Trading: Definition, Working, Types and Advantages

Trading involves purchasing and selling financial instruments like stocks, currencies, or commodities with the goal of making a profit.
Trading: Definition, Working, Types and Advantages
3 mins
13 july 2023

Trading is the buying and selling of securities, such as stocks, bonds, currencies, commodities, and derivatives, with the goal of making a profit. Traders can include individuals, institutional investors, and financial institutions.

Trading differs from traditional investing mainly in its short-term focus, contrasting with the long-term perspective of traditional investing.

In the stock market, trading is common as people buy and sell shares of listed companies. Share prices fluctuate constantly, giving traders the opportunity to choose the right moment to make a profit.

History of trading

Trading in Indian markets dates back centuries, with early records tracing to the Indus Valley Civilization. Barter systems prevailed initially, evolving into more structured trade with the introduction of coins during the Mauryan and Gupta periods.

During the medieval era, trade flourished along established routes like the Silk Road. The arrival of European traders in the 15th century further enriched India's commercial landscape, leading to the establishment of trading outposts and the emergence of early forms of stock trading.

The formal stock trading began in the 19th century with the establishment of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in 1875. BSE played a pivotal role in shaping India's financial landscape, facilitating capital formation and economic development. Today, alongside the National Stock Exchange (NSE), it remains a vital pillar of India's financial system, fostering investment and economic growth.

What is trading?

In simple terms, trading refers to the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, or other financial securities for a short period to earn profits. The main difference between trading and traditional investing is the former’s short-term approach compared to the long-term horizon of the latter.

Trading is mostly prevalent in the stock market as numerous people buy and sell shares of listed entities. The price of these shares changes every second and a trader can pick a favourable direction to make a gain.

What assets and markets can you trade?

You can trade a wide variety of financial assets and markets which include:

  1. Shares: Trading in individual company stocks, allowing you to buy and sell ownership stakes in specific businesses.
  2. Indices: These are indicators that represent a basket of stocks or assets, allowing you to predict the overall performance of a group of companies or markets.
  3. Forex: The foreign exchange market, where you can trade currency pairs, taking a chance on the relative strength or weakness of one currency against another.
  4. ETFs (Exchange-traded funds): These are investment funds that hold a collection of assets like stocks, bonds, or commodities. Trading ETFs allows you to gain exposure to a diversified portfolio.
  5. Bonds: You can trade bonds, which are debt securities issued by governments, municipalities, or corporations, providing fixed income in the form of periodic interest payments.
  6. Commodities: Trading in raw materials and primary agricultural products, including precious metals, energy resources, and agricultural goods.
  7. IPOs (Initial public offerings): Participating in the initial issuance of shares by a company when it goes public, potentially gaining from the stock's early price movements.

While there are various instruments to trade, it's essential to recognise that trading carries inherent risks. The primary goal is to make a profit on the basis of market's movements. However, it's crucial to exercise risk management to avoid unexpected losses, as trading can be volatile and unpredictable.

Additional read: List of Upcoming IPOs in Mar’24

Trading vs. investing

Trading and investing represent two distinct approaches with different objectives, time frames, strategies, and risk attitudes.





Builds wealth over the long term

Generates profits from short-term market movements

Time frame

Long-term (years to decades)

Short-term (minutes to weeks)


Capital growth and income

Capital gains from price fluctuations


Lower, due to longer time horizons

Higher, often increased by leverage

Analysis type

Fundamental analysis

Technical analysis

Emotional stress

Less frequent monitoring needed

Requires constant vigilance and quick decisions


Types of trading

Listed below are the major types of trading strategies prevalent in the market.

  1. Day trading
    It is a type of trading where traders buy & sell stocks within a single day, from 9:15 am to 3:30 pm. In day trading, the trader purchases the stock, holds it for a few minutes or hours and concludes the transaction before the market closes.
  2. Swing trading
    In swing trading, a trader usually purchases a stock and holds it for several days or a week to capitalise on the short-term stock patterns & trends. These traders must have adequate knowledge of stock trends and patterns to execute their trades successfully.
  3. Scalping or micro trading
    Scalp trading is a type of trading in which traders buy and sell stocks in large quantities repeatedly several times within a day. This may result in profits even with minute changes in the stock price. However, there is also a high probability of losses.
  4. Momentum trading
    Momentum trading is a strategy where a certain stock price moves either upwards and downwards for a certain period, i.e., it gains momentum. When the peak is reached, a downtrend follows; therefore, traders take a selling position at the peak of a stock’s momentum.
  5. Position trading
    Position trading is a long-term trading strategy that involves buying an investment with the expectation that it will appreciate over time. Position traders are less concerned with short-term fluctuations in price and news of the day unless they alter the trader’s long-term view of the position. They hold their positions for an extended period, typically weeks, or months, to achieve profit from the price movements of an asset.

Who trades and who invests?

Traders and investors play distinct roles in financial markets, each with unique objectives and strategies.

Traders engage in short-term buying and selling of financial instruments, aiming to profit from short-term price fluctuations. They typically rely on technical analysis, market trends, and volatility to make rapid decisions. Traders often have a high-frequency trading approach, seeking to capitalise on market inefficiencies and momentum. Their primary goal is to generate profits quickly, often within minutes, hours, or days.

