Right as the US started waking up to the reality of the coronavirus pandemic in early March, the Supreme Court of India announced they would be removing the Reserve Bank of India’s banking ban against crypto. As with most headlines not related to COVID-19 nowadays, I believe this flew under the radar within the crypto community.
As a quick refresher, in April of 2018 the RBI barred banks from serving cryptocurrency exchanges and firms. This inevitably led to a lot of crypto firms in India to shut down (mostly exchanges like CoinDelta, Koinex, etc) or move locations. That being said, some firms did not go down without a fight. The crypto industry in India came together to file petitions to overturn that ban. The result: almost two years later, the ban was reversed.
The most obvious beneficiary of this ban are Indian crypto exchanges. In fact, local exchanges have already all reported increased trading volume as well as a lot more new accounts being created (source: Coindesk).
Not surprisingly, venture firms have quickly started assessing investment opportunities in India. Weeks after the ruling, indian cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX raised $3 million in Series A funding. The round was led by leading institutions in the space such as BitMEX’s operator HDR Group, Polychain, and even Bain Capital Ventures. Just a month ago, Binance (and its subsidiary WazirX) announced it would be starting “Blockchain for India”, a $50 million token fund to invest in Indian crypto startups.
While most people who have celebrated this ruling have been focused on the benefits and opportunities it provides to crypto exchanges, I feel this is being too short-sighted. I view this announcement as an inflection point for the wider crypto industry as a whole.
India, a country of 1 billion people, has seen their crypto industry suppressed by the regulatory actions taken by the RBI. Keep in mind, India has long remained a top remittance recipient and its people lose a significant amount when it comes to fees still. According to the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide, fees are still above 7% as of 2019 data. Now that India’s citizens have the ability to interact with digital assets, we expect these fees to be significantly reduced as middlemen are cut out.
Additionally, just last month we saw India’s fourth-largest lender, Yes Bank, collapse. Some villages have even seen cash shortages leading to people running to ATMs while they can. This is not the first time our team can point towards an event that damages people’s confidence in a country’s banking system…and it definitely won’t be the last. There’s opportunity here, and I believe the people of India will start looking elsewhere to reliably store their wealth.
India already struggles with record high unemployment, which will most definitely only be worsened by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. I optimistically expect a lot of needed jobs will be created to help drive innovation within the crypto space.
Remember, crypto is a global movement, so overbearing regulation within certain countries not only stifles adoption domestically, it can also hurt the development and innovation occuring outside its borders. We’ve already seen strong teams out of India build some incredible apps and tools which are able to be plugged into the rapidly growing ecosystem.
Some of you may be familiar with InstaDApp, essentially an easy interface to multiple protocols for users of Ethereum’s DeFi ecosystem. The project came to be after two brothers dropped out of college and ended up winning first place in an Ethereum hackathon with an interface on top of MakerDAO. They closed a $2.4 million seed round at the end of last year with investors such as Pantera, Naval, Balaji Srinivasan, and Coinbase. All from Hyderabad, India – and while being 19 and 21 years old!
I expect a lot more innovation to come out of India, and I believe it’s an area serious investors in the space should be watching closely. What do you think though? Feel free to email back thoughts or if you’ve seen any projects from India that you think our team should check out!
Hope you’ve enjoyed my first contribution to The Delphi Daily, and look forward to sending more of these over the coming weeks!