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Decoding Derivatives - Your Essential Primer on the Basics!

  • Oct 25, 2023
  • 10:33 am


In the vast landscape of financial markets, derivatives play a pivotal role. 

Whether you are a seasoned investor or just starting to dip your toes into the world of finance, understanding the basics of derivatives is essential. 

This blog will delve into the complexities of derivatives, exploring what they are, how they work, and their significance in the financial world. 

What Are Derivatives?

Derivatives are financial instruments that derive value from an underlying asset, index, or reference rate. These underlying assets can range from stocks, bonds, commodities, currencies, interest rates, etc. 

Derivatives are contracts that allow investors to speculate on the future price movements of these assets without owning them. 

The derivatives market is vast, with various instruments tailored to risk appetites and trading strategies. Let's explore some key aspects of derivatives in more detail.  

The Derivatives Market

The derivatives market is a segment of the financial market where derivative contracts are bought and sold. 

It is a place where participants can interact by trading futures, options, swaps, and other derivative instruments. This market provides a platform for hedging against price fluctuations, speculating on future prices, and managing risk.  

Financial Derivatives  

It is a derivative that derives value from financial assets or instruments. These include equities, bonds, currencies, and interest rates. 

The financial derivatives into various types, including futures, options, forwards, and swaps! 

The Significance of Derivatives

Derivatives serve several essential functions in the financial world. 

Risk Management:  

Derivatives enable businesses and investors to hedge against price fluctuations, reducing exposure to adverse market movements. 

Price Discovery: 

The derivatives market plays a crucial role in determining future price expectations. It provides valuable information about market sentiment and expectations. 

Liquidity Enhancement: 

The derivatives market enhances overall market liquidity by allowing traders to buy and sell contracts rather than physical assets. 

Portfolio Diversification: 

Derivatives offer opportunities for diversifying investment portfolios, spreading risk, and potentially increasing returns. 


Traders use derivatives to speculate on price movements and to aim to profit from market volatility. 

What Are the Essential Conditions for Engaging in Derivative Trading? 

To commence trading in derivatives, you must meet three fundamental prerequisites: 

First and foremost, you must have an active demat account.

Secondly, you need to establish a trading account in India.  

Further, stock broking companies like Marwadi Shares and Finance Limited will assist in setting up a complimentary trading account in India on your behalf. 

After establishing a demat and trading account, you must link them together!  


Lastly, it is mandatory to maintain a specific cash balance in your trading account to participate in derivative trading. 

The required amount is known as margin money.

Different Types of Derivatives: 

Futures Contracts: 

These are standardized agreements to buy or sell an underlying asset at a predetermined price and date in the future. Futures contracts often are utilized for hedging and speculation. 

Forward Contracts: 

These are private agreements between two parties to buy or sell an underlying asset at an agreed-upon price and date in the future. Forward contracts are customizable but carry counterparty risk.  

Options Contracts

Options allow the buyer with the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call option) or sell (put option) an underlying asset at a specified price within a predetermined time frame. Options offer flexibility and are used for various strategies.

Swaps Derivatives: 

These cash flows are on interest rates, currencies, or other financial variables. 

Swaps are for managing interest rate risk and currency exposure. 

Derivatives are a broad category that includes a wide range of financial contracts or instruments whose value derives from an underlying asset, index, or reference point. 

Derivatives can encompass options, swaps, forwards, and futures, among others!  

Futures are a specific type of derivative.  

A standardized contract allows the buyer to purchase and the seller to sell an underlying asset at a predetermined price on a specified future date.  

Futures contracts are in commodities and financial markets for hedging and speculative purposes.

In summary, while futures are derivatives, derivatives encompass a broader category of financial instruments. Futures contracts are characterized by their standardized nature and specific obligations, making them distinct within the derivative landscape.  

What Are Exchange-Traded Derivatives? 

Exchange-traded derivatives encompass futures and options instruments that are traded openly on public exchanges, such as the NSE (National Stock Exchange).  

