Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE): Meaning, History and Working

Learn about the fundamentals of BSE, including its origins, listing requirements, trading hours, and market indices.
Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE): Meaning, History and Working
3 mins
10 August 2023

Key takeaways

  1. Founded in 1875, BSE is Asia's oldest stock exchange.
  2. BSE facilitates primary market activities like IPOs for capital raising and secondary market trading of various securities.
  3. Operating under SEBI's framework, BSE ensures fair trading practices, listing compliance, and investor protection.
  4. Renowned for indices like SENSEX, BSE provides a market indicator reflecting economic trends and is closely monitored globally.
  5. Companies listing on BSE experience economic expansion, broad-based investor participation, market transparency, and collateral use for financial flexibility.

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), also known as BSE Limited, stands as a venerable institution in the world of finance.

Operating under the regulatory framework set by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), BSE ensures fair and transparent trading practices while prioritising investor protection. Renowned globally for its benchmark index, the SENSEX, BSE serves as a barometer of economic trends, closely watched by investors and analysts alike. This article provides a comprehensive exploration of BSE's functions, significance, and contributions to India's financial landscape, shedding light on its role as a catalyst for economic growth and market development.

What is BSE?

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), often referred to as the BSE Limited, is one of the oldest and most significant stock exchanges in India and globally. Founded in 1875, it has played a pivotal role in shaping India's financial landscape and has evolved into a key platform for trading securities and facilitating capital formation. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the Bombay Stock Exchange, detailing its history, functions, significance, and impact on the Indian economy.

Historical background

The establishment of the Bombay Stock Exchange can be traced back to the mid-19th century when stockbrokers gathered under banyan trees in Mumbai's Dalal Street to engage in informal trading. Over time, the need for organised and regulated trading became evident, leading to the formal establishment of the BSE in 1875. Since its inception, the BSE has grown into a symbol of India's financial progress and has remained a vital player in the nation's economic development.

Functions and operations

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) fulfills a diverse range of functions and operations within India's financial ecosystem. Let's delve deeper into its functions and operations:

Primary and secondary market

The BSE serves as a platform for both primary and secondary market activities. In the primary market, companies issue new securities through initial public offerings (IPOs) to raise capital. In the secondary market, investors trade existing securities such as stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments.

Listing and trading

Companies seeking to raise capital through the issuance of securities apply to the BSE for listing. Once listed, their shares become available for trading on the exchange. The BSE provides a transparent and regulated marketplace where buyers and sellers can transact securities.

Regulation and oversight

As a stock exchange, the BSE operates under the regulatory framework of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), ensuring fair trading practices and investor protection. The exchange enforces listing requirements, trading rules, and disclosure norms to maintain market integrity.


The BSE is renowned for its benchmark indices, notably the SENSEX (Sensitive Index), which comprises a basket of representative stocks reflecting market trends. The SENSEX is often used as a barometer of India's economic health and is closely monitored by investors and analysts worldwide.

How does Bombay Stock Exchange work?

The BSE is a platform for buying and selling securities such as stocks and bonds. Trading takes place through brokers who can access the BSE through their own trading terminals, which are linked to BSE's trading system. Securities are traded through a public sale process, where buyers and sellers submit their orders, and the prices are determined through supply and demand.

Major indices at Bombay Stock Exchange

1. BSE Sensex:

  • The BSE Sensex is the flagship index of the Bombay Stock Exchange, comprising 30 major and actively traded stocks representing various sectors of the Indian economy.
  • Widely recognised as India's benchmark index, the Sensex serves as a key indicator for the country's economic health and overall market sentiment.
  • It provides investors with insights into the performance of blue-chip companies and is closely monitored by analysts and market participants.

2. BSE 500 Index:

  • The BSE 500 index offers a broader perspective on the Indian stock market by encompassing 500 companies across different sectors.
  • It serves as a comprehensive gauge for investors seeking a holistic view of the market, allowing them to track the performance of a diverse range of companies.

3. BSE Midcap Index:

  • Tailored for investors interested in mid-sized companies, the BSE Midcap index features entities with market capitalisation ranging from Rs. 5 billion to Rs. 20 billion.
  • It provides insights into the performance of mid-cap companies, which are often characterised by higher growth potential and volatility compared to large-cap stocks.

4. BSE Smallcap Index:

  • The BSE Smallcap index targets smaller companies with market capitalisation below Rs. 5 billion.
  • It offers investors exposure to the small-cap segment of the market, which may present opportunities for higher returns but also carries increased risk due to the relatively lower liquidity and stability of small-cap stocks.

5. BSE Bankex Index:

  • The BSE Bankex index specifically includes banking and financial services companies, providing investors with a focused insight into the performance of this sector.
  • It serves as a benchmark for tracking the performance of banking stocks and assessing the overall health of the financial services industry.

6. BSE Healthcare Index:

  • Dedicated to pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, the BSE Healthcare index offers a specialised indicator for the healthcare sector.
  • It allows investors to monitor the performance of healthcare-related stocks and assess trends within the pharmaceutical industry.

These indices at the Bombay Stock Exchange furnish investors with convenient tools for tracking sector-specific or overall market performance. They play a crucial role in facilitating investment decisions, portfolio monitoring, and market trend analysis by providing insights into various segments of the Indian stock market.

What are the advantages of listing?

