How Do ETF Funds Differ from Mutual Funds in India?

Investing in the stock market offers various avenues for growth in India, with ETF funds and mutual funds being among the most popular options. While both investment vehicles allow you to diversify your portfolio, they differ in several key aspects. Understanding these differences can help you make informed decisions that align with your financial goals.

What is an ETF Fund?

An Exchange-Traded Fund or ETF fund in India is a type of investment fund traded on stock exchanges, much like individual stocks. ETFs typically aim to track the performance of a specific index, such as the Nifty 50 or the Sensex. They are designed to offer the benefits of index investing and the flexibility of trading like stocks.

What is a Mutual Fund?

A mutual fund pools money from multiple investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other securities. Managed by professional fund managers, mutual funds come in various forms, including equity, debt, and hybrid funds. They are designed to achieve specific investment objectives, such as growth, income, or a balance of both.

Key Differences between ETF Funds and Mutual Funds

Here are some differences between ETF and Mutual Funds.

1. Trading and Pricing

One of the primary differences between ETF funds in India and mutual funds is how they are traded and priced. ETFs are traded on stock exchanges throughout the day at market prices, similar to individual stocks. This means you can buy and sell ETF shares anytime during market hours.

In contrast, mutual funds are bought and sold at the end of the trading day based on the Net Asset Value (NAV). The NAV is calculated after the market closes, so you will know the exact price at which you are buying or selling the mutual fund units.

2. Management Style

ETFs are generally passively managed. They aim to replicate the performance of a specific index by holding the same securities in the same proportions as the index. This passive management style usually results in lower fees than actively managed mutual funds.

Mutual funds can be either actively or passively managed. Actively managed mutual funds have fund managers who decide which securities to buy and sell to outperform the market. This active management typically results in higher fees than ETFs and passively managed mutual funds.

3. Cost and Fees

The expense ratio, including management fees and other operational costs, is typically lower for ETFs than for mutual funds. This is mainly because ETFs are passively managed and require less oversight. Additionally, since ETFs are traded like stocks, you may incur brokerage fees each time you buy or sell ETF shares.

Mutual funds, mainly actively managed ones, tend to have higher expense ratios due to the active management and research involved. However, mutual funds do not incur trading commissions when you buy or sell shares, although some may have sales loads or redemption fees.

4. Investment Flexibility

ETFs offer greater flexibility because they can be traded throughout the day at market prices. This allows investors to use intraday price movements and implement various trading strategies, such as stop-loss orders or margin trading.

Mutual funds, on the other hand, do not offer the same level of flexibility. Since transactions are processed at the end of the trading day, investors cannot react to intraday market fluctuations.

How to Invest in ETF Funds and Mutual Funds?

To invest in ETF funds in India, you need to open a Demat account with a brokerage firm. A Demat account holds your securities electronically and is essential for trading on stock exchanges. Once you have a Demat account, you can buy and sell ETF shares through your brokerage platform.

When it comes to mutual funds, you can invest a lump sum directly through the issuer or various online platforms that facilitate mutual fund investments. Many investors prefer to invest in mutual funds through Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs), which allow them to invest a fixed amount regularly, thus averaging the purchase cost over time.

Tax Implications

Tax treatment for ETF funds in India and mutual funds can differ. Capital gains from ETFs are taxed similarly to those from individual stocks. Short-term capital gains (STCG) are taxed at 15% if the holding period is less than one year, while long-term capital gains (LTCG) exceeding Rs 1 lakh are taxed at 10% without the benefit of indexation.

The tax implications of mutual funds depend on the type of fund. Equity mutual funds follow the same tax treatment as ETFs for STCG and LTCG. However, debt mutual funds have different tax rates, with STCG taxed at the individual’s income tax slab rate and LTCG taxed at 20% with indexation benefits.


Both mutual funds and ETF funds in India offer unique advantages and can be valuable components of a diversified investment portfolio. Understanding their differences in trading flexibility, management style, costs, and tax implications can help you choose the right investment option for your financial goals. Remember, to invest in ETFs, you must open a Demat account, while mutual funds can be accessed directly or through various investment platforms.

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