What Makes Algorithmic Trading Different in the Indian Context?

March 24, 2024
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Algorithmic trading has rapidly gained popularity in global financial markets, but its dynamics in the Indian context present unique characteristics and challenges. In this blog, we delve into what sets algorithmic trading apart in the Indian market landscape and explore the factors shaping its growth and evolution.

Defining Algo Trading

Algorithmic trading, often referred to as algo trading, is a method of executing trade orders using automated and pre-programmed instructions. These instructions, also known as algorithms, are designed to analyse market data, identify trading opportunities, and execute trades according to predefined criteria. Algo trading relies on technology and quantitative analysis to make rapid trading decisions, aiming to capitalise on market inefficiencies and generate profits with minimal human intervention. 

The Start of Algo Trading in India

  • In 2008, SEBI issued a significant circular, marking the beginning of algorithmic trading programs in India.
  • Direct Market Access (DMA) was introduced, allowing brokers to offer their infrastructure to non-retail customers. These customers could execute trades using algorithms, marking the first instance of algorithmic trading without human intervention.
  • Subsequently, arbitrage-based models for equities, options, and futures were developed for both the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
  • Since 2011, algorithmic trading turnover on BSE Equities has surged by over 50 per cent. In 2010, SEBI introduced ‘Smart Order Routing’ (SOR), revolutionising trading by enabling investors to place orders across exchanges for better prices. This boosted market confidence and liquidity.
  • The NSE introduced algorithm-based trading tools and co-location services, followed by the BSE in 2013. Retail traders were also granted access to algorithmic trading software. Despite steady growth, algorithmic trading programs still lag behind their American counterpart, where it constitutes around 90 per cent of all trades. 

Uniqueness of Algorithmic Trading in the Indian Context 

Regulatory Environment

The regulatory framework governing algorithmic trading in India differs from other jurisdictions, with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) imposing stringent guidelines to ensure market integrity and investor protection. Compliance with SEBI regulations is essential for algorithmic traders operating in India.

  • One key aspect of SEBI regulations is the requirement for algorithmic traders to implement pre-trade risk controls. These controls are designed to mitigate the risks associated with automated trading activities by imposing checks on order parameters before they are submitted to the market.
  • Common pre-trade risk controls include price collars, quantity limits, and order size limits, which help prevent erroneous or disruptive trades that could destabilise the market.
  • Additionally, SEBI mandates order-to-trade ratios to prevent excessive order flow generated by algorithmic trading software like uTrade Algos. Order-to-trade ratios limit the number of orders that can be sent to the exchange relative to the number of trades executed, thereby preventing algorithmic traders from flooding the market with orders without executing trades. 

Technology Infrastructure

While India boasts a robust technology infrastructure, including high-speed connectivity and data feeds, disparities in market access and latency persist. Algorithmic traders must carefully select their infrastructure providers and co-location services to minimise latency and gain a competitive edge in executing trades. 

Market Participants

Algorithmic trading in India is not limited to institutional players but also encompasses a growing number of retail traders and proprietary trading firms. This diverse mix of market participants contributes to liquidity provision and price discovery in Indian markets, creating both opportunities and challenges for algorithmic strategies. 

Market Structure

  •  The Indian stock market comprises multiple exchanges, including the NSE and the BSE, each with its own unique characteristics and trading infrastructure. This fragmentation introduces challenges for algorithmic traders, as they must navigate multiple trading venues and ensure efficient order routing to achieve the best execution.
  • Liquidity levels across different stocks and sectors in the Indian market can vary significantly. Some stocks may have high trading volumes and tight bid-ask spreads, while others may exhibit lower liquidity and wider spreads. Algorithmic traders need to carefully assess liquidity conditions and adjust their strategies accordingly to minimise market impact and optimise trade execution.
  • Algorithmic traders in India must also contend with market microstructure nuances. These include factors such as market micro-structure, order types, and market maker arrangements, which can impact trade execution and price discovery.
  • The presence of circuit breakers and trading halts adds another layer of complexity for algorithmic strategies. Circuit breakers are mechanisms designed to temporarily halt trading in response to extreme price movements or market volatility. Algorithmic traders need to incorporate these circuit breakers into their risk management frameworks and adapt their strategies to respond effectively to sudden market disruptions. 

Asset Classes and Instruments

Algorithmic trading in India, like on the uTrade Algos platform, extends beyond equities to encompass derivatives, currencies, and commodities. Each asset class presents unique opportunities and risk factors, necessitating specialised algorithms and strategies tailored to specific market dynamics. Whether it’s exploiting volatility in currency markets or leveraging arbitrage opportunities in commodity futures, algorithmic traders must adapt their approaches to capitalise on the distinct characteristics of each asset class. This versatility enables traders to diversify their portfolios and capture alpha across various financial instruments in the dynamic Indian market environment. 

