India has highest number of crypto owners in the world at 10.07 crore: report

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NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding the legal ambiguity on whether cryptocurrency investment is permitted in India and huge volatility in prices, the country has the highest number of crypto owners in the world at 10.07 crore, according to broker discovery and comparison platform BrokerChooser. 

The US came in a distant second in terms of crypto owners at 2.74 crore, followed by Russia (1.74 crore) and Nigeria (1.30 crore).

In comparison, the number of stock investors (Unique Client Codes) registered with the BSE in India has risen from 70 million in June 2021 to 80 million at present, according to data by the exchange.

In terms of the number of crypto owners as a percentage of the total population, India stood at the fifth spot at 7.30%. Ukraine ranked first with 12.73% people of the total population owning crypto followed by Russia (11.91%), Kenya (8.52%) and the US (8.31%).

These are the findings of a study conducted by the portal BrokerChoose’s annual crypto proliferation index.

“The digital assets have caught everyone’s attention not only because it has emerged as the best asset class of 2021 but also because other asset classes are not able to fulfill the aspiration of the smart investors who want their money to grow in tandem with global growth rate,” said Shivam Thakral, CEO, BuyUcoin, a cryptocurrency exchange.

The world’s biggest cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, has gained more than 50% since the start of the year. The one-year gain stands at around 400%.

Cryptocurrencies have seen an exponential increase in interest even since the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) ban was lifted in March 2020, with Indian exchanges clocking impressive user additions and a sustained surge in daily trading volumes.

For example, India’s largest stockbroker Zerodha has been overtaken by some of the country’s popular crypto exchanges in the number of users. Zerodha at present has over seven million users against 11 million at CoinSwitch Kuber and 8.3 million at WazirX.

The study by BrokerChooser also provided insights into searches done across countries. The US saw the highest number of crypto-related searches followed by India, the UK and Canada.

As per industry trends, apart from metropolitans, a lot of users are young from tier II and tier III cities in India, who are trying to get into crypto as their first investment class.

“India’s crypto market is witnessing high trade volumes not only from the metro cities but from the entire country. Trade volumes from smaller cities show a high level of penetration of digital assets in India and with post-pandemic recovery, retail and institutional investors are looking for high returns on their investments, it looks like digital assets have become their choice to beat inflation,” said Jay Hao, CEO, OKEx.com, a global crypto exchange.

A bill on banning ‘private cryptocurrencies’ was slated to be introduced in the Budget session of Parliament in February 2021. However, the bill was not tabled, and it is still unclear what the legal status of cryptocurrency in India is. The government currently is working on a bill to regulate cryptocurrencies in India, however, the contents of the bill are not known.

According to industry executives, a positive regulatory environment will prove to be highly beneficial at this stage.

“More clarity from the government around crypto is the need of the hour and the entire digital asset industry is looking forward to an inclusive and growth-oriented crypto regulation bill in India,” said Thakral.

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