But for crypto exchanges to be successful and profitable in India, the penetration and size of orders would have to improve. “The amount that people invest is still relatively smaller as compared to the US. But there is potential,” says Shetty.

Adoption of cryptocurrencies in India

Shetty’s optimism isn’t misplaced. There surely is a huge potential. But this potential is marred by the policy uncertainty that continues to haunt the space.

India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman recently said that the government would take a “calibrated” approach towards cryptocurrencies. However, this won’t be enough to foster a sense of trust. The draft bill prepared by the government in 2019 had taken a harsh view, suggesting that all private cryptocurrencies should be banned in India. What makes matters worse for stakeholders is that there is no regulator to govern the crypto industry.

In such a scenario, the exchanges have taken it upon themselves to carve out regulations. They have formed a body to impose self-regulation such as following know your customers (KYC) and anti-money laundering compliance. “You won’t hear news about a scam happening in this space in India. It’s because we’ve been trying to make sure everything is clean. So when the government decides to regulate it, they don’t have to worry about firefighting,” says Shetty.

Apart from stringently following the regulations, Shetty and his team have started “educating” investors about cryptocurrencies. He also believes that a lot of the mistrust around the space comes from its facelessness. That’s why Shetty speaks out often, writes blogs, and speaks at panels to spread awareness.

This also includes explaining—and convincing—his family what his job entails. “My friends and family mostly began asking me questions before I even start talking about crypto,” he says. In most cases, there are two kinds of people asking questions—those who are curious, and those who see crypto as some sort of threat, or worse, an alternative to the Indian rupee.

“I start explaining to them how bitcoin is an asset, not a currency, and it’s not going to compete with the rupee,” he says. “The best thing to do is to explain to them what a cryptocurrency is, why it’s innovative, why it’s needed, and how they can get involved. And then leave it on people to take decisions,” says Shetty.

Once a conversation begins, Shetty says every question brings with it two more. And that is a process he enjoys. Drawing parallels to the initial resistance to the internet, Shetty adds that the lack of information is the prime reason why some people are wary of cryptocurrencies.

Manavi Kapur contributed to this report.

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