The Securities Board of Nepal (SEBON), the securities market regulator, doesn’t have exact data on women investing in the share market.
According to Nepal Stock Exchange Limited (NEPSE), there are around 3.4 million users registered in the ‘MeroShare’ website, i.e. they can apply for Initial Public Offering (IPO) of any company online. NEPSE also informs that almost 925,000 users are registered in the Trading Management System (TMS), which allows users to trade, mostly online.
Yet the officials of these bodies ApEx contacted broadly agree that around 25 percent of all investors in the primary market are women while the corresponding ratio is 15 percent in the secondary market. Even though the number is much smaller compared to men, it has been on the rise.
Many women in Nepal are full-time investors who monitor NEPSE index fluctuations on their mobile phones or laptops—all-day-long.
Sushila Dahal, 41, has now been a regular investor in the Nepali share market for a decade and says she is not interested in any other job. Back in 2011, she had around a million rupees but had no idea what to do with it. “At first, I thought of starting some business,” she says. That was before her uncle introduced her to the share market. She has seen many ups and downs in the market in this time but is still standing firm with a portfolio of Rs 6.5 million.
Bindu Singh, 47, shares her experience of entering the share market in 2013: “My neighbor, a senior Nepal Rastra Bank officer, advised me to invest.” A full-time NGO worker, she had some savings back then, which she decided to invest in shares, and she currently has a portfolio of over Rs 10 million. Singh spares some time from her job every day to keep abreast of market fluctuations.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, many young women, with not much else to do, have jumped on the share-market bandwagon. In fact, the lure for youngsters has since been steadily on the rise.
Sarishma Kafle, who is only 19, was one of them. Her whole family has decent investments, which was motivation enough, not just to start investing but also to join a brokerage. During the lockdown lull, Kafle started with investing her mother’s money. She has now already amassed a portfolio of over a million rupees. “Since I started working at a brokerage, I have become an ever better investor, and I am thoroughly enjoying it,” she shares while narrating her year-long experience of the bear-bull roller coaster rides.
There are women who invest a part of the money their husbands remit from abroad, which has been a fruitful venture for many.
“I invest a fraction of the money my husband, who is working in Qatar, sends as house expenses,” says Rama Nepal, 36, who entered the market after it started online in late 2018. She had initially kept her share investments a secret from her husband and let him know only when she started making a profit. “We are both happy now and my husband sends extra money for investment whenever I ask for it,” Nepal shares.
Samyukta Bhandari, 29, was pursuing her MBA back in 2016 when she got into share-investing, which was a part of her college assignment. Now, she has amassed a portfolio of almost Rs 7 million. She says the start of online trading has been a boon for women investors. “Some women were investing even before that. But online trading was a ground-breaker, as it removed many of the traditional barriers that prevented women from investing in shares,” she says.
In order to attract more women into the share market, International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, is collaborating with NEPSE. The goal is to raise awareness on gender equality in finance, in a campaign called ‘Ring the bell for gender equality’.
According to an IFC report, of the 132 board members of 20 Nepali companies, only 12 (nine percent) are women. Despite Nepal’s Companies Act 2066 BS requiring at least one female board member, only three out of every 10 public companies have women on their boards.
Dambar Chemjong, head of the Central Department of Anthropology at Tribhuvan University, is happy that more and more women are getting into the stock market. “The share market helps move capital, and keeps the economy humming,” he says. “The involvement of more women, who make over half of the country’s population, will ensure a more equal distribution of this capital.”
Shreejana Subedi, an executive member of Nepal Investors Forum, appeals to women to be more confident and invest in the share market. For her, women are natural savers; they tend to be risk-average and invest only based on solid market research. “This ultimately provides higher returns even though the share market is considered a high-risk area,” she adds. “Rather than working for others, more and more women should look to gain self-sufficiency this way.”
Swechha Shrestha, a Chartered Accountant at Everest Bank, suggests some caution though. “A lot of my friends, including myself sometimes, like to follow some supposed market maven and invest blindly—which is definitely unwise,” she says. “Share market investing can be a good source of income for women provided they learn to do it wisely.”