With the speed cryptocurrency is emerging as the Millennial generation’s alternative asset of choice in India, it’s hard to imagine that just two years ago a couple of blockchain pioneers were briefly in police custody.
Sathvik Vishwanath and Harish BV, cofounders of a then five-year-old startup, were arrested in late 2018. No, they hadn’t pulled off a shady initial coin offering. Their “crime” was that they put up a kiosk in a mall in Bangalore where customers could swap Bitcoin, Ether or Ripple for cash or vice versa. That was the whole point of Unocoin, their crypto token exchange. But the police were suspicious of the new-fangled “ATM.”
A lot has changed since then. Unocoin, which just raised financing from Tesla Inc.-backer Tim Draper’s Draper Associates, is flourishing, together with other Indian blockchain ventures. India’s share of person-to-person virtual-currency trading in Asia has surged to 33%, the same as in China, according to Oslo-based Arcane Research’s analysis of volumes on Paxful and LocalBitcoins, the biggest platforms for transactions in the region.