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Trading up

TradeHero: Trading Up

Owner of TradeHero, the "stock version of Monopoly" attributes their growth largely to its entry into the China market. With a growing base in the millions, the app has a strong global stand.

TALK about resilience. 45-year-old Dinesh Bhatia is no stranger to being burnt by the stock market, yet he has managed to turn his losses into an opportunity.

The chief executive officer and co-founder of TradeHero says he once suffered a sizeable six-digit loss in the stock market. But instead of keeling over, the tech entrepreneur saw a chance to help others avoid the same fate.

Together with co-founder Dominic Morris, Mr Bhatia started MyHero and created stock market and currency trading simulation app TradeHero – the "stock-trading version of Monopoly”.

Drawing real-time trade data from 29 major stock exchanges and 10 currencies, as well as precious metals gold and silver, the app aims to make financial learning more accessible and simpler through gamification.

“In the US $25 billion (S$33.4 billion) global mobile gaming industry, TradeHero is the world’s first social investment network”, says Mr Bhatia, the only Singaporean who was named among FastCompany’s 100 Most Creative People in 2015.

TradeHero’s user base of 3.6 million is made up 78 per cent by millennials who are either new to investing, or experienced whizzes looking to further up their game.

App users are able to compete with friends from their social networks or on the global leader boards. They can also learn by following the trades of validated top traders, who are termed “Heros”.

Users can then become a “Hero” themselves and gain followers, enabling them to compete for real cash.

The free-to-download app was launched in 2012, and is currently ranked the top finance app in 91 countries by business intelligence company App Annie.

TradeHero is expected to hit six million users by the end of this year.

Mr Bhatia attributes TradeHero’s growth largely to its entry into the China market – a market that contains 357 million mobile gamers.

The Global Company Partnership (GCP) helps companies become globally competitive by providing assistance in building internal capabilities, manpower development, gaining market access and gaining access to financing.

With its estimated market size of US $4.4 billion in 2014, mobile gaming is huge and growing rapidly, says Mr Bhatia.

Riding on China’s mobile gaming boom, TradeHero’s Chinese language app was launched there in November last year. Realising that it also needed a physical presence there, MyHero decided to open a Shanghai office shortly after.

IE Singapore provided a Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) grant to support the company’s Shanghai set-up.

The company was also able to get customised support under IE Singapore’s Global Company Partnership (GCP) to accommodate MyHero’s needs for heavy digital public relations and advertising in China.

"Mr Bhatia also learned some important lessons along the way - succeeding in China was not a matter of exporting its strategy wholesale"

The first TradeHero Chinese app, which was a direct translation of its English one, fell flat. They had taken a 'completely wrong' approach, without factoring in cultural differences in the China market, says Mr Bhatia.

He states an example: “Globally, the colour green denotes that a stock is doing favourably while red shows a loss. However, in China, they regard red as an auspicious colour.”

Other aspects of Chinese culture he observed include their higher financial risk appetite and preference for free services. The only monetisation model which has worked for TradeHero in China is its in-app purchases.

With a deeper understanding of these specific characteristics, the company rebuilt its second Chinese app from scratch, taking into account other geo-demographic subtleties such as colours, user interface (UI) and social media integration.

For one, the company transposed the colours green and red for price indicators – with red indicating that a stock’s value has gone up and green reflecting that it has gone down.

It also designed a busier and noisier UI, and allowed more user-generated content such as contests and forum discussions to be integrated into the app via popular Chinese social media and messaging apps WeChat, Snowball and Hexun.

The revamped app was a success. In less than six months after its launch, China’s TradeHero app has acquired more than two million Chinese users.

What’s next for the company? Mr Bhatia says they aim to have a United States presence by 2016.

MyHero is also looking to establish more financial partnerships and contests for TradeHero. Working with its licensed partner brokers globally, a TradeHero live platform is also in the works.

Another promising project is in the works – the company is experimenting with a sports-related product currently in beta called FootballHero.

It is still early days to be featured in a success story, says Mr Bhatia modestly. But we feel with the top 10 per cent of TradeHero’s traders outperforming the S&P500 three times in 2014, the app is certainly going places.

Article adapted from The Straits Times.

The Global Company Partnership (GCP) programme provides relevant assistance to internationalising Singapore-based companies in the areas of building internal capabilities, manpower development, market access, and gaining access to financing.

On the other hand, our Market Readiness Assistance (MRA) Grant supports pre-determined activities for companies expanding into a market for the first time.

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