Index Funds

The Index Funds hosts a portfolio constructed explicitly in alignment with specific market indices. In the Indian context, Index Funds track or imitate stock market indices like the NSE Nifty or BSE Sensex. Let us explore the product in detail.

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What Is an Index Fund?

Index fund is a mutual fund or an ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) constructs a portfolio based on stock components in a specific market index. The portfolio composition does not deviate from the benchmark index, regardless of the market movement. 

The broad market exposure in the underlying index is marked by low operating expenses with a matching portfolio turnover. Furthermore, Index Funds endeavor to corner returns comparable to the index rather than exceeding it. 

Critical index fund features:

  • Index Fund is passively managed, and thus, the portfolio composition remains unchanged to mirror the underlying market index. 

  • Thus, Index Fund’s operating costs and fees are lower than actively managed funds.

  • Index Funds guiding principle is that the market will outperform any single investment in the long term as it sticks to the risks and returns of the underlying market. 

How Do Index Fund Works?

Index Fund’s passive management strategy follows the “indexing” theory meaning that the portfolio composition mirrors a particular index. Therefore, it implies that the Fund’s performance will match the underlying index as well.

For example, the Index Fund portfolio tracking the NSE Nifty holds fifty stocks in the same ratio as the market index. Therefore, it is possible as the fund manager invests in stocks and bonds comprising all the securities in the underlying market index, NSE Nifty, in the referred case.

What Are the Benefits of Index Funds?

The following benefits are offered by index funds:

  • Lower Charges: The Index Fund’s operational cost is lower as they are mapped to a particular index. It does not require an active strategy to cherry-pick stocks for the portfolio.

  • Automated Investment: The fund manager is bound to the automated investment method within the ambit of a defined mandate. Thus, investment bias is avoided in the absence of human discretion in investment.

  • Extensive Market Exposure: Index Fund portfolio is constructed similar to the mapped index, ensuring a diverse presence across sectors and stocks. 

  • Simple Management: Index Funds do not require constant human intervention, usually associated with actively managed funds. The fund manager rebalances the portfolio periodically without constant monitoring.

  • Tax Benefits: Index Fund turnover is lower as it is passively managed. Thus, fewer trades result in lower capital gains and lower tax liability.

Should You Invest in Index Funds?

The cardinal principle that drives your mutual fund investment horizon is your goal and risk appetite. The choice of Index Fund as an investment vehicle suits you if you are risk-averse. Since the fund is passively managed, you can do without extensive research and analysis. For example, Nifty or Sensex Index Fund is ideal if you invest in the equity market yet do not expose yourself to the risks. 

What Should You Consider Before Investing in Index Funds?

Further to your understanding of the Index Funds as one of the investment vehicles in the Mutual Fund family, you must consider the following before investment:

  • Index Fund Returns: Since the underlying index is the benchmark of the fund’s performance, you must not expect bettering it. Instead, settle for returns matching the index performance, unlike the actively managed strategy. 

  • Risk Tolerance: Index Funds are insulated from the equity market’s volatility risks as they are mapped to the market index. Investment in the fund generates optimal returns, especially when it is buoyant. In contrast, it suffers a slump during a market downturn. 

  • Investment Cost: The Index fund’s expense ratio is lower than actively managed funds as the fund manager does not need to strategize investments. However, it does not affect the potential to generate returns.

  • Investment Horizon: Index Funds are ideal for the long-term horizon required to realize its maximum potential. On the contrary, short-term investments are prone to fluctuations severely impacting the returns. 

  • Taxation: The income from Index Funds is subject to LTCG (Long Term Capital Gains) tax at rates depending on your holding period.  

Differences Between Index Funds and Actively Managed Funds

You have learned about passive management strategies for Index Funds that are easier to manage. However, their differences with the actively managed funds are worth exploring in alignment with your risk-averse profile.

Index Funds and Actively Managed Funds Comparison


Index Funds

Actively Managed Funds


Match the performance of the specific market index

Endeavor to outstrip  the market benchmark 

Risk Element 

Investment risks are aligned to benchmark risks 

Investment risks are independent of the benchmark risks 

Yearly Expense Ratio

Low expense ratio in the absence of constant monitoring

Higher expense ratio due to its active fund management 

Management Fee

Low management as they are mapped to a specific market index

Higher management fees as they are professionally managed actively

How are Index Funds Advantageous?

Index Fund is a safer investment option for conservative investors. It implies that you are risk-averse and prefer performance potential over the long term. You experience several advantages in your Index Fund investment while reaping the fruits of equity returns. 

Let us check them out:

  • The asset allocation in the diverse portfolio remains more or less the same over an extended period. 

  • The stocks in the portfolio are usually well-established companies that are likely to experience minimal fluctuations and remain stable.

  • You are assured of consistent returns on your investment.

  • It suits your risk profile as you are willing to absorb restricted returns in exchange for minimal risk. 

In Conclusion

Index Funds are a safe bet among the mutual funds investing in equities, the riskiest market instruments. You choose Index Fund because you are happy with a predictable return and not looking for overnight wealth creation.

In addition, you must not worry about your lack of knowledge about the stock market as your investment is mapped to a specific market index without trying to outshine its benchmark.


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