Abid Hussain Barlaskar

“Want to make crypto trading as simple as ordering from Swiggy”: Ashish Singhal, CoinSwitch Kuber

The crypto trading platform’s debut ad campaign is also a first for the industry and it talks about the flexibility of buying and selling Bitcoins.

Bitcoin, this 7-letter word probably triggers a flutter of emotions including curiosity, confusion, excitement and even fear. CoinSwitch Kuber, a platform that facilitates the sale and purchase of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is out to familiarise Indians with this new dimension of fintech by launching India’s first major crypto ad campaign.

In simple terms, a cryptocurrency is a virtual digital asset which can’t be counterfeited or copied. There are several types of such assets, the most popular being Bitcoin, which shares the space with others like Ethereum, Ripple’s XRP, Dogecoin, etc. The scarcity and limited number drives demand.

It is gradually evolving as a transaction medium globally, with companies now accepting these currencies as payment. In February 2021, Tesla’s Elon Musk announced that the EV company will accept Bitcoin as payment for its cars. The move was a major leap towards mainstreaming cryptocurrency for transactions globally.

“Want to make crypto trading as simple as ordering from Swiggy”: Ashish Singhal, CoinSwitch Kuber

Unlike platforms like CoinDCX, WazirX, etc., CoinSwitch Kuber isn’t an exchange. Instead, it aggregates liquidity from Indian and global crypto exchanges for the users to buy and sell in Rupees. It aggregates the best available rates to its users, and identifies itself as a “managed custodian platform” and “caretaker of investor funds”.

Cryptocurrencies made waves in the Indian fintech ecosytem around 2017, with cryptocurrency exchanges like Koinex, Zebpay, etc. However, the investors (read clients) were left high and dry with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) prohibiting virtual currency dealings in 2018.

The RBI cited concerns of ‘consumer protection, market integrity and money laundering’, among others, as the reasons for imposing the ban.

The industry has witnessed rapid revival since March 2020, when the Supreme Court of India lifted the RBI ban, ushering in hope for more balanced regulation. The pleas against the ban were brought before the apex court by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

CoinSwitch Kuber’s ad campaign ‘Trade Kar, Befikar’ aims to iron out the fear and apprehension towards investing in cryptocurrency in India. The campaign crafted by Nihilent, under the aegis of KV ‘Pops’ Sridhar, includes three ad films. The films target three specific problems.

The first film shows that one doesn’t need to buy an entire unit of Bitcoin (currently priced at Rs 37 lakh), and can just buy a fraction of it for as low as Rs 100. The next film highlights the easy liquidation process, where the money doesn’t get stuck in a lock-in period.

The third film will focus on the ease of trading cryptocurrencies and using CoinSwitch Kuber. The campaign will be aired on Disney+ Hotstar throughout the Indian Premier League and will also be amplified via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Ashish Singhal, CEO and co-founder, CoinSwitch Kuber, says that the retail users aren’t very comfortable with the experience of trading on the exchanges. “The order books, graphs, buy/sell indicators, etc., were pretty complicated. We wanted to build an experience as simple as Swiggy - add to cart, checkout and food delivered.”

"We wanted to build an experience as simple as Swiggy - add to cart, checkout and food delivered."
Ashish Singhal
Ashish Singhal

Singhal, an ethical hacker and software engineer, has worked with companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Livspace and Infoedge in the past.

CoinSwitch Kuber was launched in June 2020. The platform currently caters to over 4.5 million investors (with around three million active investors). “We are touching around $2-3 billion GMVs (gross merchandise value) a month,” says Singhal.

"We are touching around $2-3 billion GMVs (gross merchandise value) a month."

CoinSwitch Kuber also claims the title of the biggest crypto platform in India. It is backed by global investors such as Tiger Global, Ribbit Capital, Paradigm and Sequoia.

The category’s growth has been tremendous, with over 10 million Indians trading in crypto assets today.

To put things into perspective, Zerodha, the largest platform for online stock broking, which has been around for over a decade, caters to around 3.4 million investors.

Singhal mentions that only 0.2 per cent of Indians invest beyond fixed deposits, and this has been largely caused by the belief that earning more is the only way to succeed.

While the folks at CoinSwitch Kuber set out with an assumption that most of their users would be from the top tier cities, they were proven wrong within three months of the launch. Sixty per cent of the platform’s users currently come from Tier II and III cities.

Sixty per cent of the user base lies in the 22-26 age bracket. This is followed by the 26-45 age group, and then 45-plus. Singhal mentions that it has to do with awareness and the urge to experiment. Over that, 15 per cent of its users are women.

When the COVID pandemic struck in 2020, the investors started looking for places to park their money which, in turn, drove awareness and growth. “It is also easier to invest in crypto than in mutual funds or stocks, since, Bitcoin is the leader and the investors are pretty clear on which crypto to buy. It is not the case with stocks. One needs to go down the rabbit hole and figure out what stock to invest in.”

However, the trouble for the Indian crypto scene is far from over. The industry still lacks clarity when it comes to the government’s standpoint. The government’s draft ‘Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019’, if brought into action, could rule out any future for cryptocurrencies.

"I feel that a drastic action like a ban is less likely to happen."

One being asked about the risk of investing in marketing at such an unsure time, Singhal says, “I feel that a drastic action like a ban is less likely to happen.”

Singhal also says that a good product was necessary before kicking off advertising, and the assurance has come from the healthy growth. “We felt that this advertising investment was needed to address the issues facing the market.”

Also, while there are evangelists, there are naysayers too. Any negative news or unfounded myths (globally and in India) deter the retail users and have severe consequences on the industry. The investors, by nature, tend to focus more on the downside of the asset.

“We are talking to the government and trying to address its concerns, which are very valid. We believe that the government will take the right steps, similar to what countries like the US, Singapore and Korea have taken. With technologies like UPI and Aadhaar, we are way ahead in terms of adopting digital payments. We would not want to miss out on Internet 3.0, the next revolution,” Singhal signs off.

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