With the curtains surrounding India’s first bitcoin conference set to be drawn on Sunday, one thing is clear — the domestic ecosystem surrounding the volatile digital currency is ready to take-off.
There is even a ‘laxmicoin’, India’s very own digital currency, in the making.
Sample this: at least three different companies are in talks with Indian banks and other financial institutions to set up a domestic exchange that will allow the purchase and sale of bitcoins.
The most prominent among the companies is U.S.-based Buttercoin, a free bitcoin exchange backed by investors such as Google Ventures.
However, according to a senior banking official, this would require, at the least, a number of approvals and a ‘no-objection’ certificate from the Reserve Bank of India as well as co-operation from State Bank of India.
“There is little doubt that India is waking up to bitcoin. The number of queries we are getting regarding the virtual currency has increased exponentially in the last three months,” the official said.
On the consumer-facing side of the ecosystem, a small beauty salon in Chandigarh has the distinction of becoming what may be the first merchant in India to start accepting bitcoins officially.
Nisha Singh, owner of CastleBloom Beauty Bar, pointed out that it was about giving her customers another payment option, even if “no customers had yet come in to pay with the currency.”
Nevertheless, the exact popularity of bitcoins amongst the average Indian consumer is a question that is still hotly debated.
According to digital currency research firm, The Genesis Block, Indian bitcoin client software downloads increased 17.23 per cent in the third quarter compared with the previous quarter.
In fact, Jonathan Stacke, an analyst at The Genesis Block, has pointed out that the bitcoin’s ability to be transferred at almost no cost is a potentially powerful tool for remittance markets such as India.
“With the RBI placing restrictions on the amount of capital individuals can invest overseas… bitcoin may serve as an opportunity to send investment offshore without having to clear through any intermediary bank,” he wrote, in a recent note on ‘Bitcoin in India: drivers and barriers to adoption’.
And, it isn’t just bitcoin, which has caught the fancy of investors and consumers. Other digital currencies are on the rise, each with their unique crypto code.
In fact, a team of engineers and professionals are working to bring out ‘laxmicoin’, a digital currency engineered specifically for use in India.
Deepak Mantwal, a founding member of the ‘laxmicoin’ team, is expected to speak on ‘laxmicoin’ at the conference here on Sunday, where enthusiasts, venture capitalists, and bank officials will meet, and perhaps provide details regarding its launch.