India's Crypto Economy
India's Crypto Economy is a brand-new weekly newsletter (delivered every Thursday) from Inc42 to help you decode the rapidly growing crypto economy and its implications on business, work and life. We launched this newsletter on the 4th anniversary of our weekly series “Crypto This Week” which completed 190 editions in May, 2021.
In 2019, China performed the world’s first remote surgery using a 5G connection as a surgeon, some 30 miles away from the medical facility, carried out the entire operation.
It is just one application. Over the next few years, we may discard online meeting tools like Zoom or Google Meet or social media chats, for that matter, and start meeting our friends, family and coworkers digitally that will not be different from physical meetings.
We will be living in the metaverse, an alternative digital reality away from today’s Web 2.0 world.
This is not a far-fetched idea, as big tech companies will tell you. In fact, social media giant Facebook aims to be a metaverse company in the coming years. During its Q2 earnings call in July, 2021, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “In the coming years, I expect people will transition from seeing us primarily as a social media company to seeing us as a metaverse company.”
But what is metaverse in the first place? The word, coined by American writer Neal Stephenson in his dystopian sci-fi novel Snow Crash (1992), refers to an immersive digital experience.
“It’s a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces. You can kind of think about this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at. We believe this is going to be the successor to the mobile internet,” – Mark Zuckerberg
In recent years, Facebook, based on a Web 2.0 platform, has been working on a slew of projects to emerge as a metaverse company in the true sense. These initiatives include the crypto project rechristened Diem (previously Libra, a much-touted global digital currency that never made its appearance), a virtual reality workspace, VR goggles and smart wristbands.
According to Zuckerberg, creators, commerce and the next computing platform will unlock a lot of value on their own, but together, they will help build the metaverse.
In brief, metaverse will be part and parcel of Web 3.0.
Before we delve deeper, here is a quick look at how the Web has evolved over the years.
Commenting on the essential features of Web 3.0, Rohas Nagpal, chief blockchain architect at the US-based Wrapped Asset Project that aims to bring the world’s assets on popular blockchains, told Inc42 that Web 3.0 relies upon open, trustless and permissionless networks. This means:
- Open and transparent standards
- Ability to interact without trusting third parties
- Ensuring that no authority can ban a participant
Unsurprisingly, blockchain is the only technology that meets these requirements, and it is likely to be an essential part of the future tech that the likes of Facebook are developing, Nagpal added.
While Facebook is still working on its metaverse ambitions, California-based metaverse company IMVU and the like have already gone deep into the alternative digital reality and leveraged its business opportunities.
For instance, IMVU, the world’s largest 3D avatar social platform, currently has 7 Mn monthly active users. According to reports, the company, backed by its native cryptocurrency VCOIN, has a marketplace that offers more than 50 Mn items.
“As related technology progresses over time, the realism and capabilities of virtual experiences have improved dramatically drawing more users to connect in the virtual world,” said IMVU CEO Daren Tsui.
“Metaverses are alternative universes where we can live a purely ‘digital life’. The best way to earn and spend in a metaverse is through cryptocurrencies — fungible and non-fungible tokens (NFTs),” said Nagpal.
All these sound pretty exciting, but what role will Indian innovators and entrepreneurs play in this new world?
Lately, we have seen India making great strides in the blockchain space and competing with global leaders like the US and Japan. According to a blockchain company ConsenSys, India ranks 6th in terms of MetaMask users (it is a cryptocurrency wallet and a gateway used to interact with decentralised applications), and this underlines the popularity of crypto across the country. What’s more, the country is home to 300+ blockchain startups, according to a report published by the tech lobby IndiaTrade.org. Together, they could be working on innovative solutions to build the metaverse in India.
The action has already started. For instance, in May, this year, the open-source platform NEAR has launched the NEAR India Accelerator programme, offering up to $200K in funding and mentorship from global experts in the blockchain and startup space.
NEAR is backed by Woodstock Fund, a multiasset investment firm focussing on DLT and other emerging technologies, and Fracton Ventures, a Japanese investment and development platform specialising in Web 3.0.
The accelerator will also support innovative startups with impactful solutions built on the NEAR protocol and provide all its cohorts with go-to-market access to the NEAR and Woodstock Fund ecosystem.
