Why we are bullish on crypto in India

Preface

India enters 2022 with a large, rapidly growing economy that the Indian government projects will grow by 9.2% to reach $3.1 trillion this year. According to the IMF (which estimates growth at a more conservative 8.5%), India will retain the title of the fastest growing economy in the world in 2022, beating out China’s growth estimated at 5.6%.

  • According to the World Bank, India’s population is 1.35 billion and is growing on average by 1% YoY, making it the world’s largest democracy by population.
  • The median age in India in 2020 was 28.4 years, with China at 38.4 years and the US at 38.3 years according to UN figures.
  • Though India is an old civilization with a rich cultural history, it has only existed as a modern independent state since 1947.
  • India has 1.18 billion mobile connections, 700 million internet users and 600 million smartphones according to the NHA.
  • 80% of Indians over 15 years old have a bank account (World Bank Global Findex Report 2017).
  • The “India Stack”, the moniker for a set of open APIs and digital public goods that aim to unlock the economic primitives of identity, data and payments at population scale, has brought substantial gains in financial inclusion (IMF):
    - The Aadhaar [Digital ID] is a unique 12 digit number given to every Indian citizen using biometric inputs, and is a primary identifier that can be used to roll out several Government welfare schemes and programmes. 1.2 billion people — almost 90% of India’s population — signed up for a digital ID in less than a decade.

Background

While many Asian countries experienced rapid economic development over the course of the latter half of the twentieth century, India lagged behind. This was in no small part due to the country’s protectionism, over-regulation and socialist policies, enforced by the License Raj. The License Raj was a complex system of licenses and rules that were necessary to start and run an Indian company, restrictions included the need for certain licenses to start a new business and increase production capacity, or specific permission to hire and fire workers. With high tariffs, limited import restrictions and outright bans on specific items, imports were effectively shut off. By the 1980s, India had among the highest tariffs in the world.

Source: Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia

Digital India — a foundation for Web3

Mature, interoperable digital infrastructure creates opportunities for novel digital products, services and conveniences previously implausible in a predominantly cash, brick and mortar economy. Such core technologies include:

  • Internet, broadband
  • Mobile telecom and digital communication suites, including apps
  • Data centers and networks
  • Enterprise portals, platforms, systems, and software
  • Cloud services and software
  • Operational security, user identity and data encryption
  • APIs and integrations

Internet

Covid-19 lockdowns and a push for rural internet development led to increased growth in internet penetration in recent years, with India catching up to the OECD average according to data from the World Bank. In 2021, the percentage of Indians using the internet breached 60% for the first time and is likely to continue rising.

Mobile / Smartphone

India has the second highest number of smartphone users globally, with substantial room for deeper smartphone penetration throughout the country.

APIs: The India Stack

Organizations developing digital applications benefit from a comprehensive, well supported tech stack. For India’s governments, corporations, startups and independent developers, a novel, shared tech-stack — IndiaStack — was developed to handle the unprecedented challenge of onboarding more than a billion citizens in a single generation to the digital age.

mAadhaar app. Source: NDTV
Source: Nandan Nilekani: Identity, Payments, Data empowerment 2019
Source: https://www.bain.com/insights/how-india-shops-online-2021/
Source: https://www.bain.com/insights/how-india-shops-online-2021/
Source: Forbes India / Shutterstock

What this all means

Source: BIS
What crypto incorporation to IndiaStack may look like. Source: https://balajis.com/add-crypto-to-indiastack/

India’s Web3 Awakening

According to recent estimates from Chainalysis, India has the second highest rate of crypto adoption in the world, based on sizable transaction volumes on peer-to-peer platforms (when adjusted for purchasing power parity per capita and internet-using population).

  • CoinSwitch data suggests that as of August 2021, the average age of an Indian crypto investor is 24. In addition, for more than 65% of their users, crypto was the first asset class that they invested in besides having a traditional bank fixed deposit,
  • Account registrations from users in Tier-II and Tier-III have boosted several CEX companies to over 2,000% user base growth in 2021.
Source: https://twitter.com/BeingSalmanKhan/status/1448181752455856130?s=20
Source: https://nft.wazirx.org/
Source: https://www.fancraze.com/
Source: https://cricketcrazy.io/
Source: https://twitter.com/SinoGlobalCap/status/1473319708963536896

Gaming in India

According to a KPMG report, the number of online gamers in India grew from ~250 million in 2018 to ~400 million by mid 2020, with the sector expected to triple in value and reach $3.9 billion by 2025. Over 50% of India’s population is below the age of 25, with this age group accounting for 60% of the nation’s gamers (https://www.investindia.gov.in/team-india-blogs/rise-indian-gaming-industry-tekken-ludo-king).

Source: KPMG
  • Mobile gaming now dominates the Indian gaming industry, accounting for more than 90% of the $1.6 billion market, and is predicted to rise to $3.9 billion by 2025.
  • Axie Infinity Scholarships have expanded across India with the Axie India discord server having almost 350 verified scholars. In fact, for many Indians, Axie truly was a game changer, positively impacting the lives of many gamers during Covid-19.
  • YGG and other large guilds are actively recruiting players and partners from the Indian subcontinent, even launching a dedicated subDAO; Indi.gg.

