Tech giants including Microsoft and IBM have been supporting Bitcoin startups, conferences, accelerators and developers in India. The efforts of these companies are beginning to pay off, as India has seen a gradual increase in the number of developers and freelancers in the Bitcoin ecosystem.
“There is lot of interest from freelancers in India who suddenly are now getting bitcoins from U.S.-based companies, and then they scramble to understand what is bitcoin,” Indian Bitcoin startup Blockonomics founder Shiva Sitamraju told Bitcoin Magazine.
The increase of Indian freelancers’ and developers’ involvement with Bitcoin startups and organizations has created an efficient environment for local people to buy and purchase bitcoins instantly.
“From publicly available sources that display data transparently, like LocalBitcoins and Coinsecure, we see about $4 million-$5 million USD moving in bitcoin in India every month. Apart from that, the forums see few 100 BTC being traded as well,” India’s prominent Coinsecure founder Benson Samuel explained.
Barriers Toward Adoption
Indians are skeptical toward new technologies. It took years for the Internet and smartphones to take off in the country, and it may take even longer for bitcoin to reach mainstream adoption in India.
But, Sitamraju told Bitcoin Magazine, once bitcoin is adopted by a substantial part of the Indian population, it could really explode across the country, especially in rural and underbanked regions.
“Indians are slow technology adopters, and we are far behind China/U.S. in bitcoin adoption. … [O]nce the early adopters/risk [takers] adopt it and enough user-centric applications [sprout]… this stuff really explodes in India. Indians are second-biggest users of blockchain.info, and today, we are seeing growing merchant adoption,” said Sitamraju.
Some of the Indian population’s skepticism towards bitcoin may be due to the Indian government’s tight regulations and restriction for the finance/banking sector. Currently, fewer than 35.5 of households in India maintain bank accounts, and less than 20 percent of the Indian population owns credit cards or debit cards.
“More education and good press coverage is necessary. India has a tightly regulated finance/banking sector and so people/government is a bit weary of new financial instruments,” explained Sitamraju. “It is important to stress than bitcoin is not evil. Tipping people [in] bitcoin so that they can themselves experience the power of the technology is an easy way. Also if major Internet merchants here accept bitcoin it would be a major driving force, as e-commerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon are now booming in India.”
The number of Internet users has been growing at an annual rate of 32 percent, as the cost of smartphones with 3G and 4G data plans and Wi-Fi access have decreased substantially over the last two years. Today, India has more than 300 million Internet users, and the majority are mobile users.
Because of widespread smartphone penetration in India, many users have begun using mobile bitcoin applications such as Blockchain.info and Coinsecure. To continue to this trend, extraordinary bitcoin startups such as Blockonomics emerged over the last few months, to ease the use of bitcoin for the Indian population.
Blockonomics is a simplified wallet watcher that allows users to track transactions and balance of many public bitcoin addresses at one place. Through Blockonomics, users can receive instant notifications and quick overview of pending and confirmed transactions in their wallets.
However, “We are not planning a wallet service, as we believe that the major strength of bitcoin is decentralization and that people should retain control of their own coins,” Sitamraju told Bitcoin Magazine. “We are planning to be a one-stop destination for managing crypto finances having advanced graphs/analytics and eventually becoming the Mint.com of bitcoin.”
Startups such as Blockonomics in HackCoin or bitcoin accelerators recently have been focused on creating Bitcoin applications that could provide users with advanced analytics and data about Bitcoin.
Photo via Coinsecure
Joseph is a web developer and designer, writer and a passionate musician who loves to travel. He has worked as a researcher for a number of venture capital firms and as a freelancer designer for resorts and corporations in Korea and the Philippines.