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Understanding the primary market

primary market

The primary market is a bit like a grand opening of a new store. It’s the first place where a company offers its shares to people like you and me. This is where we get the first chance to invest our money in a company’s shares. It’s exciting and full of potential. In this blog, we’ll dive deep into what exactly the primary market is, why it’s so important, and how it works.

What is a primary market?

Before a company becomes publicly traded, meaning you can buy and sell its shares, it needs to raise money. The primary market is where this happens. Here, the company offers its shares to the public for the first time. This process is also known as an Initial Public Offering or IPO. For example, when Reliance Industries Limited first decided to offer its shares to the public, the primary market is where it happened.

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Functions of the primary market

The primary market is essentially the financial arena where new securities are created and sold to the public for the first time. It fulfills several critical functions that fuel the engine of capitalism and facilitate economic growth.

  1. Raising capital

One of its core functions is to enable companies to raise capital. When a company needs funds to expand its operations, develop new products, or acquire assets, it can issue shares to the public through the primary market. This provides the company with the necessary financial resources, while investors get a piece of ownership in the company.

  1. Initial public offering (IPO)

An IPO is the most well-known way that a company raises capital in the primary market. When a privately-held company decides to go public, it issues shares for the first time through an IPO. The funds raised are often instrumental in transforming small or medium-sized companies into larger entities. The IPO also serves as a platform for companies to gain market exposure and enhance their credibility.

  1. Rights issues

For companies that are already publicly traded and need additional financing, rights issues come into play. In this scenario, current shareholders are offered the right to purchase additional shares, usually at a discounted price. Rights issues are a win-win: shareholders get a deal, and the company raises the capital it needs without having to seek external financing.

  1. Debt financing

While equity financing involves issuing shares, debt financing allows both corporations and governments to raise capital through the issuance of bonds. Investors who buy these bonds are essentially lending money to the issuer in exchange for periodic interest payments and the return of the bond’s face value when it matures.

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Features of the primary market

The primary market, often referred to as the IPO (Initial Public Offering) market, plays a pivotal role in the financial ecosystem by enabling companies to raise capital directly from investors. Let’s delve into some of its distinguishing attributes:

  1. Direct purchase mechanism: One of the standout characteristics of the primary market is the direct interaction between companies and investors. When a company decides to go public and issue shares, it does so without any intermediaries. 

This direct purchase system means investors buy stocks or bonds straight from the source, i.e., the issuer, without any middleman’s involvement. This ensures a clear and transparent transaction process.

  1. Robust regulatory framework: The primary market isn’t a free-for-all arena. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) acts as its watchdog, ensuring all activities remain above board.
    Companies desiring to issue new shares or bonds are mandated to adhere to stringent guidelines set by SEBI. This regulatory oversight ensures investor protection, corporate accountability, and the overall integrity of the market.
  1. Pricing dynamics: The pricing of new shares or bonds isn’t arbitrary. Investment banks, with their expertise and in-depth market analysis, play a pivotal role in this phase. They assist companies in navigating the multifaceted process of going public, including determining the initial price of a stock or bond.
    The primary market price is thus a calculated figure, arrived at after considering multiple factors like the company’s financial health, industry comparisons, and market demand.

Distinguishing between the primary market and the secondary market

To truly understand the primary market, it helps to know how it’s different from the secondary market. Let’s have a look at the table to understand better.

Primary MarketSecondary Market
New securities are soldExisting securities are traded
Transaction is between company and investorTransaction is between two investors
Price is determined by the companyPrice is determined by market demand and supply
Funds go to the issuing companyFunds go to the selling shareholder

Types of primary market

The primary market is the venue where companies issue new securities to raise capital. There are five key types of primary market issuances, each serving unique purposes and targeting different kinds of investors.

