Meet India's crypto investors

Meet India’s crypto investors
© Provided by The Indian Express

Investor from Delhi

It was in 2018 that Akshat Gupta first decided to invest in the highly valued cryptocurrency.

By then, the currency had been in existence for nine years, and the first transaction where two pizzas were bought in Florida in exchange for 10,000 BTC was eight years old.

“A few friends of mine had been tracking the growth of Bitcoin and told me to invest. I found out more about it and found the concept interesting so I decided to invest,” said Gupta, who has a business of pharmaceutical wholesale in Delhi.

At the time, the south Delhi resident bought 14 BTC at Rs 90,000 a piece. It was also around that time that he started to mine other cryptocurrencies such as Lite and Ethereum.

Over the past three years, Gupta sold off 10 BTC to retrieve his initial capital.

Meet India’s crypto investors
© Provided by The Indian Express Akshat Gupta

While the cost of one BTC today is around $ 54,000 or Rs 40 lakh. That of an Ethereum is $ 4,100. The 4 BTC that Gupta owns today are now worth around 1.6 crores.

The Centre’s decision to introduce the Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021 in the upcoming winter session of the Parliament, however, does not have Gupta worried.

“To me, it hardly matters. Nobody can stop Bitcoin or other currencies because they are not controlled by a country or exchange. Regularisation or even a ban is not something I worry about because these decisions will not have a permanent impact on the value. If it becomes illegal in India, I can sell them to someone in another country as it is a global asset whose price is not dictated by the decision of the Indian government,” he said.

Explained |Digital currencies and how they work

With new cryptocurrency exchanges opening up and advertising aggressively in India, thousands of people are turning to investment in crypto currencies.

For them, Gupta has one piece of advice.

“No one should invest their entire savings in crypto currencies. If, for example, you have Rs 1 crore in different forms of savings, you should not invest more than Rs 1-2 lakh. Some people who are suffering because of the fluctuations in the value of cryptos are the ones who have invested huge amounts from their savings. There is nothing called stability here. Moreover, I believe it is not possible to see the kind of returns here now as it was earlier. If you were an early investor, you could have easily made 20 to 30 times your initial investment. Now, you can only expect it to double. There are only 21 million Bitcoin that can be mined, so there is saturation in the market now,” he said.

Investor from Rajasthan

From earning Rs 500 per month at a mobile shop during school vacations to help pay off family loans to being the rising poster boy of cryptocurrency in India, Aditya Singh, now in his early 30s, has come a long way.

Growing up, Aditya saw some difficult days. He was summoned by school management for non-payment of fee, the home often had power cut off due to default on payment, there was little food on the table many days, and when he was older, the family couldn’t afford to pay for a computer course that he wanted to do.

He graduated with BCom and his first aim, he says, was to make money and pay off all the family loans. So after college, he jumped onto the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) boom and worked for about 3-4 years.

He first heard about cryptocurrency sometime around early 2013, when Bitcoin went up to about 260 USD, and then it crashed. It briefly drew his curiosity but he was still “suspicious” of it. Then in late 2013, Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht was arrested and Aditya was again drawn towards cryptocurrency “Back then I had wondered how do you cash it,” says Aditya.

Meet India’s crypto investors
© Provided by The Indian Express Aditya Singh

His curiosity got the better of him and in 2014, he downloaded a Bitcoin node software on his computer to mine Bitcoin. “I realised you have to continuously run it, and it used to consume a lot of GPU power and I couldn’t do other tasks,” he says. He was fed up within two days and uninstalled the software.

Meanwhile, his brother was into recruitment services where he worked for Delhi based companies. He saw a lot of potential so Aditya joined him, and the two subsequently started their own company.

Soon, the duo had placed people at Lockheed Martin, Nike, Google and Facebook, among others. However, a technical issue regarding payment arose with one of the European clients they worked with. “This was in 2015. He had stopped responding and we were doubtful if we’d even get our money. In the end he gave us an option that he can pay us in bitcoins. And we again had our doubts: ‘unless you cash it, it’s not real’. Since there was no other way to get our commission, we had to agree. We researched and realised there was a way to cash it and there’s a whole market around it,” he says. Once the payment got through and they cashed it, they realised Bitcoin is not intangible after all.

