Bitcoin’s popularity in India is steadily growing, particularly in the country’s third most populous city, Bangalore. Leading Indian bitcoin exchange Unocoin is based in the city, and has been helping merchants accept bitcoin there. Bitcoin.com talked to CEO Sathvik Vishwanath about the bitcoin economy in Bangalore and throughout India.
Growing Number of Merchants Accepting Bitcoin
Southern Indian city Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru, is India’s third most populous city, with about 8.42 million people.
Many merchants in the area accept bitcoin through the Bangalore-based Unocoin, one of the largest bitcoin exchanges in the country, which also provides merchant services. Early this month, the company reported that it had surpassed 300,000 registered users. The platform also processes more than 200 million INR every month, according to CEO and co-founder Sathvik Vishwanath.
He told Bitcoin.com that the total number of merchants accepting bitcoin in his city is “about 400 now,” adding that:
We have got more than 50 outlets to accepting bitcoin in this month alone.
The use of bitcoin in Bangalore is widespread, Business Standard recently described, adding that products and services that can be purchased with bitcoin in the city include bus tickets, meals, e-shopping vouchers, and getting a haircut.
Some of Unocoin’s merchants include India’s largest book mall Sapna online, India’s first travel portal to accept bitcoin Etravel Smart, mobile DTH data card Reload, hosting services Indsoft and Cyberls, Tecdoc365, Flight Shop, Dharwad International School, The Curators for Creativity, People Place Training & Recruitment, Epaisa, and gift cards and voucher marketplace Nafa.
Bitcoin Adoption Picking Up
“While the traction for adopting bitcoin as a mode of payment saw a dip at the start of this year, it has picked up since then,” Vishwanath told Bitcoin.com. “I think the media is doing quite a good job in letting people know what this technology is all about.”
However, most merchants signing up to accept bitcoin through his company have been in Bangalore. Merchant adoption in other parts of the country is lower “as we do not have a physical presence there and this needs quite a bit of explanation and push for the merchant to consider accepting bitcoin as a mode of payment,” he detailed.
In Bangalore, Unocoin has also been educating and raising awareness about the digital currency. They have been running a Bitcoin meetup group since 2012. The group has 3,227 members currently with 67 past meetups. Attendees learn about and discuss topics such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and blockchain technology.
Positive Regulatory News Helping Bitcoin Grow
“India started on bitcoin quite late. Also Indians are quite risk averse to flock on to something before it has seen global validation,” Vishwanath shared, adding that the government considering legalizing bitcoin has a positive effect on bitcoin adoption in the country. “There has been quite a bit of news about the positive regulations coming for bitcoin which is adding up as well.”
The government is currently in discussions about how to best regulate bitcoin. A task force has been formed to evaluate the situation and come up with recommendations, which is expected to take 6 months. The Supreme Court has also weighed in and ordered the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to report on the risks of digital currencies in four weeks. Eventually, if India decides to regulate bitcoin, it could fall under the jurisdiction of the RBI or the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
Nonetheless, the legalization of bitcoin “would be seen quite positive by the entire country,” Vishwanath believes, adding that:
I am sure that the adoption of bitcoin as a mode of payment for both online services through payment gateway and the physical stores though PoS apps will surge and go through the roof.
What do you think of Bitcoin adoption in Bangalore? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Unocoin, and Nitin Sharma
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