Cryptocurrency is arguably one of the hottest topics in the tech world currently, and those who invested in the early years are reaping the benefits. Even though there is a still a lot of doubt around the digital currency, with the Indian government possibly even looking to ban it, there are a few startups that have flourished over these years. One of them is Unocoin, which was started by a few individuals with keen interest in cryptocurrency. The idea to begin Unocoin stemmed from Bitcoin meetups in the early 2000s, wherein the lack of any reliable source to buy and sell Bitcoins in India needed to be addressed.
The company had a rocky couple of years that included being arrested for installing a crypto ATM in a Bangalore mall, and an intense battle with RBI at the Supreme Court. However, the co-founders stuck on with their goal of bringing ‘Bitcoin to the Billions'. Unocoin is now 74 employees strong and daily trading on the platform is roughly at Rs. 10 crores. It is now a trading platform for 30+ different kinds of cryptocurrencies and the company hopes to be India's first crypto assets exchange to file for IPO.
Expert Opinion: TechArc chief analyst, Faisal Kawoosa says, “Cryptocurrency is a reality. We can't deny it. It's good to see that India is making early inroads into it. However, the concern is ambiguity around its legality. I think we need to have a clear vision about that so that all have confidence to grow it and benefit from it.”
We spoke to COO and Co-Founder of Unocoin, Harish BV to know a bit more about the company's journey, its unique product offering, and its future plans.
COO and Co-Founder of Unocoin, Harish BV
1. What were you doing before Unocoin?
I was working in the Wireless Internet Service Provider segment and also dabbling in manufacturing of wireless antennas.
2. What was the conceptualisation process behind Unocoin? How did you and your co-founders meet?
Unocoin is India's first crypto assets exchange platform launched in 2013. We launched our exchange in 2013 because India didn't have any reliable source to buy and sell Bitcoins. I and my co-founder Sathvik are 15-year-old friends. We both met Sunny, our other co-founder, in Bitcoin meetups. Sunny was the one arranging Bitcoin meetups in Bangalore.
3. What pushed you guys to finally register for this crypto-exchange company?
In 2013, Bitcoin was very new in India and our goal was to bring Bitcoins to billion Indians. In those days, there was no proper platform to buy or sell Bitcoin. In our Bitcoin meetups, people were asking us where they could buy or sell Bitcoins. We saw the big gap and tried to fill it with Unocoin.
4. Could you elaborate what Unocoin is, how it works, who are your investors, and so on?
Unocoin is a Broker service and trading platform of 30+ different kinds of crypto. We support a Systematic investment plan for our customers where one can invest as low as Rs.10 daily, Weekly or Monthly. Earn Interest option to earn the interest by parking the idle crypto, Get Instant Fiat loan without selling BTC by just pledging BTC. Crypto basket where one can make the buy the cryptos by allocating the right amount for various cryptos. Our major investors are Digital Currency Group (Barry Silbert), Draper Associates (Tim Draper), Blume Ventures, Boost VC.
5. Cryptocurreny has become popular in western markets. How far behind is India in getting there?
India is picking up, especially since after we won in Supreme Court in March 2020. The next two years are very important for India to catch up with western markets. India has a huge young population that is tech-savvy, and cryptocurrency is treated as Digital Gold among the young generation.
6. Could you explain why cryptocurrencies are so volatile in nature and have such sporadic swings?
Compared to the early years, crypto assets are now much less volatile. Most of it depends on some news headlines, regulation, and demand and supply. In the early years, only a few people were involved in Bitcoin exchange and that is why it was so volatile. As the market expands and large people adopt to the practice, then the volatility will decrease in the next five years or so.
7. The government is rumoured to pass a law to ban all cryptocurrencies. What do you have to say about that?
The government is confused about cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets. Bitcoins and all the other cryptocurrencies are always treated as digital assets and not as currency. We are continuously working with government agencies. We hope the government will appoint a standing committee and give all stakeholders an option to submit their views on crypto-assets for the Indian ecosystem.
8. Could you share some of the big milestones you've crossed since inception?
Winning against Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in the Supreme Court last year was a big step. I was an Individual applicant in RBI vs IAMAI case. RBI first issued its ban on banks' dealings with crypto businesses back in April 2018. In 2020, SC reversed the ban in favour of cryptocurrency.
9. Could you help give a sense of how far Unocoin has come? From when it began to where it is now
We started our company in 2013 with three employees and now we have more than 70. Regarding our user base, we are now serving 1.5 million customers all over India. Our active monthly users are approximately around 100,000 and we have witnessed 50 percent year over year growth. Our daily trading is roughly at Rs. 10 crores.
10. Is there any particular incident that is monumental in Unocoin's journey? Please share that incident with our readers.
We installed India's first Bitcoin ATM machine in 2018 because RBI restricted Banks to provide a bank account for cryptocurrency users. To give confidence to our cryptocurrency investors in India we installed a Bitcoin ATM so that investors don't panic to sell their holdings and cash out the fiat.
As regulators thought we are doing something wrong for customers, they have taken very hash steps of arresting me and my partner Sathvik. As an entrepreneur, we need to be strong and face the problems. One must not be scared to try new things if the ultimate motto is good for society.
11. Any advice for young Indian entrepreneurs out there? What is your management mantra?
One must try new things with their passion, dedication and not to be scared of their failures.
12. Where do you see Unocoin in the next five years?
To go for India's first crypto assets exchange into IPO.
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