On the other hand, investors take a long-term perspective, seeking to build wealth over time through the appreciation of assets. They focus on fundamental analysis, examining the financial health and growth prospects of companies or assets. Investors aim to create wealth through capital appreciation, dividends, or interest income. They are generally less concerned with short-term market fluctuations and instead focus on the long-term growth potential of their investments.

In summary, traders seek short-term gains by actively buying and selling securities, while investors take a long-term approach, aiming to build wealth over time through strategic investment decisions.

How does trading work?

Stock trading in India is the buying and selling of shares of a listed entity in one of the leading stock exchanges like the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

The capital market in India consists of two major segments: primary market and secondary market. On the primary market, private companies (who became public )can issue securities directly to the public to raise funds through a public offering. These are of two types: Initial Public Offering (IPO) and Follow-on Public Offering (FPO).

Once the IPO is completed, all shares of a company are listed in the secondary market, where investors can freely buy and sell stocks and other securities. In India, people are required to open a Demat and trading account with a stockbroker to hold and trade shares.

Whenever there is a purchase request with the broker, it gets passed on to the respective stock exchange. Here, the exchange matches a buy order with an equivalent quantity of a sell order of the same stock. Following this, a transaction takes place where cash and securities are exchanged.

What is online trading in India?

Online trading is the process where people can buy and sell shares electronically. To do this, one must have a Demat account to hold stocks and other securities in the digital format and a trading account with a SEBI-registered broker to place buy and sell orders.

Furthermore, one must link his/ her bank account to receive and send amount for purchasing/ selling securities.

What are the advantages of trading?

Trading stocks and other securities offer several benefits that make it an attractive option for investors:

  1. Profit potential: Trading provides the opportunity to achieve significant profits within a relatively short time frame. When executed with the right strategy at the right time, traders can capitalise on market movements to generate substantial returns on their investments.
  2. Flexibility: Trading is inherently flexible. Traders have the freedom to buy and sell securities as and when it seems appropriate. This flexibility allows investors to adapt to changing market conditions and capitalise on opportunities.
  3. Access to a growing economy: Active participation in trading, especially in sizeable trades, provides traders with direct exposure to the economic growth of the country. When a market index increases in value, it signifies the economic expansion of the nation. Therefore, professional traders can benefit from the growing economy by strategically investing in assets influenced by this growth.
  4. Take advantage of economic growth: Trading allows investors to leverage economic growth. A growing economy often translates to increased corporate earnings due to job creation, higher income levels, and increased consumer spending. Investors can capitalise on this by investing in businesses poised for growth in response to economic expansion.
  5. Easy buying and selling: The process of buying and selling shares in the stock market is straightforward and accessible to all investors. It begins with opening a Demat account, which can be done through a broker, financial planner, or online mode. Setting up an account is a quick process, taking about 15 minutes, and allows investors to initiate their investment journey. Once the account is established, investors can conveniently place buy and sell orders to engage in trading activities.
  6. Flexibility for small investments: Even new investors can start with a relatively small amount by purchasing stocks of small-cap or mid-cap companies in smaller units. This accessibility is ideal for those who want to test the waters of trading with limited capital.
  7. Liquidity: Stocks are considered highly liquid assets. They can be readily converted into cash at any time, offering a level of liquidity that is often superior to other financial assets. Investors can easily sell their stocks when needed, making it a convenient choice for those who require quick access to their investment funds.

Additional read: Day trading for beginners

Online trading vs. Offline trading

Here is a comparison between online trading and offline trading in India:

  • Convenience: In the online mode, one can trade from almost every part of the world. While in an offline mode, a trader will have to visit a broker's office in person or call your broker for trading.
  • Ease of trading: In online trading, one can make decisions freely without any intervention from any external source. However, with offline trading, all transactional activities are carried out by the broker.
  • Quality advice: Online trading provides access to detailed reports with charts, patterns and trend recommendations.


The practice of trading in India is growing at an exponential pace as evidenced by the growth of Demat and trading accounts with various stockbrokers. Hopefully, this article has served the purpose well for those who are looking forward to starting trading on the stock market.


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This content is for educational purpose only.

Investment in the securities involves risks, investor should consult his own advisors/consultant to determine the merits and risks of investment.

Frequently asked questions

What is trading and how does it work?

Trading refers to the buying and selling of financial assets in markets with the aim of making a profit. It involves analysing market trends and identifying opportunities to enter the market, thereby making a profit.

What is the concept of trading?

The concept of trading is to capitalise on the differences in prices of financial assets in the market. Traders use various strategies to identify these price differences and make a profit by buying/ selling assets. Trading can be done in various markets and involves a range of financial assets such as stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities.

Which trade is profitable?

There is no definitive answer to the question of which trade is the most profitable, as this can vary depending on a range of factors including market conditions, the investor's investment style, and their risk tolerance. As a general rule, assets that are more volatile tend to offer greater profit potential, but also come with higher risks.

Can trading really make money?

Yes, trading can make money, but success requires knowledge, strategy, and risk management. Skilled traders analyse market trends, employ effective strategies, and manage risks to generate profits. However, trading carries inherent risks, and not all traders are profitable.

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