Pakistan bourses: Data-sharing websites still reeling from 2008 market crash

By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune

KARACHI: In an advanced economy with a developed capital market, websites offering real-time stock market updates and mock portfolio management tools are quite common.

While websites like Yahoo Finance and Google Finance help investors in the developed market follow their favourite stocks and compare the performance of worldwide stock indices in a matter of seconds, the number of such online sources with regard to the Pakistani capital market is not very high.

The reason is simple. Websites that claim to cater to the needs of stock investors in Pakistan are still trying to fully recover from the aftermath of the financial crisis that shut the Karachi Stock Exchange for months towards the end of 2008.

“The best year for us was 2008. We’re still recovering from the effects of the following financial crisis,” according to Faried Nawaz, who holds a 50% stake in PkFinance.info, a website that provides investors with information on various investment avenues in Pakistan.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Nawaz said his website attracts on average 1,000 unique visitors every day. “Before April, the number was around 500 a day. It has doubled since the recent boom in the stock market,” he said, adding the number of visitors has traditionally been directly proportional to the stock market performance.

PkFinance.info is a project of Financial Information Services (Private) Limited, which is an associated company of Yasir Mahmood Securities (Private) Limited, a corporate member of the Lahore Stock Exchange.

The business model of PkFinance.info is based on ‘freemium’, which means basic content is provided free of charge, but money – or premium – is charged for advanced features.

While the website allows all its visitors to have limited access to company financials, technicals and stock history, only paid subscribers can view company trade data, interactive charts and live portfolio updates.

A fully paid subscription for the site’s complete set of features costs Rs6,000 for six months, or Rs9,000 for a year.

According to Nawaz, paid subscribers constitute less than 2% of total visitors on average. “For freemium-based financial services websites globally, the industry-wide average of paid subscribers is between 2% and 5%.

“We’re currently aiming to increase the share of paid subscribers to 2%, which will ensure that we cover all our expenses,” he said, adding three to four new subscribers sign up for paid content every week these days.

The website offers real-time symbol price updates, historical data, financial news and announcements, stock/market alerts via email and SMS, live updates during market hours, stock portfolio management, multiple portfolios, live portfolio updates, stock market filters and market analyses.

Advertisements form another revenue source for the website, although Nawaz is not particularly fond of them. “Ads are annoying. So our paid subscribers don’t get to see any ads on their screens,” he said, adding online ads are seldom relevant in Pakistan because of a small number of advertisers.

“We tried to copy the look and features of Yahoo Finance while we were setting up the website in 2005-06. But the problem is that there is a lot of online stock data available in developed economies, but it’s not the case in Pakistan,” he said. “We still employ one person who enters a lot of data manually,” Nawaz said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 9, 2013.

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