The brothers started exploring and saw that there are other cryptocurrencies “and when you look at something new, there is so much confusion. We started paying more attention, and wondered why it keeps coming back after apparent crashes. I started reading everything I could find about Bitcoin, read the Bitcoin Whitepaper, read about the history of money, watched videos, listened to podcasts and educated myself,” Aditya says. By 2016, he had realised that Bitcoin is here to stay and he should invest as much money as he can afford to.

And while he used to watch videos related to crypto currencies on YouTube, which were mostly in English, he realised that discussions in Hindi about fundamentals of crypto currencies was missing in India. “The main objective was to post videos and educate others. We started getting views and subscribers and it grew. I was never serious about it but then the cryptocurrency community became like a second family to me. And also when people appreciate your work, it makes you happy,” he says.

Eventually, it exploded and today Aditya’s YouTube channel Crypto India has 1.97 lakh subscribers. His personal Twitter handle has 1.24 lakh followers and his other handle @CryptooIndia has 1.54 lakh followers. He’s now routinely invited as a subject expert by news channels.

“The cryptocommunity,” as he calls them, “is very passionate. There have been ups and downs all these years but no matter the kind of the situation, we’ve held the line.”

In 2018 for example, Arun Jaitley, the then Minister of Finance, said in his budget speech that the Government did not consider crypto currencies as legal tender. “This shocked the community, since news channels had started saying that cryptocurrrency has been banned, which was incorrect. So our focus was to make everyone aware about it. And even now, regulating it is quite a difficult task and other countries are still struggling with it,” he says.

“There is a misconception that crypto is only for the rich. Through my YouTube channel I come across a lot of people from small villages and towns. They are the ones who are the most affected every time there’s an adverse development,” Aditya says.

Also Read |As Lok Sabha tables Crypto bill, experts divided on interpretation of ‘private cryptocurrency’

“I know of a teacher who lost his leg and stayed at home. Then he started taking tuitions at home but got a skin disease and was not able to do that either. So he started by investing Rs 1,000 – 2,000 and started watching videos. He’s been able to make decent money and can support his family now,” Aditya says. There are countless examples he can cite, with evidence: In Odisha, Nihar’s father sells fruits while Nihar does his bit through trading in cryptocurrency. In Nagpur, Anoop Patil’s father lost his job due to Covid and now Anoop is supporting the family through cryptocurrency.

As the proposed cryptocurrency Bill sends another wave of dread in the community, he says, “I feel everyone is reading too much into it. Although title and description is identical to Bill that was proposed to be brought in during the budget session, the contents of that Bill were never made public. And, the Finance Minister has clearly said that we are not going to ban it entirely.”

He is “hopeful that the Bill will be progressive but how progressive, we will have to wait and see once it’s made public.”

“Crypto has opened so many options and has become even more relevant after Covid, when jobs have been shrinking. For some families, it’s been like bhagwan ka roop bankar aa gaya hai (a manifestation of God),” he says. About his own earnings, he is humble and just says that the family was able to pay back all its loans.

Investor from Jagatsinghpur, Odisha

Kanha Mohanty (24), a former techie from Jagatsinghpur, Odisha has invested in crypto currency with a profit of around Rs 30,000 in the last one year. “I had learned about it from friends and colleagues. I read about it and learnt that banks in the US have also invested in crypto currency. People like Elon Musk have. So I felt that it’s here to stay. So I started investing in it,” Mohanty said.

He started with an initial investment of Rs 1500. “I had quit my job to prepare for further studies so I did not want to risk a big sum. So I started with a very basic sum. There was no loss and I kept getting curious so I started investing as and when I managed some money,” he added.

After he read about the govt’s plan, the very next day his profits dropped and he then withdrew all his investments. He doesn’t plan on reinventing in crypto currencies until and unless he will very sure that it will continue to remain stable and is a safe option.

(He has been trading in crypto through an app. So basically the money is still in his app wallet, not his bank account. But from his wallet he can either invest again or withdraw as per convenience).

Investor from Kerala

Remode Ramachandran, a computer engineer, had an accidental foray into cryptocurrency in 2017. A native of Paravur, a municipal town in Kerala’s Ernakulam district, Ramode had first purchased a few bitcoins for his friends working in Muscat. Four years into, Ramode is now fully engaged in cryptocurrency trading, as a daily trader as well as long-term investor.

Meet India’s crypto investors
© Provided by The Indian Express Remode Ramachandran

“Now I have reached a stage in which I can live with the income from trading in cryptocurrency. The trend looks bullish.” says the 41-year-old.

