Sumit Gupta, co-founder and CEO of the first Indian cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX, is a new entrant in the coveted unicorn club. CoinDCX, within three years of its coming to life, has managed to bring over 4.5 million investors on board. Business Today’s Rajat Mishra spoke to Sumit on a range of issues from the recent Chinese crackdown on Bitcoin to the possible price movement of the cryptocurrency in future.
Here are the edited excerpts of the interview:
Tell us about your journey, as well as the journey of CoinDCX- the first unicorn in the crypto space.
It’s a roller coaster ride. So, just to give you my background, I am an engineer, I did my graduation from IIT Bombay, and I read about encryption, right in college. Then in 2014, when I graduated from IIT Bombay, I went to work with Sony Japan, I heard about Bitcoin for the first time there.
I did not invest and did not read about it then. But when I moved back to India, I started reading about it from the kind of perspective I got. It just opened up my mind and then I thought that this is a new technology that is very revolutionary, and I need to work on it and the kind of development that was happening outside India versus where we were in India.
And in terms of a journey, like four years back, it was very difficult to start a venture in this crypto domain as investors were not getting capital. From surviving the RBI circular banning cryptocurrency to the Supreme Court quashing that order in March 2020, we have come from a stage when investors were not investing in crypto in India, and now, to be India’s first crypto unicorn.
I think the journey has been full of various ups and downs, and the pace at which the crypto industry moves it like multiple times 3x, 5x, and faster than any other industry. So that makes the journey a lot more fun and exciting.
Cryptocurrency is gaining ground in India and across the world. How do you see the cryptocurrency ecosystem in the next five years?
I see two simple things, crypto will be regulated in the next five years, I am certain about it. Right now, you have a handful of startups that are multimillion-dollar is or even unicorns. I think in the next five years, we will see dozens of unicorn startups coming only from the crypto space.
Standard Chartered Bank recently said in its report that Bitcoin is going to hit almost $100,000 by early next year. What are your thoughts on that?
I don’t want to comment on price movements. That’s something I cannot tell, and I don’t know as I don’t control it, but what I can tell is that over the coming years, you will see a lot more adoption and education on crypto, and that is going to get a lot of retail awareness as well as institutional adoption.
You will see big public companies or big institutions from India investing in crypto, and that will shoot up its price. But more than the price, we will see a lot more increase in terms of new startups, increased awareness levels and confidence. Since regulations are not there currently, people are still sceptical about investing in cryptocurrencies but all of that will go away over the coming years.
Can you throw some light on your user base in terms of numbers?
Currently, we have around 4.5 million users and all of them are active. The kind of pattern that we have seen is that it’s largely 75 per cent male and the average amount of investment that people do is roughly around $200.
That’s how people start. And I think as and when the government regulates it, I think the crypto exposure will increase. But this is very interesting because these investors are millennials who do not like to invest in gold, and they find investing in a crypto way easier. They don’t have an old mindset. These are the people who think about the future.
Have you witnessed the widening of your consumer base ever since the pandemic struck us?
Yes, I think that has been there with all asset classes, even if you talk about equities, mutual funds, there has been tremendous growth in other asset classes as well. Crypto is also experiencing the same sort of growth. We have grown more than 10x over the last year. That’s the kind of growth that crypto companies have seen in India.
Do you see a larger implication of the Chinese crackdown on cryptocurrency?
I don’t think so. I think it is just one of the frictions. Since the cryptocurrency is decentralised, one country cannot stop this space. Even if India does not regulate this asset class, it does not matter. The crypto is not going to stop. It’s a global phenomenon and several countries opening up to it. China might affect the price, but eventually, countries will have to open up for the virtual currency and regulations will be there across all the top nations in the coming times.
What would be your one message to all reluctant investors in this highly volatile asset class?
I do not want to tell them that they must invest in cryptocurrency, I think what I would tell them is to start reading about it, why people are talking about it, I think reading is more important.
That is how I also started my journey. I read about it, I understood it, and then I got the confidence to invest in crypto, you can’t ask people to just invest in it blindly.
You need to first understand if you are comfortable, then only you invest in this asset class. I think learning about cryptocurrency is more important. I am a strong proponent of education and crypto awareness. The moment you do that, we are working towards creating a better future and financial ecosystem, because there will not just be people making money, but there will be a full-fledged ecosystem where entrepreneurs will also enter into this space. There will be investors and companies being created, and a lot of innovation will happen, not just in investing, but also in technological aspects.