Bitcoin is not king in India.
Ethereum topped bitcoin as the most searched-for cryptocurrency in India over the past five months, commanding a 34.4% share of currency searches overall versus bitcoin’s 29.9%, free internet provider Jana found in its latest Mobile Majority report. The next most searched-for currency was BuyUCoin (NEM) with a 21.2% share, and the rest captured 5% or less.
Ethereum searches were double that of bitcoin during last week of February. In research conducted between October 2017 and February 2018, Jana analysed currency search terms and exchange-site visits across the company’s mCent browser app.
In December, the month when bitcoin prices hit a record $20,000, cryptocurrency searches were also the highest, accounting for 30% of all searches in the five-month period of the study. Since then, bitcoin prices have plummeted. Meanwhile, ethereum, the second biggest cryptocurrency after bitcoin, logged its all-time high of $1,261 at the start of 2018. Although this doesn’t signal that ethereum transactions are surpassing bitcoin, “search volume is a leading indicator of what has momentum and is showing signs of growth,” Nathan Eagle, CEO of Jana, told Quartz. “It may not correspond to people buying more ethereum, but there’s certainly a lot more interest.”
By the start of 2018, there was a noticeable drop-off in interest as news surfaced that cryptocurrencies would not be accepted as legal tender in India—something finance minister Arun Jaitley emphasised in his budget speech in February. Last November, a government panel had even recommended closing down cryptocurrency exchanges.
“The government recommending shutting down exchanges and limiting currencies altogether, coupled with the decline in prices, has lead to the feverish pitch waning away dramatically,” said Eagle. “There are still quite a lot of searches but maybe we’re getting closer to what a true steady state should look like.”
Following the trajectory of cryptocurrency searches, page loads to different cryptocurrency exchanges also peaked in late December and declined drastically by February. The highest share of total page loads, 38.85%, were to Bengaluru-based Unocoin’s site.
Among users who visited at least one cryptocurrency exchange, over half visited Unocoin’s webpage. Zebpay, headquartered in Singapore with an IT office in Ahmedabad, was a distant second with 30.49%.