ALSO READBitcoin price crosses Rs 3 lakh mark in India What investors betting on crypto-currencies should do to minimise risks Bitcoin recovers after roller coaster ride, exchanges advise caution Bitcoin: Decoding the digital currency Indian Bitcoin exchanges urge investor restraint in highly volatile market
Commenting on the thriving bitcoin scene in India, Zebpay co-founder Sandeep Goenka said, "Investing in bitcoin has emerged as a significant trend in the past few months. We have enabled Indians to buy an international asset in a large scale and help them contribute to increase in wealth."
According to Goenka and others involved in this industry, the key benefits that most Indians see in bitcoin are as follows:
• According to leading crypto-currency exchanges in India, crypto-currency is gaining popularity, primarily as a financial asset.
• Bitcoin transactions are more economical than digital transfers.
• Bitcoin allows people to buy goods and services and exchange money without involving banks, credit card issuers or other third parties.
• Despite an 8.9 percent drop in 2016, India has retained its position as a top receiver of bitcoin-related remittances worldwide, as per a World Bank report.
• Bitcoin transactions are more economical than wire transfers.
EthXpay co-founder Subharansh Rai said, "Bitcoin makes payments fast and inexpensive. Payment portals, like banks, levy transaction charges on beneficiaries. With bitcoin, there are no overhead costs or extra charges, making it a more appealing form of payment as workers get paid closer to real wages."
The global bitcoin trade volume is estimated to be about USD five billion a day. India's annual bitcoin trade volume stands at USD 20 billion. Zebpay claims that there are more than 1.5 million bitcoin users in India and 200,000 users are being added each month. Most users buy bitcoins as a financial asset.
India's reluctance to encourage mainstream bitcoin usage is more pronounced in the light of developments taking place in other parts of Asia.
Japan continues to be a trendsetter for bitcoin use and South Korea is also showing a marked interest in blockchain, especially after electronics manufacturer Samsung announced in May that it was exploring corporate use for the software powering Ethereum. China and Russia view the digital coin business with sceptism and consider it to be illegal.
Rai said, "India is already three years behind USA, Japan and Hong Kong when it comes to crypto-currency adoption. We believe this technology will be a game-changer, probably even bigger than what the internet did for us in the 90s. The current concerns by Reserve Bank India only accelerate our need to engage with authorities and regulators to generate awareness about blockchain, which powers the use of bitcoin and other crypto-currencies."
To regulate the flow of bitcoin, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra recently sent notices to the ministries of finance, law and justice, information technology, market regulator SEBI and the RBI to frame an effective mechanism.
Currently, the RBI regards crypto-currencies as a violation of the country's existing foreign exchange norms. It has largely maintained a measured, cautious and vigilant approach about popularizing the use of bitcoin.
Technology enthusiasts, however, believe that the craze for crypto-currency is on the upswing in India.
Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. The acquiring of bitcoins is hassle-free as several market places called "bitcoin exchanges" allow people to buy or sell it using different currencies. Mt.Gox is the largest bitcoin exchange.
The research conducted by Cambridge University in 2017 revealed that there are 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a crypto-currency wallet, most of them using bitcoin. Currently, 1 Bitcoin equals over Rs.48.