Companies aim to list on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) for following reasons:

Economic expansion

The BSE plays a crucial role in channelling capital and facilitating investments, thereby nurturing economic expansion. It furnishes a platform for enterprises to secure funds for their growth initiatives, research, and innovation, thereby contributing to the generation of jobs and overall economic well-being.

Participation of investors

The BSE actively promotes broad-based investor engagement, presenting a spectrum of investment possibilities tailored to varying risk preferences. Individual investors, institutional bodies, and foreign counterparts can gain access to India's capital market through the BSE, amplifying market liquidity and breadth.

Transparency in the market

The BSE's regulated milieu guarantees market transparency and diminishes information disparities. Companies are obligated to adhere to stringent disclosure standards, ensuring that investors receive precise and timely information, enabling them to make well-informed choices.

Timely information display

Listing on the BSE ensures that companies are required to provide timely and accurate information to the public and their investors. This includes financial reports, performance updates, and material events. Timely information display fosters investor confidence and allows them to react promptly to market changes and make informed decisions about their investments.

Adequate pricing rules

BSE enforces robust pricing rules, ensuring fair and transparent pricing of securities. These rules help prevent price manipulation and create a level playing field for all investors. Adequate pricing rules contribute to market stability and trust, attracting a wider range of investors and boosting liquidity.

Collateral guarantee

Companies listed on the BSE may have the advantage of using their shares as collateral for various financial transactions. This can include obtaining loans, securing credit lines, or participating in margin trading. Collateralising their shares provides companies with additional financial flexibility and can be a valuable resource for their working capital needs.

Chief investment segments

BSE-listed companies can raise funds using various financial instruments

Equity instruments

These represent ownership in a company and are typically in the form of shares. Companies issue equity to raise capital for their operations. A substantial amount of equity is raised through Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) in the primary capital market, subject to SEBI regulations due to price volatility. Already issued equity can be traded in the secondary market through stockbrokers, allowing retail investors to buy and sell shares.

Debt instruments and government securities

These financial instruments are used by companies to raise funds without giving ownership stakes to investors. Debt instruments are relatively low-risk and can be traded in both primary and secondary markets, depending on their type. Various government securities, such as zero-coupon bonds, floating rate bonds, and capital indexed bonds, are examples of debt instruments. They provide companies with financial resources and offer investors stable returns.

What is BSE Sensex?

BSE Sensex is a stock market index of BSE, consisting of 30 large and actively traded stocks representing various sectors of the Indian economy. Sensex is India's most tracked equity index and is an excellent indicator of overall market performance.

How does BSE differ from NSE?

The following table succinctly outlines the key differences between the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) across various aspects.

Aspect Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) National Stock Exchange (NSE)
Foundation and history Established in 1875, Asia's oldest stock exchange. Witnessed India's economic evolution. Offers trading in equity, debt, and derivatives. 5284 listed companies. Founded in 1992, quickly rose to prominence with electronic trading. Introduced technological advancements.
Index dominance Sensex: Comprises 30 large, well-established companies. Nifty 50: Includes 50 large-cap stocks across sectors.
Product offerings Equities, derivatives, debt securities, mutual funds. Innovative products like index derivatives, stock lending, ETFs. Equities, derivatives, debt securities, mutual funds. Pioneered electronic trading in India.
Regulatory framework Regulated by SEBI. Ensures fair trading practices, investor protection. Regulated by SEBI. Adheres to fair trading practices, investor protection.
Trading volume Lower compared to NSE. Higher compared to BSE.
Derivatives contracts Lower trading volumes. Leads with liquid indices like NIFTY 50, Bank NIFTY.
Number of listed companies Over 5000 listed companies. Over 1600 listed companies.
Electronic trading Transitioned in 1995 with BOLT. Fully electronic since inception. Promotes paperless trading.



The Bombay Stock Exchange stands as a testament to India's financial progress and economic growth. With its rich history, pivotal role in capital formation, and commitment to transparency and investor protection, the BSE continues to shape India's financial landscape. As the nation's premier stock exchange, the BSE will likely remain a cornerstone of India's economic development, serving as a dynamic platform for companies, investors, and regulators to collaborate and thrive.


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Frequently asked questions

What does BSE company do?

BSE facilitates trading in equity shares, debt instruments, derivatives, mutual funds, and more. It plays a significant role in providing a platform for companies and investors to buy and sell financial products and services in a secure and regulated manner.

Which is better NSE or BSE?

Determining whether the National Stock Exchange (NSE) or the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is better depends on various factors and individual preferences. Both exchanges have their strengths and cater to different types of investors. NSE is known for its advanced technology, high-speed trading, and institutional focus. BSE, with its historical significance, appealing to a diverse range of participants. The choice between NSE and BSE should be based on an investor's trading style, risk tolerance, and investment objectives.

What is difference in NSE and BSE?

The key differences between NSE and BSE include ownership, establishment, trading mechanism, market capitalisation, trading volume, and indexes.

Which body regulates the BSE?

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which is responsible for regulating the securities market in India.

How are the transactions settled (equity and fixed income) in the BSE?

The BSE follows a rolling settlement system for equity and fixed income transactions. The settlement period for the BSE is T+1, which means that the trades are settled within one business day of the trade date.

How many companies are listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)?

As of December 2023, there are 5,983 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

What is the role of the BSE?

The primary role of the BSE is to provide an efficient platform for the Indian corporate sector to raise investment capital. It facilitates the trade in equities, mutual funds, debt instruments, and derivatives, among others. The BSE also provides other important capital market trading services such as risk management, clearing, settlement, and investor education.

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