After years of steady and gradual growth, global adoption of blockchain and crypto accelerated during the pandemic. Facing uncertainty in a turbulent world economy, more people than ever before turned to crypto for the first time. Last year, Bitcoin emerged as a new and exciting technology for individuals, companies and even governments. More recently, El Salvador became the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, a landmark decision that prompted governments around the world to re-evaluate the role of crypto.
Crypto is incredibly versatile and can be used as a currency, reward, token and much more. Regardless of how the Indian government decides to classify this emerging technology, what is important is that they continue to foster local innovation in the blockchain and crypto space.
As one of the largest and fastest-digitising economies in the world, India is uniquely positioned to lead the blockchain and crypto space. Key factors include India’s ambitious investments in science and technology, which have created a durable engine for economic growth, as well as the nation’s extensive efforts to increase internet access around the country.
According to research from Statista, India’s internet penetration rate, which measures access to the internet, increased by around 45 per cent in 2021, against just 4 per cent in 2007. Today, there are more than 560 million internet users in India, making it one of the world’s largest markets for online consumers. Against this backdrop of innovation, a new generation of digital natives and knowledge workers, eager to connect to the global economy, are on the lookout for new technologies that provide greater access to economic opportunities.
The past year has seen a seismic shift in public attitudes towards crypto. Mainstream adoption, a long-time goal for crypto advocates, seems more attainable than ever, fuelled by a combination of unlikely sources, from traditional institutions announcing crypto offerings to celebrities promoting blockchain projects on social media.
While Bitcoin continues to dominate the conversation when it comes to crypto, much of the value in the industry lies in blockchain technology, which has the potential to connect everyday users to millions of potential jobs, from blockchain-powered entrepreneurial projects and fintech solutions to initiatives in international trade and commerce — not to mention fields such as arts, nonprofits and beyond. While it’s important to move the conversation beyond Bitcoin, it’s also necessary to appreciate how it offers users an accessible gateway to the wider — and sometimes more complex — world of crypto.
THE RISE OF NFTs
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of blockchain technology that has existed in some form for years, recently took off in popularity when sports organisations packaged it as an appealing digital collectible for fans and collectors. According to a report from NonFungible.com, in the first quarter of 2021 alone, NFT sales topped $2 billion. Today, the NFT ecosystem has expanded far beyond the realm of sports collectibles and memorabilia, as NFT marketplaces, including Binance NFT Marketplace, create meaningful economic opportunities for regional talents and creators from around the world. For many Indian artists, NFTs are a revolutionary new class of crypto that allows them to easily monetise their artwork, earn royalties from sales and connect with global audiences.
The rapid growth of the NFT industry demonstrates many of the unique advantages inherent to the blockchain and crypto industry, where innovative technology, coupled with the right use-case at the right time, can create booming international markets—seemingly overnight. The next game-changing innovation, whether it’s a DeFi project or another blockchain-based application, could be here already.
Few industries have the potential to generate global, billion-dollar markets. It goes without saying then, that the global blockchain ecosystem is incredibly vibrant, and attracts many of the world’s top creators and developers. According to research from UNESCO, India already produces the most science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in the world—those uniquely qualified to contribute to and benefit from the global blockchain ecosystem.
Binance.com has also sought to harness top talents in the industry by offering an incubation programme for some of the most promising blockchain projects. Through blockchain fundraising programmes, we’ve been able to identify and support up-and-coming initiatives that aim to grow the blockchain and crypto industry, including Marlin Protocol, an infrastructure provider for decentralised networks founded by graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-B). India’s entrepreneurial potential is unmatched, and blockchain funding promises to connect India’s homegrown talent with global investors.
Blockchain funding opportunities also extend to charities and non-profit organisations. Blockchain-based donation systems offer increased transparency, allowing donors to track the progress of their donations at every stage, from the point of donation to end beneficiary.
With new entrants quickly entering and exiting markets to meet demand, there are still risks to navigate and challenges to contend with. So, at this critical juncture, it’s important to remember that the blockchain and crypto industry is still in its infancy. Although there is a lot of enthusiasm and demand surrounding crypto, many are still apprehensive about their long-term value. To address these concerns, players within this emerging space need to build trust and confidence in their platforms, products and services. After all, trust is earned, not given.
INDIA’S CRYPTO INNOVATION
With millions of potential jobs hanging in the balance, Indian regulators and policymakers have made proactive efforts to engage with the complex blockchain and crypto landscape and propose clear regulatory standards. Regulatory transparency is extremely valuable, as it provides a solid foundation for the continued development of the blockchain and crypto industry. Market participants, both large and small, will also benefit from a set of clear standards that they can apply as a critical lens to shape their growth and business objectives.
Though crypto has historically been an area of focus for Indian regulators, the technology has wide-ranging use-cases that require a robust system of frameworks and laws to protect users. At the end of the day, users always come first—what’s good for users is good for the wider industry. As crypto continues to mature, regulatory clarity can provide a strong catalyst for India to become a fintech leader in this space, one that sets an example for other regions to follow.
So, it’s safe to say that crypto is on the verge of mainstream acceptance. Furthermore, crypto has come to play an influential role within the global economy, creating financial opportunities for anyone with access to the internet. With momentum building, now is the time for players in the blockchain and crypto industry to work with regulators and local governments to provide consumers with secure and compliant access to this emerging technology. India, with its talented, digital savvy workforce and receptiveness to emerging technologies, has the potential to play a leading role in the continued growth of the blockchain and crypto industry.
(The author is Founder & CEO at Binance)
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