Standardized contracts include essential components like a strike price, expiry date, option contract type (European or American), underlying asset, and lot size, among others. Let's delve into each of these components:

Strike Price

The price specified by the seller of the derivatives contract.

Expiry Date 

The final day of a derivatives contract usually falls on the last Thursday of each month.

Underlying Instrument 

The underlying asset could be an index, a share, a commodity, or a currency. 

Lot Size 

Lot size denotes the minimum quantity of the underlying asset required for purchase.  

In exchange-traded derivatives, the exchange serves as the counterparty, mitigating the risk of unfavorable trades or malpractices. Almost all exchange-traded derivatives offer transparency and liquidity.

 Examples of Exchange-Traded Derivatives 

The following are simple examples and categories of exchange-traded derivatives available in India: 

Stock Derivatives

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) periodically publishes a list of stocks in the Futures & Options (F&O) segment. Investors and traders select the strike price for a stock derivative and engage in four types of trades - buy call, sell call, buy put, sell put. The contract price is contingent on the stock's price movement. You can access the comprehensive list of F&O stocks here. 

Index Derivatives

In India, NIFTY and BANKNIFTY are the most prominent index derivatives. Investing in an index derivative means investing in all the stocks comprising that index. 

For instance, NIFTY comprises the top 50 stocks in the Indian capital market. The collective performance of these fifty stocks determines the index's movement. Trading an index is only possible through derivatives, as physical delivery of such instruments is unfeasible.

Currency Derivatives

Currency pairs are available for derivatives trading on exchanges. You can participate in these currency pairs through futures or options. Along with the stock and index derivatives, you have time to go long or short on these trades.

Commodities Derivatives

Exchange-traded derivatives allow trading in commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, gold, silver, etc. These commodities derivatives are typically backed by physical commodities and ensure security. Traders can take either long or short positions in these trades.

Real Estate Derivatives

Real estate derivatives played a significant role in the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. 

These exchange-traded derivatives tend to be less liquid in comparison to stocks, indices, or commodities derivatives. 

Types of Derivative Instruments

Derivative instruments come in various forms, each serving a specific purpose:  

Commodity Derivatives: 

These are derivatives tied to the prices of commodities like oil, gold, and agricultural products. They help producers and consumers manage price risk. Learn more about commodity derivatives. 

Currency Derivatives: 

Currency derivatives involve the exchange of one currency for another at a future date. They are used for hedging against currency risk and speculating on exchange rate movements. Learn more about currency derivatives. 

Risks and Considerations: 

While derivatives offer numerous benefits, they also come with inherent risks. It's crucial to be aware of these risks before diving into the derivatives market. 


Derivatives can amplify gains and losses as they require only a fraction of the contract's value as margin.

Market Risk: Market conditions can change rapidly, leading to unexpected losses. 

Market Risk: 

Market conditions can change rapidly, leading to unexpected losses. 

Counterparty Risk: 

In bilateral contracts like forwards and swaps, there is a risk that one party may default on their obligations.


Derivatives can be complex and require a deep understanding of the underlying asset and the contract terms.


Derivatives are powerful financial instruments that offer good opportunities for investors and businesses. 

From managing risk to speculating on price movements, derivatives play a pivotal role in the global financial ecosystem. 

Whether you are a seasoned trader or a newcomer to the world of finance, understanding the basics of derivatives is essential for making informed investment decisions and managing risk effectively. 

So, take the time to explore this fascinating corner of the financial world and discover how derivatives can enhance your financial strategy.

It's a significant journey to delve deeper into derivatives and consider exploring the diverse derivatives, equity, commodity, and currency derivatives to diversify your investment portfolio and achieve your financial goals.

Explore equity derivatives here and learn more about currency derivatives here to get started on your derivative trading journey. Remember to approach derivative with caution, educate yourself thoroughly, and seek professional advice if needed to navigate this dynamic and rewarding market successfully. 


Reference Sources: 
bitget, indiainfoline, investopedia 


"Content shared is for information and education purposes only and should not be treated as investment or trading advice. Please do your own analysis or take independent professional financial advice before making any investments based on your own personal circumstances."

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