Bitcoin is the Internet of money, Sandeep Goenka

Interest in bitcoins has surged more due to the price increase rather than demonetisation.

Sheela Mamidenna

''Cashless India'' is a central idea to the Modi regime and nobody has been happier with this bumpy ride of demonetisation than the generation of young entrepreneurs whose business models revolve about e-commerce.  

While we celebrate the prime minister's pet projects like 'Digital India'', the ground reality suggests that going cashless is not just about building infrastructure and convenience. It has a lot more to do with insecurities in the minds of people. An entire generation or more may pass by in the process of making this huge shift and mollifying security concerns.

It is this huge mental block that new generation apps like Zebpay are up against. From the gold bullion to paper currency to bitcoins, change is inevitable. All it asks for is time. Sooner or later, everybody is going to jump onto the bandwagon.

In an exclusive with Sandeep Goenka, the co-founder and COO of ZebPay, a mobile application that users can download to buy and sell bitcoins, we found out more about bitcoin currency in India and its usage in international trade. 

What made you believe in cryptocurrency?

Bitcoin is a digital currency powered by cryptography. It is similar in its working to the Internet as it is decentralised, not owned or controlled by any individual, country or organization. Just like Internet changed the communication and entertainment industry, bitcoins will change the financial world. 

Tell us a bit about what Zebpay is all about.

Zebpay is an app that can be downloaded from the Android or iPhone App Store. Using Zebpay, people can buy and sell bitcoins. They can also use bitcoins to top up airtime and buy vouchers like they do with other mobile wallets. 

Our mission is to make bitcoins simple so billions of Indians can use it. 

What challenges did you face when you created Zebpay? 

The biggest challenge has been in trying to explain this revolutionary technology to regular people. Indians are looking for a safe and simple way to buy and store bitcoins. Zebpay removes all friction for a first time bitcoiner. You can buy and sell bitcoins from the app itself. Your bitcoin account is linked to your mobile numbers. This makes you carefree about bitcoin addresses and wallet backups. Zebpay is the easiest way to get started with bitcoins. 

How much of an impact did demonetisation have in its surge? 

We saw a temporary spike in interest since the announcement for a couple of days. Our users and turnover have been growing exponentially even before demonetisation. Bitcoin prices have increased from Rs 25,000 in Jan 2016 to Rs 78,500 currently. Interest in bitcoins has surged more due to the price increase rather than demonetisation. We had a turnover of Rs.100 crores and added 50,000 users in December. 

Isn't bitcoin regulated in the market like other currencies? What kind of regulations does the government impose on it?

Yes in most western countries bitcoins are regulated like currencies. In India, bitcoin is legal under existing laws but unregulated. Users can visit our site at zebpay.com/legal for more information. 

Bitcoin is legal and regulated in USA, Singapore, and other countries. European Union’s top court, has ruled that exchanging bitcoin should be exempt from VAT.  The Diet, Japan’s legislature, has recently passed a bill to regulate bitcoin exchanges. Norway DB and Swiss Railway ticket counters are allowing people to buy and sell bitcoins on a nationwide scale. 

Globally, there are bitcoin regulations in most western countries. In India, currently we are expecting regulations to be imposed in the next 2-3 years. Untill then, we have our own account verification processes. To trade on Zebpay, we require your PAN card, and only allow bank to bank transfers. 

With bitcoin trading over $1000 in the international markets on Sunday, how will its performance be in India, given the recent changes. 

Bitcoins performance and trade volumes are increasing in every country in the world including India. We are bullish about bitcoin's price in 2017. Some major technical upgrades are expected on the bitcoin network. Also global geopolitical situation is forcing people to look for alternative investments. Bitcoin is the world’s first global currency and payment network. It is the Internet of money. 2017 will be a great year for this revolutionary technology. 

How can bitcoin be used in international B2B trade (imports/exports)? Could it replace the dollar as the de facto currency in international markets?

Bitcoins is borderless just like the Internet. If you wish to send a payment overseas, to send bitcoins is as simple as sending an email. I think using bitcoins for B2B is still a couple of years away due to regulatory confusion. Freelancers in India are already using bitcoins instead of PayPal and Western Union to receive small payments from their overseas clients for website designing, etc. They save the 10-15% fee these US companies charge. They also receive the money instantly instead of waiting for 7-15 days.

Do you know of anyone or any organisation who would have conducted international trade using bitcoin?

Not yet. Large businesses like Dell Computers and Expedia in the US, Wordpress, Japan’s biggest online store Rakuten are a few examples of businesses already accepting bitcoins to sell goods. Recently, the CEO of Airbnb tweeted that accepting bitcoins was the most requested feature for 2017.

It can be easily gathered from the current economic scenario that bitcoins are attracting attention from the highest tiers of the financial world. But for them to seep into the day-to-day lives of people, the trickle down effect may take a while. 

Just as the revolution in the world of communications has made collaborations seamless by rendering international borders irrelevant, bitcoins appear to be the next big thing that will helps us get closer to the dream of a financially well connected global village. Internet has won everyone over as the universal medium of communication. It remains to be seen if bitcoin is another such revolution in the sphere of currency. 

Sheela Mamidenna - Jan 05, 2017 12:00 IST
 
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