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Talk of cryptocurrency is everywhere these days, and for good reason. Ten years have passed since the introduction of Bitcoin by Satoshi Nakamoto, the moniker for the unknown individual or group behind crypto’s first development.
The past decade has been marked by the challenges facing any disruptive technology–uncertainty, speculation, regulatory struggles, and pie-in-the-sky visions. Today, Bitcoin, blockchain, and the ever-increasing litter of altcoins are now widely accepted as the way of the future.
Celebrity Support for Digital Currency
In India, support of non-fiat cryptocurrency and its underlying tech is fuelled in part by celebrity interest.
Celebrity involvement with crypto reflects a broader trend of Indian showbiz personalities diversifying into businesses and activities outside of entertainment. Bollywood stars aren’t just entertainers these days; a number are savvy business tycoons and investors. From Ajay Devgn providing venture capital to the Charanka solar project to Nawazuddin Siddiqui bluffing for PokerStars, there’s no end to what these celebrities can accomplish.
The list of famous Indian entertainers fascinated by the crypto craze is a who’s who of Bollywood and beyond. Raj and Shilpa Shetty Kundra, R. Madhavan, Huma Qureshi Neha Dhupia, Prachi Desai, Nargis Fakhri, Vir Das are all known to have publicly expressed support for Bitcoin.
And when high-profile entertainers lend their voices to a cause, the public listens.
The global news portal MSN estimates there are one million Bitcoin users or enthusiasts in India. That sounds like a drop in the bucket in a nation closing in on 1.4 billion, but considering the concept of crypto was the stuff of science fiction a few years ago, it demonstrates remarkable traction.
Bitcoin for Beginners, a book by software developer Amit Bhardwaj was a catalyst for many celebrities to enter the cryptocurrency arena. Once hailed as a “Bitcoin hero”, Bhardwaj had been involved in crypto research since 2012. Several entertainers caught wind of his work and offered Bhardwaj encouraging tweets.
Bhardwaj and his crypto businesses were eventually exposed as unsavoury operations last year in a headline-grabbing story that exposed the murky side of cryptocurrency. However, Bollywood’s crypto interest has marched on largely undeterred.
The celebrity hyping of Bitcoin has led to a greater awareness of India’s popular exchange services like Unocoin, Zebpay, Coinsecure, and BTCXIndia. Once people know where and how to obtain cryptocurrencies online, the ease of transacting attracts repeat business and new customers.
The Role of Crypto Regulation
Another factor seeming to drive the groundswell of crypto curiosity is the Indian government’s shifting opinion and policy outlook. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) approached cryptocurrency as a scalding hot pan in December 2013 when it warned citizens about the risks of trading and holding digital currency. Indian officials spent the ensuing years prohibiting banks from offering cryptocurrency services and largely portraying crypto as a seedy scheme.
Crypto ventures and supporters have fought back, challenging the government and forcing satisfactory regulation measures through court intervention. India must now decide how best to fairly and sensibly oversee cryptocurrency.
The government is currently in the midst of a four-week sprint session at the behest of the Supreme Court to offer up a clear regulatory framework.
In response, the Indian crypto community is rallying together to make their voices heard in an ambitious roadshow throughout March. Some 30-40 crypto companies and prominent advocates are banding together for four town hall events staged around the nation. The goals of this national campaign are to share knowledge, weigh input from the community, and draft a joint report of recommendations to submit to the government.
It should be noted that, despite the increasing public awareness and general warm reception of cryptocurrency, these decentralized assets do remain an uncertain investment. The global crypto market reached unpredicted highs in late-2017 before crashing for most of 2018. Just like any investment class, there’s inherent risk in crypto, and potential investors should be well educated on the subject.
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