Are Indian entrepreneurs ready to be part of this big game?
Tweet Of The Week
Metaverse is largely perceived as an immersive digital environment, and many have been arguing if it is real. Responding to the widespread debate, Binance founder and CEO Changpeng Zhao said metaverse is real because the economy is real.
Announcing Pitch42: Discovering India’s Hottest Blockchain Startups
The crypto ecosystem in India is adapting and evolving, and we think there is no better time than now to discuss more, capture the trends and peek into the future. That is one of the key reasons we are hosting The Crypto Summit 2021, India’s largest crypto and blockchain event, on 18-19 September, in association with CoinSwitch Kuber, Polytrade, Tezos and Persistence.
But a conference is incomplete without highlighting new-age innovations. Hence, we are happy to announce Pitch42 in association with Persistence and BuidlersTribe, an initiative to discover India’s hottest blockchain startups.
With Pitch42 in place, as many as 10 startups will get a chance to pitch in front of 1,000+ delegates during the upcoming crypto summit, and the top 3 startups will win $25K each from BuidlersTribe.
For Binge Reading
Selling Below Clearing Prices: In this blog, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin looks into why sellers sell below clearing prices, thus impacting the overall ecosystem in a big way. He also responds to the pertinent question of our times: Are there ways of achieving the same goals with more fairness, less inefficiency and less harm? Go through the interesting alternatives Buterin suggests.
The Bitcoin Way: When a company goes bust, should the government bail it out? In this blog, author Aditya Ravi Raj decodes bitcoin through political, economic, technical and philosophical lenses.
Crypto This Week | News Doing The Rounds
Amitabh Bachchan Gets On The NFT Bandwagon
Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan recently announced plans to roll out his limited NFT collection through BeyondLife.club, an NFT platform. It is a joint venture between Rhiti Entertainment and GuardianLink.io, a no-code NFT exchange. .
Crypto Relief Fund Donates $15 Mn To UNICEF India
Backed by Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin, the Crypto Relief Fund — an initiative by Polygon cofounder and CEO Sandeep Nailwal — announced its partnership with UNICEF India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to procure 160 Mn syringes for faster deployment of Covid-19 vaccines across the country.
Nailwal said in a tweet that his Crypto Relief Fund donated $15 Mn (more than INR 110 Cr) to UNICEF India.
RBI Governor’s Take On CBDC
Commenting on the central bank digital currency (CBDC), RBI governor Shaktikanta Das said that the central bank would first launch a pilot project by the end of 2021. According to him, the security and integration of CBDC remain the most critical tasks at the moment.
MRHB DeFi, Coinsbit India Tie Up To Bring Halal Crypto To India
Sydney-based MRHB DeFi, which claims to follow the Islamic principles of finance as the world’s first halal DeFi ecosystem, has joined hands with Indian trading platform Coinsbit to cater to 200 Mn Indian Muslims.
MRHB DeFi is following the Shariah principles, where businesses have to operate in conjunction with Islamic teachings. Under the partnership, MRHB DeFi will integrate Coinsbit’s portal with its app Sahal Wallet, enabling Indian users to use Coinsbit for trading crypto assets.
Starting With India’s Polygon, Coinbase To Scale Ethereum Using L2 Solutions
The protocol team of the US-headquartered crypto exchange Coinbase is working on scaling Ethereum by integrating it with L2 and other scaling solutions. Starting with Polygon, Coinbase will explore other L2 scaling solutions such as Optimism, Arbitrum and StarkWare over time.
Having invested in a bunch of Indian startups, Coinbase is also on a hiring spree to strengthen its development team in India.
Ex-RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan Bets On Stablecoins
Lately, crypto has gained a lot of appreciation for the underlying technology it uses. RBI former governor Raghuram Rajan is no exception.
“I think there will be use cases that will emerge. Stablecoins, properly regulated, have a future,” said Rajan, who is currently teaching finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
Rajan also questioned their current valuation, saying that the fundamental backing of that valuation was not clear. Valuation has always been a concern for the regulatory authorities across the world, including India’s RBI.
However, leading stablecoins like Tether have not been able to maintain transparency with regards to their backing. Experts have raised questions pertaining to the true valuations of stablecoins too.
Is Tether really backed by the US dollar? What’s your take?
Till Next Week,