Why Bitcoin Bulls Are Betting on Explosive Growth in India

Why Bitcoin Bulls Are Betting on Explosive Growth in India

(Kriangkrai Thitimakorn/Shutterstock)

When India’s Supreme Court the for back in March, everything changed. 

Since then, joined the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), which played a key role in overturning the ban, and noted explosive growth via , the Indian exchange Binance acquired in 2019. A WazirX spokesperson told CoinDesk the exchange saw 150% more signups in many Indian cities from February to May 2020, which boosted local trading volumes by 66%.

“The Supreme Court’s positive verdict has surely helped in creating positivity around crypto in India,” the spokesperson said.

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As part of that broader sentiment shift, prominent Indian economist Subhash Chandra Garg a “digital rupee will replace physical paper rupee as currency.” As the former executive director of the World Bank and former Indian finance secretary, Garg both that bitcoin is a global currency and that India should create a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) that citizens can use with “digital wallets.” 

Even beyond India, entrepreneurs like London-based Pavel Matveev of Wirex Ltd. are eager to expand in India. 

“Last November we launched our product in eight countries across Southeast Asia, and we are hoping to launch in India this summer,” Matveev said in a phone interview. “The United Kingdom for example has a huge remittance flow from the U.K. to India. … [Indian demand for crypto] may be exhilarated by the COVID-19 situation.”

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Beyond boosting exchanges and remittances, co-founder Sandeep Nailwal said there’s been an uptick in the usage of decentralized applications (dapps). Within the first month of rolling out an Ethereum scaling solution, Nailwal said his startup garnered roughly 60 dapps and is currently in the process of onboarding another 60. 

“Especially with crypto, people are able to play games and earn money out of it. Real money games are becoming more popular,” he said during a video call. “We’re seeing a lot of applications [rely on us] because Ethereum is completely .”

Nailwal added there are more tech workers in India, with more than 1 billion people, than the entire populations of some countries. Especially in tech hubs like , there are plenty of technically skilled people willing to overcome the UX challenges that hinder “mainstream” users. So far at least 15 of the dapps using Matic also hail from India, Nailwal said.

This may be the summer of Ethereum in India.

“You will start seeing a large number of Indian applications being used, proportionately,” Nailwal said about the rise of “India’s Silicon Valley,” Bangalore. 

While explore issues like food distribution, Nailwal said he is participating in a monthlong virtual hackathon, along with a few hundred developers. The ETHIndia Community Telegram group has roughly 931 members.  

Plus, the Trump administration’s to foreign worker visas may inspire some Indian workers to build their careers in India’s tech industry instead. As the global recession worsens, India is now home to millions of people with diaspora connections and the computer skills to use cryptocurrency. 

Unocoin exchange co-founder Sunny Ray said, now that a few of the Indian industry’s major were won in court, exchanges are coming “back from the dead.”

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“Banking is back, the company is profitable again in less than two months, we’re hiring people back,” Ray said about Unocoin reopening and serving “thousands” of active monthly users again. In total, the exchange has roughly 400,000 users that completed the know-your-customer process. Now Indian traders are barely getting started. The local market is slowly ramping up. 

Unocoin co-founder Sathvik Vishwanath said the broader economic crisis has reduced expendable income and made Indians more conservative as unemployment spreads. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the last month was over 22%. Instead of pre-coiners flocking to crypto, Vishwanath expects this crisis could have a delayed impact of inspiring more crypto-novices and day traders that start treating crypto as an investment. 

Tech-savvy users may increase their crypto holdings, Vishwanath said, because any Indian household with expendable wealth is now thinking about diversification. 

Kashif Raza, a co-founder of the Indian news startup Crypto Kanoon, said, “People are finding crypto as an attractive proposition for hedging their risks, but still it is a long way [to go].” In the meantime, gold is often seen as the best way for Indian families to custody their own wealth. Indeed, the Indian is booming and prices reached in June. 

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“One thing is clear post-COVID-19, that in both [urban and rural communities] gold is a perfect hedge during the crisis. The gold price has risen exponentially,” Raza said in an email. “There are many exchanges that have observed a spike in new registrations on their platform during the lockdown in India.”

So far, Raza said, Indians staying indoors are online searching for “new avenues of investment,” then finding crypto after gold. Indeed, Ashish Singhal, the Bangalore-based CEO of both the crypto wallet CRUXPay and the exchange , said he’s up to a total of 25,000 users since the coronavirus crisis began. More than half of the Indian users are women, he said. 

“The main cryptocurrencies are bitcoin and ,” Singhal said during a call. “Exchanges like us need to do a big push to educate users. … A lot of people still believe cryptocurrency is banned in India.”

Women , who generally own gold jewelry as part of their wealth, are more likely to work in the tech industry than women from the or the . Across genders, Singhal said he’s seen a lot of enthusiasm, participation and “activities” around Ethereum.  

“Ethereum has its limits, but it’s an open platform to experiment,” Singhal said. “India is a very important market. Everyone understands that. We just need regulations to protect users, which will spark innovation.”

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