Rich rewards often entail great risks, and the same is true with the highly volatile cryptocurrency market. The uncertainties in 2020 globally led to a heightened interest of masses and large institutional investors in trading cryptocurrencies, a new-age asset class. Increasing digitization, flexible regulatory framework, and supreme court lifting ban on banks dealing with crypto-based companies have parked investments of more than 10 million Indians in the last year. Several major global cryptocurrency exchanges are actively scouting the Indian crypto market, which has been showing a sustained surge in daily trading volume over the past year amid a big drop in prices as many investors looked at value buying. As the cryptocurrency frenzy continues, many new cryptocurrency exchanges have come up in the country that enables buying, selling, and trading by offering functionality through user-friendly applications. WazirX, India’s biggest cryptocurrency trading platform doubled its users from one million to two million between January and March 2021.
What’s Driving World’s Largest Crypto Exchanges to the Indian market?
In 2019, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by trade volume, Binance acquired the Indian trade platform, WazirX. Another crypto start up, Coin DCX secured investment from Seychelles-based BitMEX and San-Francisco based-giant Coinbase. The crypto and blockchain start-ups in India have attracted investment of USD99.7 million by June 15, 2021, which totaled around USD95.4 million in 2020. In the last five years, global investment in the Indian crypto market has increased by a whopping 1487%.
Despite India’s unclear policy, global investors are making huge bets on the country’s digital coin ecosystem due to a variety of factors such as
• Tech-savvy Indian Population
The predominant population of 1.39 billion are young (median age between 28 and 29 years) and tech-savvy. While the older generation still prefers to invest in gold, real estate, patents, or equities, the newer ones are embracing the high-risk cryptocurrency exchanges as they are more adaptable to them. India ranks 11th on Chainalysis’s 2020 report listing for global adoption of crypto, which shows the excitement about crypto among the Indian population. Nor does the less-than-friendly attitude of the government towards crypto or rumors swirling around the crypto are able to shake the confidence of the youth population in the digital coin market.
India offers the cheapest internet in the world, where one gigabyte of mobile data costs around $0.26 while the global average is $8.53. So, almost half the billion users are taking advantage of affordable internet access, which enhances India’s potential to become one of the largest crypto economies in the world. According to SimilarWeb, the country is the second-largest source of web traffic to peer-to-peer bitcoin trading platform, Paxful. While the mainstream economy is still struggling from the “pandemic effect”, cryptocurrency is gaining momentum in the country as it provides the young generation a new and fast way of earning money.
It is safe to say that cryptocurrency might become Indian millennials what gold is for their parents!
• Rise of Fintech Start ups
The cryptocurrency craze led to the emergence of multiple trading platforms such as WazirX, CoinSwitch, CoinDCX, ZebPay, Unocoin, and many others. These cryptocurrency exchange platforms are highly secured, accessible across various platforms, and allow instant transactions, providing a friendly interface for crypto enthusiasts to buy, sell, or trade digital assets limitlessly. Many of these platforms accept INR for purchases and trading fees as low as 0.1% so simple, fast, and secure platforms present a lucrative opportunity for both first-time investors and local traders.
WazirX is one of the leading cryptocurrency exchange platforms with over 900,000 users that provides customers with peer-to-peer transaction capabilities. CoinSwitch Kuber provides the best cryptocurrency exchange platform for Indians and is ideal for beginners as well as daily doers. Unocoin is one of the oldest cryptocurrency exchange platforms in India that account for over a million traders through mobile applications. CoinDCX provides users with 100+ cryptocurrencies as an option to make exchanges and even provides investors with insurance to cover losses in case of a security breach. So, global investors are eyeing the plethora of cryptocurrency exchange platforms in India to take advantage of the emerging market.
• Mixed Government Response
The legislative bill regarding a ban against a virtual currency that would criminalize anyone engaged in possession, issuance, mining, trading, and transferring crypto assets might get enacted into law. However, Finance and Corporate Affair Minister Nirmala Sitharaman eased some investor’s concerns saying that the government has not planned to completely bar cryptocurrency use. In a statement given to a leading English newspaper, Deccan Herald, the Finance Minister said, “From our side, we are very clear that we are not shutting all options. We will allow certain windows for people to do experiments on the blockchain, bitcoins, or cryptocurrency.” It is evident that the government is still scrutinizing the national security risks posed by cryptocurrencies before deciding on putting a complete ban.