Remode is one of the early traders in cryptocurrency in Kerala. After having worked with a leading automobile firm in Muscat for 15 years, Remode returned to Kerala in 2016.

“I had brought a few coins for friends in Muscat and that opened a way to cryptocurrency and coins. My initial trade was with wrx and became active a year later when WAZIRX, the cryptocurrency and bitcoin exchange started functioning in India.’’ he said.

Four years into, Remode is trading in many international exchanges like Binance and CoinDCX and also holds several crypto currencies.

“From an investment of 3000, I could grow my asset to 5 lakhs within four years. That is the potential of the sector. But, what is crucial is to pick up coins listed in exchanges. People are getting cheated when they deal in coins and currencies at private exchanges, which do not even seek KYC norms. After the pandemic, work from home has become normal and it has helped many people to start trading in cryptocurrency,” he said.

Remode said it is good for the sector to bring in certain regulations. “The government can decide on how many exchanges and what all coins should exist in the market. At present, there is no regulatory body and regulations would help prevent fraudulent practices in crypto currencies. Many have lost money after they landed in frauds. I am looking forward to proposed regulations with a positive outlook. Regulations should ensure that investment is protected,’’ he said.

Interview |‘We never advocated crypto as legal tender… but this tech is solving real world problems’: Co-chair of BACC & Founder-CEO of CoinSwitch Kuber

Investor from West Bengal.

26-years old Pankaj Chowdhury used to work for start-up companies now lives his life in his father’s two-bedroom flat in the adjoining district of Kolkata, West Bengal. Reading and researching is his newfound love. A resident of Howrah Maidan area, Chowdhury leads a very simple routine that includes meeting his friends for chai and chat and surfing net. Very fond of reading newspapers and magazines Pankaj is pursuing nothing new after he left his last job in Bangalore. Pankaj who has worked with three startup companies in Bangalore and Mumbai in past thinks cryptocurrencies are a good way to exponentially grow your wealth and something that can fight inflation.

“High volatility is a risk factor but invest as much which you can afford to lose”, is his mantra. Pankaj has invested approximately 20 percent of his savings from his previous jobs in Bitcoins and few other cryptocurrencies ( He refused to divulge exact amount or details related to his investment).

Chowdhury’s understanding of bitcoins comes from various books that he has read on it, in last three years. Being a commerce student he has learned about it through various websites, books etc.

Meet India’s crypto investors
© Provided by The Indian Express Pankaj Chowdhury

He explains, “Bitcoin is a digital asset which is censorship-resistant. It’s been designed to be out of control of any authority. It is structured in a mathematical manner, basically, it is global money without national boundaries. Transactions on the bitcoin network can occur without banks. No one can track the private wealth you store on this blockchain. Bitcoin is not a business rather it gives you both ownership and usage of the network. As an investor, you are both a shareholder and a consumer.”

Pankaj who is yet to find a stable job came to know about bitcoins through internet and started researching about it by reading several books on it.

“I saw books on business updating their new edition with chapters on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies and Iunderstood the future trend,” he said.

Pankaj has encashed very small amount of his investment to just check the process and the platform but he wants to keep the money invested in bitcoin for long term .

” I am clear that I wouldn’t touch the money it is for long term. Bitcoin is a seperate asset class. If someone wants to encash investment then they can invest in SIPs too. Best part of Bitcoin is it is completely independent unlike shares . When you invest in shares it depends on the policy of the company too. You can use bitcoin to transact. I feel, since bitcoin is still not understood well hence lot of people think it is illegal,” he said.

However, Pankaj feels investment is cryptocurrencies and bitcoin cannot be a replacement to emploment.

“I have a strategy that I will work but keep investing in crypto currencies,” he said. For him bitcoin is first short of technology which people have organically adopted.

“Ten years ago people who invested one dollar are now millionaire . People don’t talk about bitcoins and cryptocurrencies much but I know people who invested in 2014 and are still keeping the money and have encashed it whenever needed.”

Pankaj is hopeful that his money with Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies will give him good returns. Pankaj who is well aware that cryptocurrencies are unregulated has plans to continue investing in it.

” Though it’s unregulated, volatile but I have invested to save myself from inflation. That much risk I can take with my money. I don’t ask my father to invest his life savings in it but I can definately do it. It is basically digital gold or digital real estate for me. My elder brother who works in a private company also invest in crypto,” said Pankaj.

As a bitcoin and cryptocurrencies enthusiast, he feels that the investment comes with a caution “DYOR” which is “Do your own research before investing”.

