Bitcoins rally in India on the demonetisation move

Jayadevan PK November 15, 2016 3 min

Bitcoins are trading nearly 10% higher in India as compared to the international markets after the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes earlier this month.

“The price has gone up because more people want to buy bitcoins and people don’t want to sell,” said Sathvik Vishwanath, the co-founder of UnoCoin, a bitcoin exchange which operates in India.

There’s been a 20-30% increase in bitcoin transactions on UnoCoin, the company’s founder told FactorDaily. The exchange facilitates transactions worth close to $3 million every month. Globally, there are nearly 15 million bitcoins in circulation and these days over 250,000 bitcoins worth over $175 million are traded every day.

There’s been a 20-30% increase in bitcoin transactions on UnoCoin. The exchange facilitates transactions worth close to $3 million every month. There are four major bitcoin exchanges in India: UnoCoin, CoinSecure, ZebPay, BTCXIndia  

The average selling price of one bitcoin on three of India’s top exchanges is Rs 53,191 or $785.7. It costs only $714, or 9.1% less than the Indian price on the international exchange Coinbase.

On November 9, the Indian government announced that it will replace Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in an attempt to curb black money and fake notes. The idea was to flush hoarded black money back into the system.

There are only four major bitcoin exchanges in India: UnoCoin, CoinSecure, ZebPay, BTCXIndia. None of them accept cash. However, they’ve seen an increase in the number of queries from people wanting to convert cash into bitcoins. An estimated 50,000 people are bitcoin enthusiasts in India and nearly half of them are active bitcoin users.

“There is huge incoming demand of coins and India is short on coins at the moment,” Mahin Gupta, the Cofounder at ZebPay posted on a bitcoin forum.

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency invented by an anonymous programmer or a group of programmers under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. It works on an underlying technology called Blockchain, a public ledger of sorts that helps track transactions across the network.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in queries,” said Benson Samuel, who runs CoinSecure. The price went up on the day of the announcement and it is bound to go up, said Samuel.

The value of the crypto-currency could also have gone up due to the US election, which concluded on November 9 with the election of Republican candidate Donald Trump as people looked to safeguard their currency from a potential market flux. A similar incident happened during the Brexit vote, according to reports.

There’s no evidence of stashed black money coming into the Bitcoin system. Mostly because bitcoin exchanges in India require you to have a bank account and documentation to prove your identity before you can trade.

However, the price of bitcoin could be going up because of speculation that in the long run, people might want to look at bitcoins as a way of storing their money so they don’t get affected by moves to demonetise currency.

“It’s like how people buy more gold and other assets. There’s nothing unique about bitcoin in that sense,” said Vishwanath.

On Facebook, some people have offered to take cash in exchange of bitcoins, but Vishwanath warns it could be a hoax. “The problem is that they themselves won’t be sure who will accept this currency afterwards,” he said.


Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.