Underbanked parts of the world could benefit a lot from Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology. Considering there is next to no financial infrastructure to speak of in most of these countries, Bitcoin offers citizens a way to send and receive funds in a convenient way, outside of the governmental ecosystem. India remains one of the frontrunners in terms of Bitcoin adoption, with things looking more and more positive every week.
Number of Bitcoiners in India Increases Exponentially
Just a few weeks ago, the number of people in India involved in Bitcoin – regardless of owning virtual currency – was nearly neglectable. However, the number of Bitcoiners in India is increasing at an accelerated pace, and estimates indicate a group of roughly 50,000 people are involved in Bitcoin in the country to date.
Of those 50,000, over half – 30,000 in total – are to be classified as Bitcoin owners, indicating they run some sort of wallet solution to store virtual currency. To put this number into perspective, India has a population of over 1.28 billion people. These numbers indicate that slightly under 4% of India’s population is involved in Bitcoin in some capacity.
India has one of the world’s largest remittance industries, which is estimated at a yearly value of US$50 billion. If Bitcoin could take away some market share from dominant players such as Western Union, the financial ecosystem in India could look a whole lot different in a few years. In fact, India could become the largest Bitcoin “market” on the planet, assuming these numbers will hold up over time.
As a result of this growing interest in Bitcoin, various Bitcoin startups have launched in India over the years. One of the most famous companies is Unocoin, serving more than 20,000 customers to date, a number that will – according to company officials – double by the end of 2015.
Despite problems earlier this year, Bitcoin exchange BTCXIndia managed to stay afloat due to the growing customer demand. BTCXIndia has taken the necessary regulatory precautions, and now requests all users to complete a Know-Your-Customer verification procedure before they can start trading virtual currency; Interestingly enough, this process not only requests personal, but also professional information.
“Bitcoins could answer some of India’s economic ills. However, the RBI have so far been fairly vague when it comes to any concrete directions for industry. I think what the community is struggling with the most is the lack of clear guidance on the regulatory side, and we hope to get a more detailed legal framework established soon.” – BTXIndia Founder Mupparaju Siva Kameswara Rao stated in an interview.
Bitcoin’s Huge Potential Waiting To Be Used Properly
Bitcoin has a ton of potential in India and other countries, and its use cases extend far beyond just the financial ecosystem. The underlying blockchain technology is a technological marvel, and developers are working hard to unlock its full potential. There are so many uses where blockchain technology could play an important role, and most use cases have not even been thought of yet.
“Digital currencies and crowdfunding have the potential to support criminal, anti-social activities like money laundering, terrorist funding and tax evasion. While we do not have any reported instances of crowdfunding in this respect, cryptocurrencies have been widely suspected to finance criminal activities. We have to be carefully and critically watching these developments”. – RBI Deputy Governor Shri R Gandhi told the media.
It is important to keep in mind there is still a long way to go before Bitcoin can be called a “mainstream trend” in India. While the number of Bitcoin enthusiasts is growing steadily, there is a lot of work to be done before critical mass can be reached. Educational efforts on virtual currencies could go a long way, especially in an underbanked nation such as India.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, BTCXIndia