In March 2020, the Supreme court overturned the central bank’s decision to ban financial institutions from dealing in cryptocurrencies, which prompted investors to pile into the cryptocurrency market. Despite the lingering fear of ban, transaction volumes continued to swell, and user registration and money inflows at local crypto-exchange became 30-fold from a year ago. One of India’s oldest exchanges, Unocoin added 20,000 users in January and February of 2021. The total volume of Zebpay per day of Feb 2021 got equivalent to the volume generated in the whole month of Feb 2020. Addressing the cryptocurrency scenario in India, the Finance Minister said in a CNBC-TV18 interview, “I can only give you this clue that we are not closing our minds, we are looking at ways in which experiments can happen in the digital world and cryptocurrency.”
Rather than sitting on the side-lines, investors and stakeholders want to make the best of proliferating the digital coin ecosystem until the government introduces the ban on “private” cryptocurrency and announced sovereign digital currency.
Is India Heading Towards Financial Inclusivity with Cryptocurrency?
Once considered a “Boys club” due to predominant male population engagement in the cryptocurrency market, the steadily rising number of women investors and traders has led to more gender neutrality in the new and digital form of investment methods. Earlier, women used to stick to traditional investments but now they are becoming risk-takers and venturing into the crypto space in India. After the apex court clarified the legality of “virtual currency”, the Indian cryptocurrency platform, CoinSwitch witnessed an exponential 1000% increase in its women users. Although women investors still make up a small percentage of the crypto community, they are putting up fierce competition in the Indian market. Women tend to save a lot more than their male counterparts and more savings means more diversity in investments such as high-return assets like cryptocurrencies. Also, women are more analytical and better at evaluating risks before making the right investment choices, so they are more successful investors.
Increasing Mainstream Institutional Adoption of Cryptocurrencies
Uncertainty and panic aroused by SARS-Covid 19 led to a liquidity crisis even before the economic crisis set off. Many investors converted their holdings into cash to safeguard their finances, which resulted in the collapsed prices of bitcoin and altcoin. But even though crypto suffered a major crash, it still managed to be the best performing asset class of the year 2020. With the increased vulnerability of the system and loss of trust in the policies of the central bank and money in its current design, people have an increased appetite for digital currencies which resulted in the rebound of cryptocurrency. Due to the stellar performance of cryptocurrency in the middle of the global financial crisis, the uptrend has strengthened interest in the virtual currency market in Asia and the rest of the world.
Furthermore, to fuel society’s demand for convenient and reliable transaction solutions, digital payment gateways such as PayPal have also shown their support towards cryptocurrencies that can enable consumers to hold, buy, or sell with virtual assets. Recently, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made an announcement of investment in the cryptocurrency market worth USD1.5 billion, and that the electric company would accept bitcoin from buyers, which led to an international bitcoin price jump from USD40,000 to USD48,000 within two days. Two of the biggest platforms for making payments across the world, Visa and Mastercard are also endorsing cryptocurrencies by introducing them as a medium to make transactions. While Visa has already made the announcement of allowing transactions with stable coins on the Ethereum blockchain, Mastercard would begin transactions with crypto sometime in 2021.
What does the future hold for the Cryptocurrency market in India?
The Indian cryptocurrency market is not immune to the terrible crypto crashes. Despite humongous investment from global counterparts, local investors are still maintaining distance from crypto investments due to uncertainty about the legality of the digital coin ecosystem in India as well as the high volatility of the market. Although the cryptocurrency market is booming since last year, Indians own less than 1% of the world’s bitcoin, which creates a strategic disadvantage for the Indian economy. The Indian government is planning to appoint a new panel to study the possibility of regulating digital currencies in the country as well as focus on blockchain technology and propose it for technological enhancements.
The capability of blockchain technology to provide a safe and immutable infrastructure has been realized by various industries to instill transparency in transactions. For a country with over 15 million crypto adopters, the new recommendation from the committee could hold great value to determine the future of cryptocurrency in India. However, the stakeholders believe that the technical and economic power will make India a key player in the crypto and blockchain market. Gradually, the cryptocurrency is gaining mainstream acceptance, which could lead to higher adoption of digital currency.
According to another TechSci Research report on “India Cryptocurrency Market By Offering (Hardware & Software), By Process (Mining & Transaction), By Type (Bitcoin, Etgereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Dashcoin, Litecoin, Others), By End User (Banking, Real Estate, Stock Market & Virtual Currency), By Region, Forecast & Opportunities, 2026″, India cryptocurrency is anticipated to grow at a significant CAGR owing to increasing requirement for transparency and reduction in transaction costs. Additionally, rising adoption of digital currency and growing blockchain technology are fuelling India cryptocurrency market.