Smallcase review: What you need to know before investing

Published: May 2, 2019 at 11:22 am

Last Updated on

Smallcase is a basket of stocks selected by an algorithm based on model, theme, sector or smart beta. In this review, we discuss what you need to know before investing in such an idea. Investing in a basket of stocks is a feature that many brokers have. Smallcase is perhaps the first instance in India where a separate entity is offering such baskets that several brokers can access.

Currently, in addition to Zerodha (which made Smallcase popular), investors with demat accounts in 5paisa, Kotak Sec, HDFC Sec, Edelweiss, Alice Blue and Axis Direct can also access the Smallcase baskets.  Broker access is essential for the investor to track the baskets.

Smallcase investing vs Mutual Funds: Which is better?

Many investors want to compare Smallcase investing with mutual funds and wish to know which is better. As mentioned above each Smallcase basket is based on a particular idea filter. Each quarter, the qualifying stocks would change or their weights in the portfolio would change.

You would then receive an intimation from your broker about this. You can either agree to make changes in your portfolio as per the revised stock basket or ignore it. If you make changes, stocks will be purchased or sold as per the new basket allocation. The associated short term or long term capital gain or loss and brokerage costs will have to borne by the investor.

Smallcase review: What you need to know before investing

In the case of a mutual fund, when the fund manager churns the portfolio, the investors do not need to pay tax. Thus brokerage and taxes would eat into smallcase gains continuously. It is simply impossible to say which is better though.

From my interactions with investors,  I find many scared to even rebalance fearing taxes. Therefore, for most investors, this kind of basket investing is unsuitable as they will not stick to quarterly resets. Another reason why a comparison with mutual funds is not possible.

How is each smallcase basket constructed?

There 55 such baskets as on date! These are classified into four categories: Model-based, thematic, sector-tracker, smart beta. Here are a few examples from each category. You can explore all of them here. You will need an account to know the stocks and weights. As explained in the video below, some baskets are based on ETFs too.

Model-based Smallcase

  • R&D Spenders: Companies that spend on research to be future ready. Stocks currently in portfolio (need account to know this): Aravind Ltd, Ajanta Pharma, Ashok Leyland Etc.
  • Zero Debt:  Companies with high earnings growth track record. The current portfolio includes Automotive Axles, Bharti Infratel etc.

Similarly, there are baskets with companies that have increased dividends, consistent dividends, low beta, positive momentum, sustainable earnings etc.

Thematic SmallCase

  • Halal Street: Shariah-compliant companies
  • Rural Demand/Middle class: Companies that will benefit from Rural demand or Middle class (two separate baskets)
  • Housing demand etc.

Sector Tracker

Insurance, pharma, realty, metal, medial sectors.

 Smart Beta

As we have discussed several times before – Are Nifty Smart Beta (strategic) Indices better than the Nifty Next 50 – smart beta stock picking refers to methods that defy the conventional notion of higher risk is necessary for higher reward.  There are three baskets here: Quality (sustainable business), Low volatility and high dividend yield.

The backtest

Each basket shows a backtest of the methodology. For example, this is the screenshot of the Low Volatility Smallcase. According to the return calculation methodology, taxes, brokerage have been excluded. It does not talk about corporate action and dividends.  Investors should understand that taxes can significantly erode the gains shown in the backtest

Smallcase Review: low volatility backtestSmallCase Reviews

The following comments were received on Twitter and Youtube in response to my small case review video (see below).

Sir previously i was investing in smallcase but during quarter rebalance approx 40% stocks changed so its not good idea because as ur investment increase and every quarter 40% change causes a big impact due to taxes. Dr. Satyendra

I have been a smallcase user for more than a year with -25% return. Please look into what you are investing and also look at the risk classification level before investing Kalai

Just want to add a couple of points from my experience. As Pattu sir pointed out here, the charts shown as performance are only the backtest for the current portfolio of stocks. Actually if it is very essential for you to see the historical peformance of the smallcase as an idea itself, you won’t see different cuts ie., if the smallcase has existed for two years, the charts are not going to show you the actual performance over 1Y, 2Y etc w.r.t. say NIFTY. There is only one inception to date metric which can show its actual performance. To add to it, from what I had seen much churn in a portfolio (turnover upto 50% 60% sometimes) that some smallcases represented by ideas like “companies expected to benefit over the next 5 years” don’t make sense at all. Such high turnover also means that the analysing the charts they show don’t make sense if you are looking for a long term solution. Girish

Verdict: Should you use Smallcase?

First the video review:

As an idea, Smallcase is fantastic. However, it will work only if the investor follows it to a tee. For this, they may have to churn the portfolio a bit too much and pay taxes. This is neither desirable not acceptable for many.

If you wish to try this out, please be prepared for the churn and associated costs. Do not start immediately. Watch the change in the portfolio for a few quarters and then decide. If you have a small exposure as an experiment, it will not help your portfolio too much. An alternative is to track a basket of stocks or a smart beta index and start with a few stocks from the top 10 and hold until they fall out of the index (30 or so stocks). Since the index will be rebalanced only twice a year and it may take a while for the top stocks to exit the index, the churn would be significantly lower. However, the discipline involved would be the same.

How to buy your first stock without breaking your head!

Are you using smallcase? What has your experience been?

Do share if you found this useful
Share your thoughts on this topic at the  Reddit freefincal_user_forum

Reach your financial goals like a pro! Join our 1600+ Facebook Group on Portfolio Management! You can now reduce fear, doubt and uncertainty while investing for your financial goals! Sign up for our lectures on goal-based portfolio management and join our exclusive Facebook Community. The 1st lecture is free!
Want to check if the market is overvalued or undervalued? Use our market valuation tool (will work with any index!) or you buy the new Tactical Buy/Sell timing tool!
About the Author Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates and associations on the basis of money management. Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, Cognizant, Madras Atomic Power Station, Honeywell, Tamil Nadu Investors Association. For speaking engagements write to pattu [at] freefincal [dot] com
About freefincal & its content policy Freefincal is a News Media Organization dedicated to providing original analysis, reports, reviews and insights on developments in mutual funds, stocks, investing, retirement and personal finance. We do so without conflict of interest and bias. Follow us on Google News Freefincal serves more than one million readers a year (2.5 million page views) with articles based only on factual information and detailed analysis by its authors. All statements made will be verified from credible and knowledgeable sources before publication. Freefincal does not publish any kind of paid articles, promotions or PR, satire or opinions without data. All opinions presented will only be inferences backed by verifiable, reproducible evidence/data. Contact information: letters {at} freefincal {dot} com (sponsored posts or paid collaborations will not be entertained)
Connect with us on social media
Our publications

You Can Be Rich Too with Goal-Based Investing

You can be rich too with goal based investingPublished by CNBC TV18, this book is meant to help you ask the right questions, seek the right answers and since it comes with nine online calculators, you can also create custom solutions for your lifestyle! Get it now. It is also available in Kindle format.
Gamechanger: Forget Startups, Join Corporate & Still Live the Rich Life You Want Gamechanger: Forget Start-ups, Join Corporate and Still Live the Rich Life you wantThis book is meant for young earners to get their basics right from day one! It will also help you travel to exotic places at low cost! Get it or gift it to a young earner

Your Ultimate Guide to Travel

Travel-Training-Kit-Cover-new This is a deep dive analysis into vacation planning, finding cheap flights, budget accommodation, what to do when travelling, how travelling slowly is better financially and psychologically with links to the web pages and hand-holding at every step. Get the pdf for Rs 199 (instant download)
Free android apps