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India’s Web3 startups are the next hotspot for venture capitalists

A delegate talks on his phone at the Delta Summit, Malta's official Blockchain and Digital Innovation event promoting cryptocurrency, in Ta' Qali
REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
A delegate talks on his phone at the Delta Summit, Malta’s official Blockchain and Digital Innovation event promoting cryptocurrency, in Ta’ Qali, Malta October 3,…
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India’s startup ecosystem grabbed eyeballs from several marquee investors from all over the world during the covid-19 pandemic. Now, it is time for its Web3 startups to shine.

Web3 is an umbrella term for an online ecosystem that cuts out the big corporations and need not be navigated through search engines like Google. It uses blockchain, the same technology used by cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens.

The total funding into these new-age startups rose to a record $587.16 million as of Oct. 17, 2021, compared to $37 million in the previous year. This has raised hopes for blockchain-focused startups in the country.

This new ecosystem will enable decentralised apps to replace centralised social networks, all the while allowing individuals to maintain ownership over their data. In the current form, these decentralised apps are available for finance, arts and collectibles, gaming, and technology.

“Rising smartphone penetration and affordable mobile Internet have transformed India into a digital-first economy…As a result, the long-term prospects for the Indian startup-venture capital market look stable and promising,” Aurojyoti Bose, lead analyst at GlobalData said.

It is estimated that the country could have over 800,000 jobs created in blockchain and other Web3-related fields by 2030, according to a report by industry body Nasscom and Indian cryptocurrency exchange WazirX.

Polygon is setting the stage

On Feb.7, Polygon, an ethereum-scaling platform that allows cheaper and faster transactions on the blockchain, raised $450 million in its first institutional round. Its more than 38 global investors included SoftBank, Tiger Global, and Sequoia Capital India.

This, in itself, was pivotal for Web3 developers in India as Polygon, founded by persons of Indian origin, aims to become Web3’s Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon’s cloud-computing platform that offers a range of functionalities to help organisations scale up.

“The ecosystem fund is very important, we want to help early-stage startups who are building these applications to keep building on Polygon…it has been our mission to make India a superpower in Web3,” Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder of Polygon, said in an interview to Moneycontrol.

Currently, there are only a handful of Web3 companies in India, but the emerging sector is bound to be a hotspot for venture capitalists this year, experts say.

Singapore-based early-stage venture capital firm Antler reportedly has committed $50 million across 25-30 startups in the blockchain and Web3 space over the next 2-3 years. India’s Elevation Capital, which has backed startups like Paytm and Swiggy, is also actively backing crypto and blockchain-based firms this year.

That brings us to the need for skilled personnel to head such technology-driven projects and strategies.

Rise of blockchain courses in India

With companies foraying into this new domain, the demand for blockchain-related jobs has picked pace in India.

Job postings in this field jumped by 37% in 2021 and have grown 138% in the three years since August 2018 when virtual tokens were still nascent, according to a report by job search platform Indeed.

In anticipation of strong demand, edtech platforms, colleges, and even premier institutes in India are now launching blockchain-related courses. For instance, the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, is set to open a blockchain innovation centre on its campus.

Byju’s and Upgrad have also witnessed a spike in demand for related courses over the past year.

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