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2021 In Review: NFT Mania And The Celebrities That Caught It

2021 In Review: NFT Mania And The Celebrities That Caught It

From Salman Khan to Sunny Leone, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are the biggest craze among the who’s who of the cricket and Bollywood industries.

Actors, directors and producers are joining NFT projects in various capacities including as investors, creators and collaborators

NFTs have become incredibly popular among crickets, from Rishab Pant to Dinesh Kartik and Zaheer Khan to Smriti Mandhana.

Ever since Mike Winkelmann (beeple) made headlines in April for selling a non-fungible token (NFT) of his artwork for $69 Mn at an auction, everyone seems to be jumping on the NFT bandwagon. 

So far in 2021, users have sent at least $26.9 Bn worth of cryptocurrency to ERC-721 and ERC-1155 contracts, the two types of Ethereum smart contracts associated with NFT marketplaces and collections. 

Most users buy NFTs on dedicated marketplaces, similar to how conventional cryptocurrencies are bought on exchanges. Many NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea, don’t keep custody of users’ NFTs for them but instead allow them to transfer NFTs directly between their own wallets, like P2P exchanges.

But some others like Dapper Labs, handle custody on behalf of users. According to Chainalysis, OpenSea is the most popular marketplace by a wide margin with over $16 Bn worth of cryptocurrency received on the platform so far this year. The chart below shows the monthly share of web traffic to NFT marketplaces split by region. 

The number suggests that NFTs have achieved global popularity just like conventional cryptocurrency, with no region making up more than 40% of monthly web visits since March 2021.

The American National Basketball Association (NBA) partnered with Canadian Dapper Labs to release NFTs of basketball highlights and other trading card-like properties. A Lebron James highlight video sold as an NFT for $200k.

NFTs provide creators with options that traditional fan merchandise couldn’t offer. For example, a creator can mint an NFT with a smart contract that sends proceeds to the creator each time the NFT is sold or bought, and that is just scratching the surface of what can be done with these tokens!

Indian startups weren’t caught unawares by the global buzz surrounding the new technology: Indian startups like GuardianLink.io and Faze are already enabling NFT ecosystems. Chennai-based GuardianLink.io which provides a technology framework for the NFT ecosystem had raised $12 Mn last month. The Series A round was led by Kalaari Capital and another private investor group.

Before that, Mumbai-based Faze Technologies, which allows fans to collect, use, play and interact with cricket through NFTs, had raised a seed round of $17.4 Mn. Led by Tiger Global, the round also saw participation from Coatue Management, Sequoia Capital India, Dapper Labs, Samsung Next and Courtside Ventures.

Faze Technologies had also partnered with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to create exclusive digital collectables of the great moments from the cricket world.

Indian celebrities were not to be left behind by their global contemporaries, with many stars from the world of Bollywood and cricket joining NFT projects, either as collaborators or investors. 

Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan’s NFT collection announced in August, went live on the NFT platform BeyondLife.club yesterday. On the very first day, the audio NFT of the veteran actor reciting his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem collection Madushala has received a bid of $420K, making it the highest bid for an NFT in the country.

Legendary Indian actor Kamal Haasan has partnered with Fantico to launch his digital avatar as an NFT in a metaverse where Fantico will launch a game based on him. 

But they are far from the only Indian celebrities to associate with the new technology. We have compiled a list of as many of them as possible—something that reads like a mini who’s who of the Indian movie and cricketing fraternity. 

Amitabh Bachchan 

Amitabh Bachchan made waves in the industry with his announcement of the rolling out of an NFT collection through BeyondLife.club, an NFT partnership between Rhiti Entertainment and no-code NFT exchange platform GuardianLink.io

But that wasn’t the first time the actor affectionately known as Big B ventured into blockchain technology: In May 2015, Amitabh Bachchan and his son, actor Abhishek Bachchan had invested $250 K in a Singapore-based blockchain company Meridian Tech and made $17.5 Mn by 2017.

On the very first day of the launch, an audio NFT of the veteran actor reciting his late father Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poem collection Madushala received a bid of $420k, the highest bid for an NFT in the country. The launch also featured a collection of autographed posters and other collectables based on Bachchan and his work, which received bids of over $100k 

The auction also featured loot boxes priced at $10 each. More than 300,000 crypto collectors had signed up for the 5,000 loot boxes available. 

Bhalchandra (Bhau) Kadam And Kaushal Bhadrike

Bhau Kadam and Kaushal Bhadrike are popular Marathi actors who are set to star in recently released Marathi comedy film Pandu. Pandu became the first Marathi film to release along with its own NFT drop on the 3rd of December this year.

ZEE Studios had partnered with NFTically to release custom-made original GIFs from the film as NFTs minted on the Polygon MATIC blockchain. NFTically is a global B2B SaaS provider that allows users to set up their own white-label NFT marketplace.

Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar

In March 2018, the Indian cricket team faced Bangladesh in the finals of the Nidahas Trophy and the match moved towards a dramatic end with Dinesh Karthik on the crease needing 5 runs to win from the last ball of the match.

Despite carrying the expectations of an entire nation on his shoulders, Karthik smashed Bangladesh cricketer Soumya Sarkar’s ball for a six (the highest number of runs that can be won in a single ball, when the batter hits the ball clear over the boundary) and finished the match in style. 

Almost four years later, Dinesh Karthik turned that moment into an NFT with an animation of the last ball, the six by Karthik and the celebration that followed. It featured a voiceover by Karthik narrating his thoughts and emotions while carrying the team to victory.

Separately, Faze Technologies has partnered with the International Cricket Council (ICC) to create exclusive digital collectables of the great moments from the cricket world. On faze’s website, you can buy NFTs of landmark moments in the careers of the biggest names in Indian cricketing history including MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar etc. 

Kamal Haasan 

Legendary Indian actor, director and producer Kamal Haasan had partnered with Fantico, a licensed digital collectables platform, to launch his digital avatar as a non-fungible token in a metaverse where Fantico will launch a game based on him. 

Explained simply, the metaverse refers to a persistently online virtual space with its own economy, jobs, products, services, shopping areas and media to consume. Even though the technology is in its infancy, tech companies across the world are rushing to make sure that they are the first ones to implement the vision 

Krissann Barretto

Krissann Barretto is an Indian television actor who is known for her role in Kaisi Yeh Yaariaan and the reality show Ace of Space 2, both of which aired on MTV India.

Barretto released an NFT collection in collaboration with Colexion who is releasing a pack of ‘interactive trump cards’ featuring more than 30 celebrities including her. 

Kunal Kapoor 

Indian actor and producer Kunal Kapoor had invested in White-label SaaS-based NFT Marketplace NFTIcally along with Nitish Mittersain (Nazara Games), Gaurav Munjal and Roman Saini (Unacademy). Surojit Chatterjee (Coinbase) and Sujeet Kumar (Udaan). 

The funds raised will be used for team building across leadership roles, product development and scalability, and consumer acquisition in and outside India, especially in Southeast Asia and the MENA region, founder Toshendra Sharma told Inc42.

Cricket and Bollywood Celebrities in the NFT space

Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra is an Indian fashion designer and stylist who has been deeply entrenched with the glamorous worlds of fashion and films in the country. He has received many awards for his work on movies including a Filmfare ‘best costume designer’ award in 1996 for his work in the film Rangeela. He has businesses spanning four different verticals including Manish Malhotra Beauty, Manish Malhotra Jeweller, a film production company and a home decor company.

He entered the crypto world with the release of his NFT collection in October this year. The collection included sketches and GIFs of five fashion pieces worn by famous models and actors including Lisa Ray, Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Alia Bhat. 

Parthiv Patel

Parthiv Patel is a former Indian cricketer who played as a wicketkeeper-batsman for the Indian national team. In 2002, he became the youngest wicketkeeper to represent a country in tests when he played as the wicketkeeper of the Indian team. 

Patel cofounded Cricket Foundation which had launched an NFT series through its project ‘cricketcrazy.io’. The platform has attracted many other cricketers including Wasim Akram, VVS Laxman and Lance Klusener. 

Rameet Sandhu

Rameet Sandhu is a Punjabi actor, dancer and singer who lives in the United Kingdom. She release her first single Peengh in 2012, and another solo song Kuriya in 2014. Her first role in a Punjabi film was playing the role of Mandy in Mahi NRI. 

Sandhu released an NFT collection in collaboration with Colexion who is releasing a pack of ‘interactive trump cards’ featuring more than 30 celebrities including her. 

Rishabh Pant 

The Indian wicketkeeper and Delhi Capitals captain bagged another lucrative endorsement deal as he signed up with Rario to sell rare NFTs that document key moments from his career. Ratio has also partnered with the Caribbean Premier League and the Lankan premier league to mint NFTs of highlights from the regional cricket leagues. 

Salman Khan 

Actor Salman Khan is planning to roll out his own digital collectibles in the form of non-fungible tokens through BollyCoin, an ethereum-based marketplace. Launched by producer Atul Agnihotri, the NFT platform will allow fans to mint clips and stills from films, iconic dialogues, posters, unseen footage and social media content and merchandise from celebrities. 

Salman Khan has associated with the platform through Salman Khan Static NFTs. The platform has also partnered with several Bollywood production houses like Salman Khan Films, Arbaaz Khan Production, Sohail Khan production and Nikhil Namit’s Reel Life Productions. 

BollyCoin is slated to launch in December 2021 and has plans to form similar partnerships with more production houses according to a company statement. The marketplace will consist of loyalty programs, a native token called BollyCoin

Salim-Sulaiman

Music composer siblings Salim Merchant and Sulaiman Merchant (known popularly as the duo Salim-Sulaiman) had signed an agreement with Colexion to launch their exclusive NFTs on the platform.

