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How the entertainment industry, education models and taboos around crypto could change, post-SC ruling

For many years, India was not a crypto-friendly nation... but a five million-plus strong pro-crypto community is now celebrating its new freedom. We speak to four crypto-preneurs about what to expect:

March 09, 2020 05:24 pm | Updated March 10, 2020 03:49 pm IST

An imaging of an individual with various cryptocurrencies

An imaging of an individual with various cryptocurrencies

Akshay Aggarwal had been waiting with bated breath to hear the verdict of the Supreme Court regarding crypto-currency, an encrypted, decentralised and digital medium of exchange. As the founder of Blockchained India, a pan-India community for crypto enthusiasts, this ruling means the most to him in terms of freedom of investment and of movement.

Finally, a verdict was made last Wednesday: ‘SC rules curb on crypto-currency trade illegal’, and thus the ban on trading in virtual currency, crypto-currency and Bitcoins was lifted. Judging from the excitement on social media and relevant online forums, it was as though a cataclysmic election win took place. Plus, with the ongoing Yes Bank crisis, some crypto-lovers such as Rohan Jethi simply tweeted, “Short banks. Long Bitcoin.”

India’s pro-crypto community is five million-plus strong, and interestingly, despite our population and online presence, India only accounted for around three percent of the global crypto-currency market before the ban. Surely, these figures could grow slowly as more currencies are created and more progressive discussions are held.

An excited Akshay admits he was quite nervous in the lead-up to the verdict. “I had a slight positivity though there was still disappointment in the regulators that penalised innovators because of their own narrow thought process.”

Shinam Arora, who heads Pune-based Primechain Technologies, which facilitates self-building blockchain ecosystems, says, “I don’t understand why RBI couldn’t come up with a way earlier to monetise it. If they would have monetised it, it would have helped in our country’s growth and economy so much by now. For example, they could have simply imposed a minimal charge towards cryptocurrency exchange.”

A vast ecosystem, affected

Depiction of Bitcoin being accepted at a shop

Depiction of Bitcoin being accepted at a shop

The umbrella of this technology is so vast that it is just impossible to enumerate the different sub-markets... almost like the fight club of banking, as in it exists but not many talk about it.

Shinam points out that India is a potential investment epicentre for the world too; many global crypto-currency companies will be looking forward for expanding their business in India.

Crypto has its own exchange market like mainstream currency would, too. Akshay predicts the acceleration of crypto-neo-banks (a type of direct bank) which would speed things along, “I see sophistication and maturity coming in this industry,” comments Akshay, “mainly because of increased demand, which will lead to increased competition. I am expecting a hundred more exchanges to open up in the next two years.”

The entertainment scene could change too. myNK, India’s first blockchain-powered global entertainment platform, foresees positivity. Founder Nitin Narkhede says, “The entertainment industry will be one of the early adopters of crypto. Crypto adoption can streamline many processes in film and music industries, create new financing options and improve payment models in the industry, thereby benefiting many smaller artistes and stakeholders. New payment mechanisms will find their way in the existing systems and new companies will emerge to cater to these requirements.” He elaborates that myNK will benefit in a big way because the platform “deals with international distributors and can now open options to accept and make payments in real-time using crypto besides other channels that we can now open to build a crypto-enabled entertainment ecosystem.”

The gaming industry also sees a lot of interaction with crypto. Up until about two years ago, gaming platform Steam operated many transactions through such means but put a stop to it because of its ineffectiveness, and this could change given the massive Indian population on Steam.

What of education; do experts see a potential for schools and colleges to at least inform students about crypto-currency? Wilson Bright, who heads Bengaluru-based BlockSurvey, explains, “I think it would be wonderful to inform young people about the entirety of the banking ecosystem and state that there are alternatives! There is also the myth that to invest in Bitcoin, for example, you have to own one whole Bitcoin, so BlockSurvey hopes to inform and educate people about the value of owning your own transactional freedom and being proud of it. So this is the time to really get the conversation going because people will now be curious, so the first step is to get rid of misinformation.”

Representative image of various cryptocurrencies

Representative image of various cryptocurrencies

Shinam agrees with Wilson adding, “I know of lot of people who have invested money in cryptocurrency without understanding it. They don’t know how this system works and that’s why they fall prey to fraudsters; so awareness and understanding is very important if you want to trade in virtual currencies.”

Be realistic

However optimistic things look, such startups must be patient when it comes to acquiring funding after a barren time. While the situation is clearer de justo , the same might not be de facto ; there are many mindsets to converse with. Akshay says, “Now in this extreme economic vulnerability, I don’t think much is going to change with this one early positive indicator. This will definitely restore faith and bring confidence to Indian crypto-entrepreneurs; maybe early adoption results could even convince some investors to take bets on them.”

Though the battle is won, the war is far from over. “Post SC ruling, if the review petition doesn’t yield a negative result again, we shall push forward our goals of enabling mass adoption towards mobilising support from politicians,” avers Akshay, “I see a lack of futuristic thinking towards use of technology generally, and I believe we need to identify or elect pro-tech champions to push positive regulations. We need to continually direct these debates to the right problem, that being of prohibiting only the negative use.”

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