Has India been bitten by the Bitcoin bug? CoinMonk, a Bangalore-based website is certainly betting big on that. India will host its first Global Bitcoin Conference (GBC) in December and CoinMonk is going all out to bring techies, enthusiasts, business leaders and banking authorities to support the cryptocurrency. The focus will primarily be on educating Indians about the currency with the objective of getting it into mainstream discussion.
If you are unaware of Bitcoin, you can have a look at this primer. But the currency has been at the centre of controversy since the beginning of the year. Since then it has been invoked a number of times for reasons, both legal and illegal. The closure of Silk Road was said to be a big blow to the currency, but it continues to survive and can now be used to gain an education too.
Physical versions of Bitcoin (Image credit: Casascius)
Even in comparison to unstable paper currencies of the world, Bitcoin is very volatile and most recently its value has risen incredibly. Bitcoin started this week trading at $807 on Mt Gox, the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange where 80 percent of all Bitcoin trading is done. That’s nearly eight times its value from August this year. The skyrocketing is due largely to the US government discussing the merits of the currency and Federal Reserve underscoring its potential in the past month. With Bitcoin enthusiasts seeing legitimacy on the horizon, the value has climbed. Bitcoin is definitely mainstream now.
So what exactly does CoinMonk and the Global Bitcoin Conference hope to do in India? Firstly, it’s more about education and than finding legitimacy. “We want to be recognised and make it easier for people to accept Bitcoins in India, where there are too many regulations,” Sathvik Vishwanath, founder of CoinMonk, told The Economic Times. The report goes on to say that there are at least 50,000 users in India, who have shown interest in Bitcoin, with a huge percentage owning it and having their own wallets. The website arranges Bitcoin meetups and awareness workshops in and around Bangalore and the GBC is the logical next step.
Expected at the conference are venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, but more importantly the GBC will also see the presence of the Reserve Bank of India, and the State Bank of India, which does it give an official demeanour. As we had reported earlier, the RBI is watching the digital currency, though it did say it has no intention of regulating Bitcoin in India at the moment. It must be noted that Bitcoin is just one of the many digital currencies currently earning the love of netizens. But it is the most popular in the world, and definitely has the most formidable reputation amongst its peers. Even so, the ushering in of Bitcoin could lead to the popularisation of these others in the country.
It is no secret that local businesses hold the key to the potential rise of Bitcoin and other digital currencies. If more and more Indian businesses open up to the possibility of accepting Bitcoin as payment, the country’s banking establishment will have to take notice too. At the moment, that is still a pipedream as no big-name retailers in India have embraced Bitcoin fully, in contrast to the Western world where even physical stores have started accepting the currency. It’s understandable given that Bitcoin is not as engrained in India, which is why CoinMonk says the GBC is more about educating Indians about how they can buy, sell and propagate Bitcoin than getting the official blessing. The RBI and SBI presence, it is hoped, will only be the side show. For a currency founded on the tenets of decentralization, that just might be the right approach.