Colexion founder and CEO Abhay Aggarwal informed the media that the duo is curating music tokens to be released through the platform. Colexion is a creative marketplace on the polygon network where fans can buy and trade in digital collectables connected with cricket and entertainment stars. On the platform’s sire, fans can purchase ‘collectable card’ NFTs, including ‘autographed cards’, video moments and other tokens. 

Smriti Mandhana 

Indian cricketer Smriti Mandhana signed up with Rario—an officially licensed cricket-based digital collectibles platform. This association will enable fans of the ace cricketer to purchase moments from her sporting career as ‘autographed’ NFTs and trade them on the same platform. 

In December 2018, the International Cricket Council (ICC) awarded her the Rachael Heyhoe-Flint Award for the best female cricketer of the year. The twenty-five-year-old was also named the ODI (one day international) player of the year by the ICC in the same year. 

Sonu Nigam

Digital entertainment startup JetSynthesys had partnered with celebrated singer, music director, and actor Sonu Nigam to launch an NFT series in London last month. 

The series targeted at the Indian diaspora living abroad features Sonu Nigam’s new English-language single ‘Hall of fame’ and pages from his personal diary where he has penned down key moments of his life and details of his practice and recording session along with lyrics to his popular songs.

Hall of fame is a collaboration between JetSynthesys’s digital entertainment arm Global Music and Nigam’s music company I Believe Music- where JetSynthesys’s global arm Jet Media Network is acting as the tech enabler behind the minting of the NFTs. 

Founded by Rajan Navani in 2014, JetSynthesys has global publishing partnerships with the likes of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), Square Enix and Floyd Mayweather. In August this year, it acquired Chennai-based esports venture Skyesports, creating a new entity called Jet Skyesports—aiming to build an esports community from the grassroots level in India ahead of the 2022 Asian Games. 

The startup counts Sachin Tendulkar, Adar Poonawalla, Kris Gopalakrishnan and the family offices of the promoters of Thermax, Triveni Group, Yohan Poonawalla Group and DSP Group among its investors. 

Suniel Shetty

Suniel Shetty jumped on the NFT bandwagon by joining Colexion, an NFT marketplace on the polygon network, as an investor and advisor. 

Colexion is a creative marketplace on the polygon network where fans can buy and trade in digital collectables connected with cricket and entertainment stars. On Colexion’s site, fans can purchase ‘collectable card’ NFTs, including ‘autographed cards’, video moments and other tokens.

The Dubai-headquartered startup also had plans to launch NFTs of cricket stars like Danielle Wyatt and Kieron Pollards, and entertainment stars like actor Raai Laxmi and singer Mika Singh.  

Sunny Leone

Bollywood actress Sunny Leone had rolled out her own NFTs through Silicon Valley-based Mintdropz. Leone set up a website ‘sunneleonenft.com’ to share her collection crafted and designed by artists from across the world. 

Founded in 2020 by Robin Birla, Ryan Kumar. Karan Sharma and Sunny Sharma, Mintdropz allows creators to set up websites, profiles and social media enabling the selling of NFT collectables directly to fans. The artist can also sell merchandise and other content on their personalised platforms in exchange for Ether. 

Tanuj Virwani

Tanuj Virwani is an actor and model who works in Bollywood. Some of his most well-known roles include that of Vayu Raghavan in Amazon Original series Inside Edge and the roles he played in Alt Balaji’s Code M and Zee5’s Poison.

He has released an NFT collection in collaboration with Colexion. 

Varun Chakravarthy

Varun Chakravarthy is an Indian cricketer who plays as a leg-spin bowler for Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket and Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League. He made his international debut for the Indian cricket team in July 2021.

Chakravarthy released an NFT collection in collaboration with Colexion who is releasing a pack of ‘interactive trump cards’ featuring more than 30 celebrities including him. 

Yuvraj Singh

The left-handed batter is a former Indian international cricketer who played all formats of the game for the country. He is known for his aggressive batsmanship and match-winning all-round performances in international games. In the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, he scored a total of 362 runs and took 15 wickets. During a match against England in the 2007 T20 World Cup, he scored six sixes (the maximum that can be scored from one ball) consecutively in one over. 

During the same match, he also set the record for the fastest half-century in Twenty20 Internationals, reaching a score of 50 in just 12 balls.

Cricketer Yuvraj Singh is set to launch his own NFT collection in collaboration with NFT Marketplace Colexion.

Zaheer Khan 

Zaheer Khan, one of the most successful pace bowlers in Indian cricketing history, has also partnered with Rario to offer up NFTs of key moments from his eighteen-year career which saw him play for the Indian national team internationally; Royal Challengers Bangalore, Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in the IPL and Surrey and Worcestershire in first-class cricket.