One of India’s last standing cryptocurrency exchanges—WazirX’s Nischal Shetty [INTERVIEW]
Nischal Shetty, founder of WazirX, shares his story building one of the only crypto exchange left standing in a country hostile to cryptocurrency. By engineering the first auto-matching P2P engine he was able to dodge regulatory pressure that shuttered many other major exchanges in India.
Nischal, tell us about your journey starting WazirX?
“Nischal: I’ve been a believer in blockchain for many years, but it wasn’t until 2017 that I went down the blockchain rabbit hole.”
“I tried using Indian cryptocurrency exchanges and my experience was pretty disappointing. I felt that the products lacked good UX and transparency. Having built Crowdfire—a social media management product with 20 Million users—our team well understood what it takes to build and scale a global tech product out of India.”
“We love challenges, and decided to build WazirX—a cryptocurrency exchange for India which offers world-class UX, transparency and trust. WazirX is available on Web, Android, iOS in India and around the world.”
What is your opinion on the shut-down of Indian exchanges Koinex and Zebpay?
“Nischal: The news of Koinex and Zebpay shutting down was unfortunate for the Indian cryptocurrency ecosystem. But when you look at the bigger picture, you’ll see that crypto is here to stay forever.”
“It’s the next big revolution after the Internet.”
“Regulatory uncertainties require exchanges to adapt accordingly and I’m proud that we did exactly that at WazirX. When the banking ban came into effect we were the first exchange to launch an innovative P2P solution. This gave us a huge boost and helped us quickly become India’s largest and most trusted crypto exchange.”
What are your struggles in currently operating WazirX? How are you dealing with challenges which made Koinex/Zebpay exit the Indian market?
“Nischal: Companies have their own life cycles and their own set of reasons to start or stop their business. At WazirX, we’re fighting hard for cryptocurrency regulations in India. I’ve been running a Twitter campaign called #IndiaWantsCrypto for 320 days. Many people have joined this campaign, and it’s been picked up by journalists and influencers globally.”
“We’re continuously innovating and launching features that will help us bring the next million people into cryptocurrency. WazirX crypto-to-crypto trading is already available for all countries. We have also launched our one-of-a-kind P2P system in eight new countries.”
What is your opinion on the current crypto bill which is circulating on Indian media?
“Nischal: I strongly believe that the recent report by the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) is fundamentally flawed and doesn’t understand crypto principles. Blockchain is a nascent technology, and Indian government should involve the crypto industry of India in understanding it, and follow the lead of developed nations like Japan, and the U.S. Banning is not a solution.
Here are some key points about the report:
- A team of non-technologists made this report, and no industry experts were consulted during the process.
- The committee highlighted crypto’s use as a “currency”, but left its other use-cases like asset, security and utility. India isn’t comfortable with crypto being used as a currency and that’s understandable. But not realising the fact that maximum crypto activity in India is in the domain of asset and utility is a grave error that the IMC report has made.
- They talk about promoting DLT but banning crypto. That’s like saying we want the internet but no websites.
I’ve even written a detailed post explaining the problems with the recommendation.
How is WazirX operating without banking support? Is it purely P2P?
“Nischal: Shortly after the Indian central bank imposed a banking ban on cryptocurrency exchanges in India, we innovated and launched WazirX P2P. It’s the world’s first auto-matching P2P engine, and has been a gamechanger in the Indian cryptocurrency ecosystem! WazirX P2P is the cheapest, fastest and simplest way to buy/sell crypto using Indian Rupees in India. We’re seeing several P2P trades happening every minute, and rapid growth in our P2P volume every month.”
“Due to its unique nature, WazirX P2P is the best solution to the fiat to crypto conversion problem around the world. We have also launched P2P in new countries like Indonesia, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Italy, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. We’ll take P2P to more countries soon.”
Where do you think Indian market is headed? Opinion on current government stance?
“Nischal: The crypto-ban recommendation has brought us to a very crucial point in the crypto revolution. The entire industry, including exchanges, lawyers, traders, influencers have come together so that this draconian proposal is not accepted by the government. I’m optimistic that the government will listen to us, and positively regulate crypto in India.”
“Earlier in September, the Steering Committee on Fintech-Related Issues submitted its final report to the Indian Finance Minister. The report is well-researched, and talks about crypto use cases, smart contracts, ICOs. This is definitely a positive step towards crypto by India.”
“Last week, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, a visionary technologist, entrepreneur and a Member of Parliament, gave us an audience. He’ll be helping and guiding us towards positive regulations.”
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
“Nischal: I’d say Blockchain and cryptocurrency are innovative technologies. This innovation has led to various use cases, good and bad. While knee jerk reaction by the Indian central bank was to prohibit banking access, I’m confident that as a community we will be able to convince our government to regulate and not ban such innovative technologies.”
“We need help and support from everyone around the world. You can use the hashtag #IndiaWantsCrypto to voice your support for positive crypto regulations in India.”
Revision Sept. 22, 2019. 20:00 UTC: WazirX isn’t the only cryptocurrency exchange based in India. Two other major cryptocurrency exchanges exist, Bitbn and Coindcx, primarily taking advantage of peer-to-peer trading.