Small profit is not, what Pankaj Chowdhury is eyeing on.

Also Read |Only a handful of cryptocurrencies will survive, says Raghuram Rajan

” See the kind of inflation we are facing. Your bank savings won’t match the inflation. The value of whatever I earn or save will eventually decrease and I will have to suffer from inflation. Gold to a certain level solves this problem but it has its limitations, you can only store to a limit and it costs you as well. Also you cannot transfer gold. Hence, I find it best investment,” he said.

When asked if he is aware of the high risk it carries he said, ” it’s not regulated by government which means government says, if you loose I won’t come to save you if your are investing in. That is why it’s risky. That’s why a lot of people are welcoming regulation.”

While many aspire to become millionaire with Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies , Pankaj finds it best way to solve inflation related issues.

“I don’t expect bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to change my life. What’s wrong in it? Earlier, people were investing in lands and women used to buy gold now its new age and people are investigating in crypto which many consider as digital gold. I wanted to find out a solution for inflation. It might change my life I might be extreme lucky but I feel even if i manage to meet the inflation with this investment than I am a winner.”.

“I have not invested everything I own, I can afford to lose some,” he said. “Secondly, even if the (government bans it, they will provide a window to cash out your funds, he added.

On a possible ban, he said, “Govt may bring a bill to ban it but a lot of money is already invested in crypto and may impact our economy too. As far as I m concerned I have not invested everything I own, I can afford to lose some. Before it is ban we can encash the same as well.”

They’re only banning private cyptocurrencies. So Bitcoin, Ether, and other bigger coins will survive. Also, there’s a good chance that XRP might be used for the creation of the Digital Rupee. Bhutan and Palau are already doing this for their ‘CBDC’. But I am scared that the Government might create some vague/random definition of ‘private’ cryptocurrencies.”

When asked if he will sell off his coins he said, “Going to wait until they define it. They should provide some notice.I am ready to take risk.”

Investor from Ahmedabad

In March 2021, Shaishav Bhatt (29) quit his job as an IT professional in Ahmedabad to concentrate full-time on trading in cryptocurrencies.

Shaishav tired his hand with cryptocurrencies in 2017. “People usually enter a new asset class when there is a boom and they see likelihood of making profits. Like others, I too first purchased digital currency in 2017 at a time when the prices of Bitcoins had quadrupled to USD 20000. I began with investing Rs 30000 of my monthly savings. I had bought Ripple which had also shot up five times,” he told The Indian Express.

Shaishav who was just 26 years old, went in alone and was later joined by a couple of friends from his workplace. “The idea about investing in cryptocurrency came during discussions with friends. During these talks, friends used to share stories of investments made through cryptocurrencies that led to multiple rise in personal wealth. I personally had little clue about the risks involved. Whatever knowledge, I had was acquired largely by seeing videos and reading on the subject from the internet. Within a short time, I ended up investing Rs 3 lakh in cryptocurrencies,” he says adding that being a youngster his appetite to take risks was more compared to a middle-aged person. “I knew, I had little of lose and even if I failed, I had enough time to recover monetarily from the failure,” he added.

Being a new entrant without any mentor Shaishav did make mistakes and clocked losses. “By beginning of January 2018, the markets began to fall and I saw my investments reduced to Rs 1.5 lakh within a couple of days. The falls were massive. I remember each day I ended up losing 25-50 percent. The problem with new entrants like me was the inability to book profits as we lack experience and knowledge,” he added.

Apart from the depletion in investments, Shaishav said he also initially committed a “mistake” while trying to sell the cryptocurrency to cover the losses he already made. “I lost Rs 1.25 lakhs more during the first few months after buying cryptocurrency. I was in a haste to recover my seed money and I ended up losing more money. I remember how shit scared I was then,” he said.

He however continued to invest and six months after Shaishav first bought cryptocurrency he managed to book a profit and even encash it in March 2018. In the next few years, he continued to prosper without any serious downfall. “I left my job in March 2021. It was not that I did not love my job, but I was facing time constraints. I picked trading in cryptocurrency over job only after I had accumulated enough wealth that can help sustain me even if I do not have a single paise of income for 2.5 years,” he added.

Despite the news about Government introducing a bill to regulate cryptocurrencies operating in India, Shaishav Bhatt continues to remain invested. “The markets tanked about 15 percent when this news became public. The government has not taken a final call and I will wait for the government to make public the details of the bill before taking a decision,” he added

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