The Workshop of Crypto — Desi Developers and the Democratization of Talent

India’s economic development has been increasingly intertwined with the nation’s technological output, mainly in software and engineering. India’s reputation for inexpensive and quality software production is to be expected with its army of 5.8 million developers, the second-largest globally as estimated by GitHub.

Image source: Statistica
Source: The Times of India
Source: 2021 Silicon Valley Software Engineering Talent Report

Indian Unicorns

Over 350 blockchain startups now operate domestically in India according to the Observer Research Foundation.

  • The traditional startup ecosystem in India yielded three unicorns per month on average in 2021, raising the country’s tally to a record 81.
  • India has become an ideal habitat for unicorns, rising to 3rd globally according to a Hurun India report.
  • India’s first Web3 unicorn, CoinDCX minted in 2021 (https://qz.com/india/2046046/how-coindcx-became-indias-first-cryptocurrency-unicorn/). CoinDCX, a cryptocurrency exchange and the first Indian blockchain company to break the 10 figure barrier, has focused on onboarding consumers at scale, skillfully executing on a retail-centered business model, as reflected in its $1.1b valuation.
  • This impressive growth has been supported by over $630m in investments dedicated to Indian blockchain companies.
  • According to NASSCOM, institutional investment also grew to over $25m, with dozens of banks, asset managers, and insurance companies participating in early-stage Web3 fundraising.
Source: NASSCOM
  • The revenues brought in by Web3 unicorns can be attributed to breakthrough milestones in user registration, by almost entirely retail users.

Polygon: Desi Crypto’s Magnum Opus

Polygon, formerly Matic, the swiss army of Ethereum scaling was founded by Jaynti Kanani, Sandeep Nailwal, Anurag Arjun, and Serbian programmer and entrepreneur Mihailo Bjelic in 2017. Polygon’s legacy as India’s flagship Web3 Ecosystem cannot be understated:

  • In January 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a draft concerning India’s national strategy on blockchain products. The report forecasted that by EoY 2022, at least one business worldwide, created using blockchain technology, would be worth $10 billion. India’s own Polygon was able to breach the $10b valuation mark by only mid-2021.
  • Polygon also took on significant risk in building out a standalone L1 ecosystem, given an almost entirely Indian team operating in India’s uncertain regulatory environment. Organizationally, Polygon aimed to differentiate itself from others by taking an active role in assisting the development of projects within the Matic ecosystem and kickstarting a broader Indian Web3 momentum.
  • In order to realize their ambitious goals, Polygon sponsored and hosted upwards of 200 hackathons in India over the last 2 years. Through their Developer Support Program, India’s blockchain developers were provided technical, financial, talent sourcing, and outreach-related support. Furthermore, Polygon assisted up-and-coming projects via their Matic Ecosystem Initiative for largely India-based domestic teams, for example, Marlin Protocol.

Polygon’s Empire: Scaling beyond L1

  • Business Development: Matic’s rebrand to Polygon signified a strategic change to become a layer-two aggregator as well as a flexible chain capable of diverse on-chain functionality, including roll-ups and other scaling mechanisms.
  • M&A: Polygon acquired Hermez Network in 2021, in order to cement Polygon’s ambition to implement a comprehensive on-chain solution for all Ethereum scaling technologies. Shortly later, the launch of Polygon Miden, an EVM compatible rollup powered by zk-STARKs, was announced. To date Polygon has spent more than $1b in the development of zero-knowledge technology.
  • Partnerships: The project has had multiple collaborations in India, the most notable being with the consulting wing of Infosys Ltd, one of the largest IT companies in India called M-Setu which is an open-source bridge that allows enterprises to cross-operate using the Ethereum blockchain.

Polygon Studios

Polygon Studios is a targeted initiative for contributors to the development of Polygon’s gaming metaverse and NFT ecosystems. Polygon’s initiative supports and provides infrastructure for blockchain game builders, as well as grants to attract artists and investors to their NFT ecosystem. Specifically, the Polygon Studios entity intends on releasing SDKs for developers, investing in smaller companies, marketing the platform as an accelerator and expanding technological support to developers. In a major vote of confidence for the platform, Polygon Studios recently onboarded YouTube’s head of gaming, Ryan Wyatt, to head the team.

Regulatory landscape — a timeline

Before we start, it should be noted that India has never banned cryptocurrency by law, nor has it ever been illegal to hold cryptocurrency, at any point of time.

  1. Profit or loss on transactions involving cryptocurrency;
  2. Amount of currency held as at the reporting date; and
  3. Deposits or advances from any person for the purpose of trading or investing in cryptocurrency.
https://twitter.com/SinoGlobalCap/status/1488818279036694528

Conclusion

India is brimming with opportunities and becoming a major international hub for blockchain development is only a matter of time.

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A team of former consulting, Wall Street, private equity, government, and corporate veterans accelerating the blockchain revolution

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Sino Global Capital

Sino Global Capital

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A team of former consulting, Wall Street, private equity, government, and corporate veterans accelerating the blockchain revolution