Pranjal Kamra’s YouTube videos are expertly produced, be they 20-minute videos, dotted with pop up graphics, or 20-30 second ‘Shorts’ with view counts going up to five million. However, unlike your beauty or lifestyle—segments generally known for their influencers—Kamra operates in a very niche area: finance. Every three or four days, the 29-year-old dispenses knowledge and advice on everything finance to his subscriber base of 4.3 million. This includes stock market tips, personal budgeting, and lessons on economics concepts like shrinkflation.

Kamra, along with others such as Ankur Warikoo, Sharan Hegde, Rachana Ranade, and Akshat Shrivastava, are part of a growing community of influencers who’ve gained prominence. Their videos are simple, they speak in a mix of regional languages and English. Most importantly, though, they break down the mind-numbing financial jargon that leaves lay people scratching their heads.

Together, the names mentioned above have a follower count of 12.9 million people. That’s a significant number in a country with limited financial literacy and retail participation in financial markets. As of March 2022, India had a total of 41 million unique investors in mutual funds and 89 million demat demat Demat account A dematerialised (demat) account helps investors hold shares and securities in an electronic format.  accounts. 

Kamra runs a fintech startup called Finology, which helps people with financial planning and investment decisions. “My YouTube definitely works as a prominent marketing channel for our products,” said Kamra. Finology is registered by the Indian markets regulator—the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi)—as a registered investment advisor (RIA). 

This is something most influencers don’t bother with. Being registered as an RIA or a research analyst (RA) brings with it rules and regulations that offer a guardrail of sorts for those who take the influencers’ advice. Under the current system, RIAs are expected to risk-profile their clients and proactively disclose any conflicts of interest. 

A typical financial influencer operates in much more of a grey area, depending on advertisements and sponsorships to make their dough. But because they’re actively dispensing financial advice, they need a level of accountability that should be baked into regulations, argue those in the industry. The advice that many finfluencers give is generic, underplaying risks  and overplaying returns, and trying to ride the market waves,” Sumit Duseja, co-founder of TrueMind Capital, an RIA, tells The Ken. 

The Ken ran the numbers on 20 recommendations on stocks and initial public offerings (IPOs)—implicit or explicit—made by big finfluencers over the past 18 months. The list includes names like Zomato, Indiamart, Paytm, Apollo Hospitals, Manali Petrochemicals, TCS and LIC.