Chalo Shuru Karein: What’s driving Coinbase India game

Conbase India plan: Here’s why global cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase is betting big on India

coinbase india game
File Image/FE Online

India may be a very difficult country for crypto companies at present with no regulatory certainty, flat 30% tax on income, 1% TDS on every transaction and not even a small change in negative stance of RBI. However, global crypto exchange Coinbase is seeing India as an important part of its future plans and is not worried about the current policy uncertainties.

Coinbase has not just started allowing crypto trading in Indian rupee on its platform but also made several big announcements to spread it wings in the country. It is also planning to hire 1000 employees this year and introduce several new products.

On the sidelines of a Coinbase’s event to announce new features for Indian users in Bengaluru on Thursday (April 7, 2022), company’s officials – Nana Murugesan, VP, International and Business Development, and Sachin Maheshwari, Group Product Manager, International – answered several questions arising due to the timing of the announcement during an interaction with FE Online. Edited Excerpts:

Future of crypto and its regulation in India

Nana Murugesan: No one can predict the market. However, at the end of day community prevails. We are here to serve the community. If the community wants something and we can operate within the different rules as it evolves, that is the best way to look at. We are sure that as global consensus comes in on what is the right way to regulate the crypto industry, India will follow.

We always work with the Government and regulators and also work with the community. We have to be on top of both sides. That’s the approach we took in the US and we are in a better position now. In India also it is going to be like that.

Will crypto drive next wave of financial inclusion in India?

Nana Murugesan: Yes. Because crypto has the power of being able to remove the friction that is there when there are intermediaries and all. It has the power to go global. Many of the things that have been built so far are still very local.

Sachin Maheshwari: Financial inclusion is a continuous process. Ten years back someone may have objected saying there was already so much financial inclusion in the country and there was no need to open bank accounts or bring UPI. Yet changes took place.

On Coinbase hiring and remote-first work culture

Nana Murugesan: Our internal processes are bit more written vs verbal. We put things in simple documents and make decisions that way. This ensures there is no disadvantage of being in any particular time zone. Around 300 employees from across the country are currently working and building for Coinbase. This year we are planning to hire 1000 employees in India.

Sachin Maheshwari: Only 30-35% of Coinbase employees are currently based in Bengaluru. 15-20% are in NCR, 10% in Mumbai and rest of them are from everywhere including places like Kashmir, Haridwar, Hapur, Patna and other cities.

Why is Coinbase so bullish on India?

Nana Murugesan: We are looking at the world in seven regions. We truly want to light up our map and bring crypto and web3 to the entire world. For each of these regions, there are obvious places to just get started. So in South Asia, India is the largest country…Given that we have a very ambitious international plan of bringing power of crypto and web3 to billions of people ..if that is our ambition, how can we avoid India.

Challenges in India

Nana Murugesan: India is challenging for sure but if our ambition is to bring crypto to billions of people, we have to be here. We are in India for the long run. We don’t know how the journey will go but we are prepared for the ups and down.

Our ambition is so large that India has to be a part of it. So we have to get started here.

What if not many retail traders sign up on Coinbase in India due to regulatory uncertainty?

Nana Murugesan: We actually would like to see clear regulations. We are going to invest in all types of web3 technologies. We have a lot of different products that may not need any regulation. I think we are just getting started with retail trading but our roadmap for future include more than that.

On talks of Indian crypto exchanges, entrepreneurs moving abroad

Sachin Maheshwari: They are not moving markets, they are physically moving. But we are global to begin with. From our perspective it doesn’t change much. So if the question is – are we still targeting India as a market? The answer is – Yes we are.

Nana Murugesan: We are a publicly traded company. We have lots of ambition. We are taking a very global view and we are going where the talent is and where the long-term opportunities exist. India’s is vey favourable on both points.

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