Definition Derivative is a product whose value is derived from the value of one or more basic variables, called underlying. The underlying asset can be equity, index, foreign exchange (forex), commodity or any other asset. Derivative products initially emerged as hedging devices against fluctuations in commodity prices
In India, BSE created history on June 9, 2000 by launching the first Exchange traded Index Derivative Contract i.e. futures on the capital market benchmark index - the BSE Sensex. the exchange commenced trading in Index Options on Sensex on June 1, 2001. Stock options were introduced on 31 stocks on July 9, 2001 and single stock futures were launched on November 9, 2002. September 13, 2004 marked another milestone in the history of Indian Capital Markets, the day on which the Bombay Stock Exchange launched Weekly Options, a unique product unparallel in derivatives markets, both domestic and international. BSE permitted trading in weekly contracts in options in the shares of four leading companies namely Reliance, Satyam, State Bank of India, and Tisco in addition to the flagship index-Sensex.
Types of Derivatives:
Forwards: A forward contract is a customized contract between two entities, where settlement takes place on a specific date in the future at today's pre-agreed price.
Futures: A futures contract is an agreement between two parties to buy or sell an asset at a certain time in the future at a certain price. Futures contracts are special types of forward contracts in the sense that the former are standardized exchange-traded contracts, such as futures of the Nifty index.
Options: An Option is a contract which gives the right, but not an obligation, to buy or sell the underlying at a stated date and at a stated price. While a buyer of an option pays the premium and buys the right to exercise his option, the writer of an option is the one who receives the option premium and therefore obliged to sell/buy the asset if the buyer exercises it on him. Options are of two types - Calls and Puts options:'Calls' give the buyer the right but not the obligation to buy a given quantity of the underlying asset, at a given price on or before a given future date. 'Puts' give the buyer the right, but not the obligation to sell a given quantity of underlying asset at a given price on or before a given future date.
One use of derivatives is as a tool to transfer riskFor example, farmers can sell future contracts on a crop to a speculator before the harvest. The farmer offloads (or hedges) the risk that the price will rise or fall, and the speculator accepts the risk with the possibility of a large reward. The farmer knows for certain the revenue he will get for the crop that he will grow; the speculator will make a profit if the price rises, but also risks making a loss if the price falls.
Of course, speculators may trade with other speculators as well as with hedgers. In most financial derivatives markets, the value of speculative trading is far higher than the value of true hedge trading. As well as outright speculation, derivatives traders may also look for arbitrage opportunities between different derivatives on identical or closely related underlying securities.
Because derivatives offer the possibility of large rewards, many individuals have a strong desire to invest in derivatives. Most financial planners caution against this, pointing out that an investor in derivatives often assumes a great deal of risk, and therefore investments in derivatives must be made with caution, especially for the small investor.
But anyway it's a matter of your own risk taking abilities.