and downs of a single company share price) but still focus on a particular market index, such as shares listed on Indian stock exchanges.

A market index is a hypothetical share portfolio that represents a part of the market, such as the top 100 companies listed on an exchange, weighted by market capitalisation. It’s an indicator that helps investors to compare the current market performance with past performance. You can’t buy shares in a market index, but you can buy units in ETFs which aim to mirror the market index by buying shares in the same companies in the same ratio.

The BSE’s major market indices include the BSE SENSEX (BSE 30), the BSE SENSEX 50, and the BSE SENSEX Next 50, and there are ETFs listed on the BSE which track these market indices. However, investing in them directly would involve the same complicated process as investing in Indian shares. UK residents will find it easier to invest in LSE-listed ETFs which track Indian stock exchange indices.

There are three main indices and six LSE-listed ETFs available:

  • Nifty 50. This index tracks shares in 50 companies from 22 economic sectors in India. You could spread your investment in these companies by buying units in the Xtrackers Nifty 50 Swap UCITS ETF (LON: XNIF).
  • FTSE India 30/18 Capped tracks Indian companies with large and medium market capitalisation, with the largest company limited to 30% of the index capitalisation, and other companies having an 18% limit. You can invest in the companies in this index via the Franklin FTSE India UCITS ETF (LON: FLXI).
  • MSCI India also tracks major Indian stocks. Invest in companies in this index through Lyxor MSCI India UCITS ETF (LON: INRU), iShares MSCI India UCITS ETF (LON: NDIA), Amundi ETF MSCI India UCITs ETF (LON: CI2G), and Xtrackers MSCI India Swap UCITS ETF (LON: XCX5).

Unsure about what share dealer to use?

Where to invest in the Bombay Stock Exchange


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First time investing?

How to invest in the Bombay Stock Exchange

Step 1: Choose a broker

When you buy shares online, you do it through an intermediary called a broker. There are hundreds of online brokers available, offering various options.

Some key features to look for when choosing an online broker:

  • Low-cost brokerage
  • Easy-to-use trading platform
  • Research and reporting
  • Demo account so that you can practise trading first without risking real money

If you are eligible to invest directly in companies and ETFs listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (as a result of your ties to India and having completed the required steps and paperwork) you also need to make sure that you choose a broker offering access to the Bombay Stock Exchange from the UK.

Step 2: Decide how much you want to invest

You should always have an investment budget based on what you can afford. You can always buy more later if the price drops, or when you have more funds available.

Step 3: Fund your account

Share trading accounts need money added to them to become fully active, but in the early stages, it's a good idea to be cautious about how much you add.

To trade in the Bombay Stock Exchange directly you may need to fund a trading account in Indian rupees, separate from your pounds sterling account. Alternatively, your broker will perform a currency conversion to Indian rupees when processing your order. Either way involves paying foreign exchange fees, and it may be easier to simply invest in LSE-listed ETFs (although some of these may be traded in USD).

Step 4: Choose between shares and ETFs

ETFs usually track market indices and are therefore diversified across multiple companies, so they typically experience lower price volatility than individual company shares and can be better for long-term investment.

For UK residents it’s also easier to invest in locally listed ETFs which track Indian company shares, rather than trying to invest in individual Indian companies or BSE-listed ETFs. ETFs can often be traded commission-free.

Step 5: Decide your order type

Orders are your method of telling your online broker what sort of trade to make, and how you'd like your money to behave. Depending on the broker you use, you can configure many different kinds of order.

  • A market order is the most straightforward, requiring virtually no setup. Once executed, you’ll get shares at the next market price for the share or fund unit.
  • If you have a specific strategy, then you’ll probably want more options in terms of configuration. Some brokers have highly customisable orders that can be triggered by events, meaning you can buy or sell when your chosen share or fund hits a price target.

Step 6: Place your order

Once you're happy with your strategy and with funds in place, it's time to trade. On most platforms, you can place your order with the click of a button.

Step 7: Monitor your investment

Whether you are investing to gain from speculation on price fluctuations or as a long-term investment, you should keep monitoring the fund’s or company’s performance and its price movements.

Still not sure?

Pros and cons

  • More investment opportunities. Branch out from investment solely in the UK to invest in securities involved in India’s economic growth.
  • Lots of choice. There are over 5,000 BSE-listed securities, including both shares and ETFs.
  • De-risking. Diversify your portfolio by choosing an ETF to reduce volatility.
  • Complex paperwork and restrictions. If you have ties to India and wish to invest directly in individual Indian shares, the process of becoming eligible can be complex and you may not be allowed to buy shares in some of the listed companies.
  • BSE trading hours. BSE trading hours (9:15am to 3:30pm Mumbai time, Monday to Friday) are four and a half hours ahead of UK time, which can be inconvenient when placing price-sensitive orders.
  • Foreign currency risk. Having a trading account in GBP, and trading in shares priced in Indian rupees, or ETFs priced in USD, exposes you to foreign currency risk and foreign exchange conversion fees.
  • Foreign event volatility. Indian share and ETF prices are subject to volatility caused by events occurring in India only, whose potential effects may not be immediately apparent to UK investors.