“Bitcoin is the beginning of something great: a currency without a government, something necessary and imperative.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
New technology has the power to propel economies to wealth and geopolitical clout.
Here are two examples.
The inventions of the Industrial Revolution made Britain, a tiny isle, the world’s most powerful economy.
The IT revolution at the end of the 20th century cemented the United States’ global dominance.
But overzealous, under-informed regulation has the power to squash new technology before it takes off and does its job.
In April 2018, RBI crippled the nascent cryptocurrency sector in India with a circular. RBI used its position as the apex bank in the country to stop banks from allowing any virtual currency-related transactions.
This was a harsh blow for a young sector. WazirX founder, Nischal Shetty, argued on Bloomberg Quint that close to 50-60 crypto startups shut down as a result of the RBI circular.
For Nischal, that wasn’t even the real tragedy. The hidden, not-so-obvious cost of this move was all the start-ups that didn’t come about in the first place. How many smart Indians saw the circular as regulatory hostility, and never acted on their ingenious ideas?
Varun, a Blockchain Lawyer, got astonishing answers to his RTI query from RBI. No research study, no internal committee, and no correspondence with a foreign central bank preceded the circular.
Effects of the mandate
When RBI cut banking ties, many exchanges shut shop or left the country. Some thought crypto was dead. But WazirX endured, because we believe in crypto and that India will benefit from this revolution.
Soon after the circular, WazirX pioneered a P2P network where individuals could directly, and legally, trade-in cryptocurrencies. This decentralized, peer-to-peer system worked with WazirX acting as the trusted arbiter. Sellers met buyers on WazirX, and the trade went through as smoothly as a knife through a slab of butter at room temperature.
Now – it would be too quick to talk of a happy ending, but there has been a great reversal of fortune for the entire industry.
It involves a hashtag, a founder who uses tweets as his weapon of choice, and the Supreme Court of India.
India Wants Crypto – a simple, striking statement that became a rallying cry for millions. A campaign that united the Indian crypto community.
Nischal started the campaign on 31st October 2018 – exactly ten years after Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper. Each day, he would write a tweet.
The arguments were factual and compelling.
Instead of warring with the authorities, Nischal pushed for positive regulations. He tweeted to parliamentarians, the Prime Minister, and other decision-makers, every day.
On Day 50 of the campaign, he asked the finance minister to trust the youth of India and allow them to participate in the crypto revolution.
Shalini, @DesiCryptoHodlr at Twitter and part of the #IndiaWantsCrypto campaign, wrote about the jobs, trading opportunities, and investments in India that crypto will unlock.
On Day 100, the impressions were in seven digits – #indiawantscrypto had reached 1.5 million people.
On Day 150, Nischal noted that Japanese railway companies were considering accepting Crypto payments. While these experiments were happening around the world, bans were stifling India’s ability to get a headstart with Crypto.
Day 200: “We are yet to hear from our ministers.”
Day 300: “Still awaiting responses.”
Day 303: success!
If not an outright victory – then at least a milestone.
Rajeev Chandrashekhar, a sitting Rajya Sabha MP, saw the #Indiawantscrypto campaign and told Nischal: “Reach out to me on DM.”
By the one year anniversary of the campaign, things were heating up.
On March 4th of this year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of progress, decentralized currencies, and freedom. Banking channels were opened for cryptocurrencies.
The impact, for WazirX, was instant. ICO Analytics noted $WRX, Wazir’s token, was the most discussed new coin on Twitter in March.
Pomp, the famed podcaster, and writer of a popular Crypto newsletter celebrated the lifting of the ban.
The Domestic Press was abuzz: The Economic Times, Quartz, Business Quint, and Business Insider all covered the favorable SC ruling. Among others, Financial Express directly mentioned the #Indiawantscrypto campaign.
Our favorite reaction about the judgment came from Shrikar (@CryptoShrikar on Twitter). He posed with an “India Wants Crypto” poster in front of the RBI office.
Follow the hashtag #indiawantscrypto today and join the ride!