TrakInvest provides online education platform for students, investors

With the markets pushing northwards once again after the Lok Sabha elections and interest in the bourses rising, Bobby Bhatia, Founder and CEO, TrakInvest, may have more than just a good thing going.

Though his is an online education platform for investors and students, it has the ability to convert fantasy trading and phantom money into real jobs. Enabled through dynamic partnerships with Thomson Reuters and Religare, TrakInvest offers sponsored internships to students across Asia even as it hones their skills at using research reports and advanced analytics to excel in stock trading.

Bobby Bhatia was only 19 when he finished college and was perhaps one of the youngest to join the world of finance. It was a robust career in options trading in the US, later in Hong Kong and by 1998 he had acquired a leadership position at JP Morgan Partners Asia and conducted the first leveraged buyout in Asia. Bhatia then became Managing Director and head of Principal Investments at AIG.

But this success was not enough. “Ambition was in my DNA and I wanted to do something different and of my own,” he says. “After over 20 years in investment and private equity, I observed a few emerging trends and challenges being faced by the retail investor. First, we had moved from an environment of too little information to abundance of information. Second, people were spending a great amount of time on social media and were comfortable sharing information. Third, the concept of track records and accountability existed at the institutional level but not at the retail level.

Fourth, the average retail investor was unable to access analytics reports at a reasonable price. Lastly, it was difficult to find entry level jobs in finance. TrakInvest emerged as a solution to address these points.”

New concept

That was not all. Bobby Bhatia leveraged people’s growing involvement with the social media, with TrakInvest allowing users to analyse stocks based on contextualised news, Twitter feeds, related stock and financial information. These were tools that helped them make their decisions. Users could reach out to friends and track suggestions and movements of individual out-performers. “In the queried stock, you can follow and observe their real time trading activities.” Hence, started the “learn-share-earn” concept where learning happened through peers and students could bag jobs as well. So when TrakInvest launched its platform three months ago, its popularity quotient rose fast and now a total of 25,000 users, primarily from the students community in over 150 educational institutions across Asia and the US, have signed up.

Operating out of Singapore but familiar with all things Indian, Bobby Bhatia has used his vast academic contacts to move forward. He is now in a situation where support and buy-ins have come from premier institutions such as the National University of Singapore, Singapore Management University, Indian Institute of Technology – Kharagpur, IIM-Bangalore and Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.

TrakInvest provides its users analytics from 12,000 publicly listed companies in the US, India, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. “We will be adding additional countries in Asia over the next six months,” says Bobby Bhatia.

Revenue model

All this information and learning comes free for users. And it is from here that the question arises about TrakInvest's revenue model. Where will its earnings come from? “Though, we don't intend to charge for basic services (such as trading and research reports), we will be sharing with the customer base advanced analytics as they relate to wisdom of the crowds. Revenue model will be based on basic subscription for advanced analytics, talent identification, campaigns and advertising,” he explains.

Bobby Bhatia has used his own investments to fund the venture and has taken the help of leading family offices and professionals in Asia and West Asia in the form of private convertible bonds. Though he was not willing to put down figure to the investments, he is sure that TrakInvest will never venture into a broking business now or in the future. However, he is aware that the trade may get redirected to others such as Religare Securities Ltd, a subsidiary of Religare Financial, with which he has partnered.

He has tie-ups with Singapore Press Holdings and Securities Investors Association Singapore, the largest organisation for investor education and protection of minority rights.

Bobby Bhatia compares his platform to Reality TV and the Indian Idol show where they found so much talent in Tier-II & III cities.

“Some people are just genetically better trained in trading, but do not get the right opportunity. This is why I believe you shouldn't charge the person you are educating. We also give them an opportunity to showcase their trading record.” And this is where it could translate into real time income for them.

Bobby Bhatia expects TrakInvest to grow by leaps and bounds going by the response from users and institutions. “My confidence is driven by inherent experience, gaps and needs in the market, and academic and institutional buy-ins. These can’t be replicated easily,” he says.

(This article was published on June 2, 2014)
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