Market Impact

Algorithmic trading programs have profoundly altered the landscape of Indian markets, leaving an indelible mark on crucial aspects such as price discovery, liquidity provision, and overall market efficiency.

  • By automating trade execution and enhancing liquidity, algorithmic trading has fostered more efficient price formation processes and reduced bid-ask spreads, thereby benefiting traders and investors alike.
  • However, alongside its transformative effects, algorithmic trading in India has also raised legitimate concerns regarding market manipulation, sudden volatility spikes, and systemic risks.
  • Instances of flash crashes and rapid price fluctuations have heightened apprehensions among market participants and regulators alike. In response to these challenges, regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) have undertaken proactive measures to safeguard market stability and investor confidence.
  • These initiatives include the implementation of stringent regulations governing algorithmic trading practices, the enhancement of surveillance and monitoring mechanisms, and ongoing efforts to fortify market infrastructure.
  • Through these concerted efforts, regulators seek to strike a balance between fostering innovation and ensuring the integrity and stability of Indian financial markets in the face of evolving market dynamics.

Despite the challenges, algorithmic trading in India continues to grow, driven by technological advancements, increasing market participation, and evolving regulatory frameworks, like uTrade Algos. As awareness and adoption of algorithmic strategies expand, Indian markets are poised to witness further innovation and sophistication in trading practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

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uTrade Algo’s proprietary features—advanced strategy form, one of the fastest algorithmic trading backtesting engines, and pre-made strategies—help you level up your derivatives trading experience

The dashboard is a summarised view of how well your portfolios are doing, with fields such as Total P&L, Margin Available, Actively Traded Underlyings, Portfolio Name, and Respective Underlyings, etc. Use it to quickly gauge your algo trading strategy performance.

You can sign up with uTrade Algos and start using our algo trading software instantly. Please make sure to connect your Share India trading account with us as it’s essential for you to be able to trade in the live markets. Watch our explainer series to get started with your account.

While algo trading has been in use for decades now for a variety of purposes, its presence has been mainly limited to big institutions. With uTrade Algos you get institutional grade features at a marginal cost so that everyone can experience the power of algos and trade like a pro.

On uTrade Algos, beginners can start by subscribing to pre-built algos by industry experts, called uTrade Originals. The more advanced traders can create their own algo-enabled portfolios, with our no-code and easy-to-use order form, equipped with tons of features such as robust risk management, pre-made algorithmic trading strategy templates, payoff graphs, options chain, and a lot more.

From single-leg strategies to complex portfolios, with upto five strategies, each strategy having up to six legs, uTrade Algos gives one enough freedom to create almost any auto trading strategy one likes. What’s more, is that there are pre-built algos by industry experts for complete beginners and pre-made strategy templates for those who want to try their hand at strategy creation.

An interesting feature that uTrade Algos is bringing to the table is a set of pre-built algorithms curated by top-ranking industry experts who have seen the financial markets inside out. These algorithms, called uTrade Originals, will be available for subscribers on the platform.

Algos have the capability to fire orders to the exchange in milliseconds, a speed which is impossible in manual trading. That is why traders leverage the power of algo trading to make their efforts more streamlined and efficient. You can try uTrade Algos for free for 7 days!

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Knowledge Centre & Stories of Success

We're thrilled to announce a significant milestone at uTrade Algos – the launch of our cutting-edge mobile application, now available for both Android and iOS users! Our mission has always been to empower retail intraday traders with advanced, user-friendly trading tools, and with this new development, we're taking a giant leap forward.

In the fast-paced world of financial trading, effective risk management is crucial for success. One powerful tool that traders rely on to mitigate risk is an integrated margin calculator. By seamlessly incorporating margin calculations into trading platforms, such as algo trading on platforms like uTrade Algos, these tools offer significant advantages for risk management. Let's explore three key ways in which an integrated margin calculator enhances risk management.

In the world of finance and trading, be it automated trading, or otherwise, margin calculations play a crucial role. They determine the amount of funds required to open and maintain positions in financial markets. With the advent of technology, integrated margin calculators have become indispensable tools for traders. These calculators help traders assess risks and make informed decisions about their trades. However, even with these sophisticated tools at hand, traders often make mistakes that can lead to significant losses, including those algo trading in India. In this blog, we'll explore seven common mistakes to avoid when using an integrated margin calculator.

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