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.
Speaking at the Crypto Summit 2021 organised by Inc42 Plus, Ashish Singhal, cofounder and CEO of the recently minted crypto unicorn CoinSwitch Kuber, asserted that the next Google or Facebook based on blockchain technology would come from India.
“Crypto and blockchain will bring more and more Indians into their fold with real use cases, and the government will support those use cases. Over a billion people will be connected to the crypto ecosystem,” he said.
Singhal was right.
Throughout the past year, investors have been bullish on Indian crypto startups. Most of the leading crypto investors, including the US investment giants Tiger Global, a16z and Pantera Capital and others such as Coinbase Ventures and Polychain Capital, put in more than $455 Mn in funding across 17 deals between January 1 and October 9, 2021.
The outcome: While CoinDCX and CoinSwitch Kuber have achieved unicorn status, a host of homegrown crypto startups like Unbound, Biconomy, EPNS, Arcana Network, Powerloom have secured funding from global investors.
The rising interest in the Indian crypto space is reflected all around. A study by data analytics firm Kantar says 83% of urban Indians are now aware of cryptocurrencies, and the segment has seen 16% of ownership.
Cryptocurrency ownership In India is the highest in the top four metros — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Around 20% of Indians from these cities are already crypto owners.
Additionally, 19% of the Indians surveyed intend to invest in cryptocurrency in the next six months. Roughly, two out of 10 urban Indians are likely to be crypto investors by the first quarter of 2022, says the Kantar report.
However, when comes to counting on India as a crypto market vs Indians working on global crypto projects, Balaji Srinivasan, former CTO of the cryptocurrency exchage Coinbase tweeted:
“Moderately bullish on India, extremely bullish on Indians.”
In simple terms, India is not making waves because Indians own a few bitcoins and will invest more in the future. Given the current scenario, a mass-scale adoption of crypto will take a long time for a country as vast as India with roots in fiat money. Meanwhile, talent is crucial for crypto’s growth, and that is where the country is making its mark.
Whether it is Polygon, Solana, Coinbase or the Ethereum ecosystem, we have witnessed Indians contributing to the core of some leading crypto projects across the world.
“India is the second-largest market for Solana and the goal is to develop core protocol developers, defi developers and retail use cases in India that could be as powerful as or even more than Solana’s western market, said cofounder and COO of Solana Labs at The Crypto Summit.
Bengaluru-based staffing services firm Xpheno says that the domestic market has seen a huge demand for blockchain and crypto tech talent in the past 8-10 months, clocking a 50% spike from a year earlier.
Currently, more than 50,000 professionals are working in the Indian crypto industry, and the sector is likely to create 30% more jobs in the coming months, according to a Nasscom and WazirX report.
Is India Producing The Right Set Of Blockchain Talent?
According to Emurgo Academy, a blockchain training institute based in Bengaluru, the Indian IT industry employs 4 Mn workers, and nearly half of them are software developers.
But out of these 2 Mn professionals, only 5,000 (0.25%) have the necessary skills required for blockchain development. This has created massive talent gaps that may lead to missed opportunities and significant revenue losses.
Also, given the crucial nature of the blockchain projects across industry segments, most companies are keen to hire top candidates. The global demand for talented professionals is also rising as Fortune 500 companies like IBM and JPMorgan Chase are gearing up for in-house PoC (proof of concept) or pilot projects to integrate blockchain technology with their business verticals.
Industry veterans like Singhal are aware of this critical talent shortage and its possible impact. “We still have low availability of blockchain experts in product and engineering. So, we would be playing a much bigger role in creating interest, expertise and knowledge base in the blockchain space,” he said.
“Be it fintech, healthcare, supply chain management, manufacturing or record digitisation, there is a growing interest and implementation in this space. Blockchain skills are in high demand across banks and startups. However, we have a limited talent pool, and it becomes challenging to onboard the right talent in time,” said Mudita Chauhan, head of human resources at CoinDCX.
Skills That Matter
Inc42 spoke to nearly half a dozen crypto startups for skill and opportunity mapping. But barring a few support jobs, none except Polygon which plans to hire 50+ freshers would be hiring freshers, especially for operations or engineering. Even working professionals should have exposure to emerging technologies and must be able to handle various roles, said many of the founders.
