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Investing as a Non-Resident Indian (NRI) brings unique opportunities and considerations. With the Indian investment landscape evolving rapidly, NRIs are presented with a myriad of choices to grow their wealth. Among these options, two stand out prominently: mutual funds and direct stocks. Each avenue comes with its own set of benefits and nuances, catering to different investor preferences and financial goals. 

Let’s delve into the details of investing in mutual funds and direct stocks as an NRI. This will empower you to make informed investment decisions tailored to your circumstances.

Mutual Funds For NRI

Mutual funds have emerged as a sought-after investment choice for NRIs. These funds allow investors to pool their resources with others, creating a diversified portfolio managed by experts. Mutual funds offer diversification without individual stock selection. This makes them an attractive option for NRIs seeking a balanced and relatively low-risk approach to investing in India.

To invest in mutual funds in India, NRIs need to ensure compliance with the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations. A crucial initial step is referring to the scheme information document (SID) of the desired mutual fund scheme. This document provides specific information about the fund, its objectives, and associated risks.

Investment Procedure and Account Setup

Setting up an NRI mutual fund investment involves a step-by-step process:

  • Step 1: Set Up an Account

NRIs must establish an NRE (Non-Resident External) or NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary) account. The choice between these two depends on individual preferences and repatriation requirements. NRE accounts are suitable for those who want to send overseas earnings back to India, while NRO accounts are designed for depositing earnings within India.

  • Step 2: Investment Methods

NRIs can invest in mutual funds through self-directed or direct methods. Alternatively, they can choose to invest through Power of Attorney (PoA), allowing someone else to manage investments on their behalf. In such cases, the signatures of both the NRI investor and the PoA should be present on the Know Your Customer (KYC) documents.

  • Step 3: KYC Process

Completion of the KYC (Know Your Customer) process is mandatory before starting mutual fund investments. This process involves submitting essential documents like passport copies, residency proof, and photographs. Some fund houses may also require in-person verification.

Additional Considerations for NRIs from the USA and Canada

It is critical to note that some mutual fund houses in India may limit investments by NRIs based in the USA and Canada. The complex compliance requirements under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) might lead to certain restrictions. NRIs from these countries need to consider additional documentation requirements when considering mutual fund investments.

Direct Stocks: Investment for NRIs in the Indian Stock Market

NRIs can invest in stocks in the Indian financial market. This approach offers higher returns and hands-on investment experience. However, it also requires a deeper understanding of the stock market, and individual companies, and a willingness to monitor investments actively.

Investment Procedure and Account Setup

To enter the Indian stock market as an NRI, several steps must be followed:

  • Step 1: Set Up an NRE or NRO Account

Similar to mutual funds, NRIs need an NRE or NRO account. These accounts serve as the foundation for stock market participation.

  • Step 2: Demat and Trading Account

A demat account is essential for holding shares electronically, while a trading account facilitates buying and selling stocks. These accounts need to be linked to the Portfolio Investment Scheme (PIS), a regulatory framework provided by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

  • Step 3: PIS Account and Permission Letter

The PIS account is a gateway for NRIs to trade stocks in India. It enables buying and selling shares and convertible debentures through designated banks and brokers. An important document, the RBI PIS permission letter, is required to open a trading and demat account.

Investment and the Trading Process

Once all accounts are set up, the trading process is similar for NRIs and Indian residents. However, NRIs have certain considerations:

  1. Investment Ceiling: NRIs and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) have an investment ceiling of 10% of the paid-up capital of an Indian company, while the individual investment limit is 5%. The RBI provides a list of eligible companies for investment.
  2. Delivery-Based Trades: NRIs cannot trade intraday. All investments must be delivery-based, which means the shares bought must be held for at least a day.

Direct stocks offer NRIs a chance to directly participate in individual companies’ fortunes. This hands-on approach appeals to those who enjoy researching and making investment decisions. Moreover, direct stock investors can participate in initial public offerings (IPOs) and portfolio management service (PMS) schemes

However, it is imperative to note that PMS schemes typically require Rs 50 lakh.

Delegation of investment decisions

For NRIs who prefer delegation, the option to grant Power of Attorney (PoA) to another person is available. This person can then facilitate investment transactions on behalf of the foreign resident, which is advantageous when the NRI trusts the individual’s ability to manage and safeguard investments.

Understanding the Choices: Mutual Funds vs. Direct Stocks

The choice between mutual funds and direct stocks boils down to personal preferences and financial goals. Mutual funds offer diversification, expert management, and ease of investment. They are an excellent starting point for NRIs looking for steady returns and minimal involvement. Direct stocks, on the other hand, demand more active engagement, research, and a higher tolerance for risk. The potential for higher returns comes with the responsibility for individual stock selection and market monitoring.

Here’s a simplified table comparing mutual funds and direct stocks for NRIs:

Metric Mutual Funds Direct Stocks
Investment Approach Pooling money with others; Expert-managed portfolio Individual stock selection; Hands-on approach
Diversification Broad diversification; Reduced risk Potential for high returns; Individual risk
Expert Management Yes No
Research Required Limited Extensive
Initial Investment Varies; Lower entry point possible Higher initial investment may be required
Account Setup NRE/NRO account; KYC process NRE/NRO account; PIS account; Demat & Trading
Repatriation Earnings can be repatriated Limited repatriation with NRO account
Risk Tolerance Lower risk due to diversification Higher risk due to individual stock exposure
Taxation Taxation based on DTAA; Holding period Taxation based on DTAA; Capital gains


Remember, the choice between mutual funds and direct stocks should align with your risk tolerance, investment goals, and level of involvement you are comfortable with. Consulting a financial expert can help you make an informed decision based on your specific circumstances.

At Rurash Financials, we are dedicated to upholding the highest compliance standards and statutory requirements for your investments. Our skilled team of legal and finance experts ensures your investments are in capable hands, offering a range of trusteeship and concierge services.

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