While technology has made investments a lot simpler for most consumers and retail investors, it’s also complicated things for those who are new to investing. While one can get started with a smartphone, understanding the market and building a portfolio is the most crucial part in investments and this will determine how successful the investments are.
These days investment platforms are not just looking at the trade side of things but also at investor education. To help people understand investments thoroughly, former private equity banker Bobby Bhatia set up TrakInvest in 2012. With over 25 years of experience at investment giants such as JP Morgan and American International Group (AIG), Bhatia has the acumen and knowledge to guide novices and enthusiasts through investments with mock investments and real-life stock exchange.
A peer-to-peer learning platform, TrakInvest allows retail investors to learn from the community and access unbiased trade tips or recommendations. Further, it provides a job-linked micro-certification programme to institutes who want to educate the students in the field of investments and helps deserving candidates land jobs and internships in this sector.
With mock stock exchanges and workshops conducted across colleges in India, TrakInvest’s core audience is between 18 and 24 years old with backgrounds in either finance or engineering.
“TrakInvest is also looking to create a social network for investors with ‘follow’ and ‘copy’ features that allow community members to follow top performers and access their trade ideas. This creates investment influencers and also provides new users with a direction to start learning the subject. “We also organise public competitions on the platform and maintain separate leaderboard for all, ranking users based on performance,” said Arjun Chakraborti, president and CEO, TrakInvest India.
Trakinvest claims to have grown to a user strength of 150K users and with zero marketing dollars spent on user acquisition, a little more than 10K active users per month. “We have also provided 1200 jobs and 300 internships till date,” Chakraborti told Inc42.
With the growth and progress of the startup, developing backend infrastructure is critical for seamless service delivery, processing and secure storage of data. Many startups in India have now started leveraging cloud computing services which reduce the technology cost in the long run and are a lot more secure than on-premise services. These services help them maintain and improve the quality of service as they scale up.
“You don’t need to worry about setting up your own infrastructure, maintaining them, updating the software and hardware, applying patches for security threats, upfront costs. I can keep going on and on,” said Chakraborti talking about TrakInvest’s experience.
Cloud computing companies such as DigitalOcean also bring further benefits such as easy implementation and adaptation, cost-effectiveness, customisable storage and more. This flexibility is crucial for startups who may have different needs.
“Since the inception of the company, we have been using DigitalOcean. We were setting up our Lamp Stack for our then website, Trakinvest.com and StockFans after that DO helped us in setting up our databases and they have been running since the last four years uninterrupted without any downtime so far,” elaborated Chakraborti.
Inc42 caught up with Chakraborti to understand the journey of TrakInvest and how it is changing the investment landscape.
Inc42: What according to you does India’s investment market lack currently?
Arjun Chakraborti: Students are not taught the right ways to handle money, invest and save in school or college curricula. The basics of management and growth of wealth are not integrated well in the curriculum.
Today, less than 5% of the population in India invests in stock markets compared to 30% in China. This skewness comes in as rumour and scams take over the ecosystem instead of sufficient education and awareness that goes into building a well-informed investor.
Inc42: What do you think can be done to promote investments, particularly among millennials in India?
Arjun Chakraborti: Millennials have access to immense information and attention online and hence digital campaigns are the best way to promote, educate and reach out to the young investors. Our attempt to do so was in the form of The TrakInvest Show in 2017 where 25K users across India participated to invest $540 Mn of virtual currency through 1.8 Mn trades in a span of 3 months. The show garnered 1.5 Mn views reaching an audience of 10 Mn on social media. The top 100 contestants were then offered jobs and internships across the country.
Inc42: How is TrakInvest setting itself apart from the competition?
Arjun Chakraborti: TrakInvest has unique offerings in its product and services offered. The company’s USP lies in the core philosophy of building an end-to-end stack of offerings from training to jobs and internship opportunities. We also have a large and diverse network of colleges and universities that we have built over the last 3.5 years since we began operations in India.
Inc42: What made you venture into blockchain? What was the response of users and how has that benefitted your operations?
Arjun Chakraborti: Bobby [Bhatia] has been an active player in the blockchain ecosystem and was working on use-cases for blockchain to solve some of our business challenges that came with the fact that we host a global community of users.
As we moved the platform to blockchain and launched our TRAK token, we also developed in-house expertise on the subject dealing with practical challenges that came with the development of blockchain solutions. This is what led to the creation of practically taught courses in blockchain and practical lab solutions in AI/ML, Big Data and IoT.
Inc42: How many companies have you partnered with for providing career opportunities to the users? Could you share some names?
Arjun Chakraborti: We have partnered with PolicyBazaar in insurance and Edelweiss in the stockbroking sector. For career opportunities in blockchain, we have partnered with the Singapore government, bitcoin.com and smaller blockchain firms.
Inc42: What roles does DigitalOcean play in bringing you this scale and reach?
Arjun Chakraborti: DigitalOcean has given us the freedom to start things from scratch with the quick and easy cloud server (named Droplets) setup and pre-installed apps from the marketplace. In the last few years, we have played with a lot of tech stacks, LAMP, MEAN, Docker-based microservices and everything has been quick and easy to set up. Getting a new server, setting up a new landing page or scaling out the system, all have been a matter of a single click.
Currently, we have moved completely to DigitalOcean Kubernetes service and haven’t looked back since. Considering our learning and optimisation during the years, we have exponentially increased our scale and our ticket size has relatively remained the same for every month.
Inc42: What helped you choose DigitalOcean as a cloud provider as opposed to any other competing solution?
Arjun Chakraborti: The cost, the speed at which you can get started, building your cloud infrastructure, ease of use, great customer support team, and the developer guides and documentation by DigtalOcean. Their developer guides have nothing to do with their primary service, but it has been a lifesaver so many times. I believe DigitalOcean provides great service for the global community of developers.
Inc42: How do you ensure data privacy for customers and are you ready for India’s new data localisation norms?
Arjun Chakraborti: Only the data required is collected, and we don’t store or collect any additional data. All user data is securely stored on our production database servers only accessible via our production application servers. All the confidential data is encrypted and can’t be tampered with. As for the data localisation norms in India, DigitalOcean offers cloud services in various regions and the majority of our infrastructure is in the APAC region, so we are more than comfortable in tackling those changes.
Inc42: Where do you see the next big innovation in your domain coming from?
Arjun Chakraborti: We believe we are an edtech platform and hence looking at the edtech domain, we believe the next big innovation is truly in the teaching and hiring methodology wherein teaching will no longer be restricted to theory and hiring will no longer be based simply on grades but on actual student performance in practical projects and assignments.
This article is part of the Inc42 and DigitalOcean ongoing series — “Conversations On Cloud: Driving The New Wave Of Disruption”. As part of the series, we present you the stories of startups that are leveraging cloud computing to create digital disruptions.