For instance, when hiring software engineers in India, Coinbase looks for more than three years of software development experience in one or more object-oriented programming languages such as Core Java, Python or Golang. Plus, it requires more than two years’ experience on the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform for designing and developing enterprise platform integrations and APIs.
Asked about skill set requirements, Chauhan of CoinDCX said, “Candidates with a comprehensive understanding of blockchain, data science, app security and development and legal/compliance issues are crucial for running a crypto project successfully. And we are always looking for experience in AI and ML, Java, Python, C, C++, Scala and more as these are equally important. Apart from the skill sets, we look at candidates’ interest in crypto and their knowledge of the crypto industry.”
For some companies, the knowledge of crypto or an understanding of the industry is desirable but not an essential parameter.
According to Sricharan C, the HR head at WazirX that has grown more than 4x in employee headcount since December 2020, the majority of its staff comes from non-crypto backgrounds. This allows him to empower a new generation of talented professionals who have a growth mindset and are self-starters.
For Binge Reading
Using Data Science To Build Crypto Portfolio: Crypto is volatile and does not have intrinsic value like traditional asset classes. So, it is more difficult to design a portfolio around cryptocurrencies. In this article, data scientist Ben Chamblee elucidates how he uses data science to invest in crypto.
Chamblee claims that it helps him identify patterns between multiple cryptocurrencies. That is how he has been able to build a diversified portfolio and make semi-predictable trades to create value.
DeFi 2.0: DeFi 1.0 largely depends on the ethereum ecosystem. However, DeFi 2.0 is not happening on ethereum. Instead, it will leverage up-and-coming small chains like Avalanche and Solana.
These chains have much cheaper gas fees, better transaction speeds and more innovative UIs. Here is a piece by Ann Inw on the emergence of DeFi 2.0.
Startup Pick Of The Week
EPNS Building Decentralised Push Notifications For Web 3.0
Built on top of ethereum, EPNS is a fully decentralised middleware layer, enabling DApps (decentralised applications), smart contracts or traditional services to communicate with users in a privacy-focused decentralised way.
As the blockchain protocol facilitating communication is decentralised, it ensures the delivery of notifications irrespective of the nature of carriers. In short, it covers both decentralised and centralised carriers (iOS, Android, Firefox, Chrome, Telegram, user wallets and more). Read it here.
News Doing The Rounds
Salman Khan To Launch His NFT Collection
After Big B and a few more Bollywood celebs, another superstar decided to enter the NFT marketplace. This time, Salman Khan announced his plans to launch his NFT collection on the NFT marketplace called BollyCoin.
Started by Bollywood producer and director Atul Agnihotri, BollyCoin partnered with Salman Khan Films, Arbaaz Khan Production, Sohail Khan Productionz and Reel Life Productions and would soon launch their NFT collections.
NFTically Secures Pre-Series A Funding
NFTically, a B2B SaaS firm that helps develop white-label NFT stores and marketplaces, raised $500K in Pre-Series A funding. The round was led by marquee investors who invested in their personal capacity.
Among the key investors were Nitish Mittersain, founder and MD of Nazara Technologies; Gaurav Munjal, cofounder and CEO of Unacademy; Sujeet Kumar, cofounder of Udaan; Bollywood actor Kunal Kapoor and Coinbase CPO Surojit Chatterjee.
CoinSwitch Kuber Onboards Ranveer Singh As Brand Ambassador
After CoinDCX roped in Big B last week (which the latter decided to put on hold citing less clarity on policy level), another crypto unicorn CoinSwitch Kuber announced that leading Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh would be its first-ever brand ambassador. The crypto exchange aims to leverage Singh’s popularity among Gen Z and millennial customers.
Coinbase To Launch NFT Marketplace
Following the US SEC’s lawsuit threat, Delaware-headquartered crypto exchange Coinbase cancelled its plan to launch a lending product. Instead, the company will launch Coinbase NFT, a peer-to-peer marketplace.
NFT is on fire, in India and globally. However, most of the artists are still wary of the mediocre arts and collections selling at high prices while real artworks are hardly getting anyone’s attention.
What’s your take?
Till Next Week,
Update (October 18, 2021): Inputs from Polygon have been incorporated into the story.