  1. Public issue: This is the most common type, typically done through an Initial Public Offering (IPO). A private company goes public and lists its shares on stock exchanges. The proceeds often fund business expansion, debt repayment, and infrastructure improvements. The process is strictly regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), which ensures the company’s authenticity.
  1. Private placement: This is a quicker and less regulated way for companies, especially startups, to raise capital. Instead of a public offering, the company offers its securities to a small, select group of investors. This could be a mix of individual high-net-worth investors and institutional players.
  1. Preferential issue: This is a fast-track method for both listed and unlisted companies to raise money. The securities are issued to a select group of existing shareholders. This is neither a public issue nor a rights issue. Those who own preferential shares receive dividends before ordinary shareholders.
  1. Qualified institutional placement (QIP): This involves issuing securities to Qualified Institutional Buyers (QIBs), who are generally savvy about market conditions. Examples include foreign institutional investors, mutual funds, and public financial institutions. This process is simpler and faster than a preferential allotment due to fewer regulatory hurdles.
  1. Rights and bonus Issues: Existing investors are given the opportunity to buy more shares at a predetermined price or receive additional free shares. Rights issues help the company to raise funds without incurring additional costs, while bonus issues serve as a reward to existing shareholders without infusing fresh capital into the company.

Understanding these options can help companies strategize how best to raise the capital they need for various initiatives.

Primary market instruments

The primary market offers a range of financial instruments that can serve as investment avenues for individual and institutional investors. Let’s explore the common types in more detail.

Equity shares

Equity shares are perhaps the most straightforward investment option in the primary market. When you purchase an equity share, you’re essentially buying a small part of the company.

  • Ownership: As an equity shareholder, you become a part-owner of the company, which entitles you to voting rights and a share in the company’s profits, usually in the form of dividends.
  • Capital appreciation: The value of equity shares can increase over time, providing an opportunity for capital appreciation.
  • Example: If you had bought shares of Infosys during its IPO in India, you would own a piece of one of India’s most successful technology companies, and the value of your shares would have risen exponentially over the years.


Debentures are essentially debt instruments used by companies to raise capital. They are like IOU notes that promise to pay back the principal amount along with interest at specified intervals.

  • Interest income: Debentures offer fixed interest payments, which can be an attractive feature for risk-averse investors looking for stable returns.
  • Priority during liquidation: In case the issuing company goes bankrupt, debenture holders are among the first to be repaid, making it somewhat safer than equity investment.

Government bonds

These are bonds issued by the government to fund public projects, manage debt, or handle other financial needs. They are considered one of the safest investment options.

  • Guaranteed returns: The government backs these bonds, virtually guaranteeing the return of your principal along with the promised interest.
  • Tax benefits: Some government bonds offer tax exemptions, making them an even more attractive investment.

Advantages of the primary market

The primary market comes with numerous benefits that make it appealing to both issuers and investors. Let’s have a look at each one of them.


One of the standout features of the primary market, particularly in India, is the level of transparency enforced by regulatory bodies like SEBI.

  • Due diligence: Before a company can issue shares or debentures, it has to go through rigorous checks. All the pertinent information is made available in the prospectus, which is a detailed document outlining everything an investor needs to know.
  • Fair pricing: The initial pricing of shares or debentures is usually done through a transparent mechanism, ensuring that the process is fair for all.


  • Broad participation: One of the highlights of the primary market is that it allows average people to participate in the financial markets, especially through IPOs. This is not just limited to institutional investors or wealthy individuals.
  • Ease of investment: With digital platforms and simplified application processes, investing in the primary market has never been easier.

Potential for high returns

  • Early entry: Being among the first to invest in a company via the primary market provides the potential for high returns. If the company performs well, the initial investment can multiply manifold.
  • Case in point: An excellent example of this is Infosys. Investors who bought shares during its IPO have seen their investments grow exponentially.

The role of intermediaries in the primary market

The primary market involves direct transactions between the company and the investor. The intermediaries play a pivotal role in smoothing out the process as follows:

  • Investment banks: They assist companies in determining the price of their shares and how many to issue. They also help in creating a buzz about the new issuance to attract investors.
  • Legal advisors: Ensuring that all the legalities are in place is essential. Legal advisors help in drafting offer documents and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Regulators: Bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (or its equivalent in different countries) oversee the operations to ensure fairness and transparency.

Let’s summarise

Understanding the primary market is crucial if you’re planning to dive into the investment world. It’s the starting point for companies to raise funds and for investors to become part of a company’s financial journey. While it offers opportunities for high returns, the associated risks should not be ignored. As with any investment, it’s crucial to do your due diligence and possibly consult with financial advisors.

So next time you hear about a company “going public” or issuing “new shares,” you’ll know that the primary market is at work. Happy investing!

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