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Crypto craze catches on in small cities


Mumbai: Nirav Vyas, who works in a small accounting firm, now spends hours glued to a screen, closely tracking prices of bitcoin, ethereum, solana, cardano and dogecoin.

“I have nearly doubled my crypto investments in the last two months. It is the best advice any friend ever offered to me,” says the 28-year-old resident of Ahmedabad.

About 1,200 km away, Yashika has started designing non-fungible tokens or NFTs in Chandigarh, after she managed big returns from crypto trading. “I started investing in cryptocurrencies soon after I learnt about NFTs,” says the 25-year-old, who uses only one name. “I started my journey as an NFT artist and along the way, I started learning and researching more and more about cryptocurrencies and what could make a good investment.”



Yashika has invested in binance, ethereum, bitcoin and doge, and has been actively trading in crypto assets since March this year.

Vyas and Yashika are the faces behind the Indian cryptocurrency boom. They are educated, they are sharp and they don’t live in big cities.

Youngsters and investors from tier-2 and tier-3 cities have flocked to cryptocurrency platforms in the last few months of the pandemic.

Crypto exchanges are now recording more growth from smaller cities than metros, as per data from top exchanges.

Riding on the trend, cryptocurrency exchanges have also actively targeted a new breed of professionals residing in smaller cities with new schemes and fresh products.

The exchanges say the average age of investors has dropped while their investments have gone up.

Leading crypto exchange WazirX said the majority of its users are below 35 years of age and that it has recorded 2,648 per cent growth in user signups in 2021 from tier-2 and tier-3 cities of India.

“In fact, tier-2 and tier-3 cities have driven almost 55 per cent of total user sign-ups on WazirX in 2021, thereby overtaking tier-1 cities, which demonstrated a sign-up growth of 2,375 per cent,” said Nischal Shetty, CEO at WazirX.

Other exchanges too have recorded similar trends with most of the new cryptocurrency investors coming from cities such as Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Patna, Bhopal, Vadodara and Kolkata.

As per data available with BuyUcoin, a cryptocurrency exchange, Bhopal saw the highest jump — by 100 per cent — in new investors this year.

Data from top exchanges show that more than 90 per cent of the new investors are IT professionals, MBA graduates, engineers and startup owners.

Industry trackers say the new age investors are not only changing the way they invest but also how they invest and in which assets they invest.

Crypto

These investors are not just sticking to bitcoins but are also buying and trading other cryptocurrencies, which seems to be a hedging strategy.

Most of the new age investors are also taking a cautious call before they follow the herd.

“Some coins are purely speculative, so the returns depend on market trends. Whereas blockchain-based projects are majorly dependent upon usability,” said Priya Ratnam, a 34-year-old resident of Hyderabad with an MBA degree, who started investing in crypto assets in April this year.

“Average investment in 2021 was almost 30 per cent higher than 2020. Positive news around regulation across the globe and overall healthy bull cycles in assets like bitcoin, ethereum, dogecoin, cardano and solana contributed to this fact,” said Shivam Thakral, CEO at BuyUcoin.

The exchanges are now introducing schemes similar to systematic investment plans (SIPs) to attract more nouveau investors.

“We have just launched a bundled crypto SIP product, which will lower the entry barrier for investors. We have also introduced features like lending, stacking, margin-trading as part of our long-term growth strategy,” said Thakral.

“We plan to launch five investment index products on our website by the end of the month. An investor can follow these indexes for investment advice,” added Hitesh Malviya, founder, itsblockchain.com.

Many other exchanges are now betting big on NFTs, which the new investors have started showing interest in.

“Over $108,000 worth of NFTs have been sold on our NFT Marketplace till now,” said Shetty.

Among the main reasons fuelling the growth of cryptocurrencies in smaller cities are social media and aggressive marketing by influencers, experts say.

The spurt in the new age investors seems to be colluding with not just the Covid-19 pandemic, where most professionals are working from home, but even positive overtures from the Indian government.

“Till last year, India had around five million crypto users, which went up to 15 million, making India the third country in the world for crypto adoptions,” said Kumar Gaurav, CEO of Cashaa, an online banking platform to manage fiat and cryptocurrencies.

And most of the new buyers and investors in this time have come from smaller cities, say industry trackers.

Another trend that many experts have observed is the rise in the number of women who are investing. The percentage of women investors has gone up from around 15 per cent about a year ago to between 30 per cent and 40 per cent across platforms, say exchanges.

Despite regulatory confusion and hiccups on the payment front, new investors are flocking to the exchanges.

In September, however, in what many claim was following an informal Reserve Bank of India (RBI) diktat, State Bank of India and a few other banks decided to block the receipt of funds by crypto bourses on their Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platforms.

The exchanges claim that the clampdown had no major impact on their transaction volumes as the new age investors and traders are very comfortable with the new ways, such as peer-to-peer transactions.

“People have all options open to buy cryptos on our platforms,” said Sumit Gupta, co-founder & CEO at CoinDCX, a cryptocurrency exchange. “With regard to the investors’ convenience, at CoinDCX, all remittance operations are fully functional through our three payment methods — a third-party based automated route, an INR deposit via our current banking partner and through UPI transactions. Additionally, we continue to explore other payment channels to enhance convenience in line with our efforts in providing the best customer service.”



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