In Indiranagar, a posh neighbourhood in Bengaluru dotted with upscale pubs and theme restaurants, is an eatery that serves Maharashtrian cuisine. It is not big and if you don’t look closely, you might miss Suryawanshi Restaurant.
The Misal Pav and Mutton Thaali at Suryawanshi get due credit from food lovers. But what most Bengalurians, fintech gurus and startup junkies, including FactorDaily, seem to have missed is the fact that it happens to be the first restaurant in the city — and, likely, in all of India — that accepts Bitcoins in payment.
“We started accepting Bitcoins almost a year ago,” Kailash Suryawanshi, the owner of Suryawanshi restaurant told FactorDaily. It accepts payment through Bitcoin wallets like Coinsecure, Unocoin or Zebpay
“We started accepting Bitcoins almost a year ago,” Kailash Suryawanshi, said the owner of Suryawanshi restaurant. It accepts payment through Bitcoin wallets like Coinsecure, Unocoin or Zebpay
The restaurant came to our notice when Pravin Jadhav, chief product and growth officer, Servify, recently posted the picture of a “Bitcoins accepted here” sticker at the restaurant on Twitter.
“I’m not a tech savvy person at all. I’m the opposite,” said Suryawanshi. But then, how did Bitcoins happen? “A friend of mine introduced me to it. I bought a lot of Bitcoins last year when it was priced around Rs 35,000,” said Suryawanshi, a Marathi businessman who now runs two of these eateries in the city.
When his quest to find authentic Marathi food failed, he decided to start a restaurant of his own in 2013. Besides the Indiranagar outlet, Suryawanshi operates another one in Whitefield with a full kitchen. The Indiranagar restaurant was opened because he realised there was a scarcity of good Marathi cuisine in the area.
“Not a single person has paid in Bitcoins until now” — Suryawanshi
For all the geek cred that Bengaluru boasts of, Suryawanshi’s little experiment hasn’t found many takers yet. “Not a single person has paid in Bitcoins until now,” said Suryawanshi, who has been in Bengaluru since 2004. “We wanted people to know what Bitcoin is. Those days it was just taking off but it’s now mellowed down a bit.”
A handful of businesses in India have started accepting Bitcoins as payment, including books seller Sapna and Dharwad International School, Unocoin says on its website.
With Bitcoin’s recent spike in valuation, Suryawanshi’s investment has grown multifold. Between June 2016 to June 2017, the price of a Bitcoin has gone from about $700 to $2500.
Bitcoins might be killing it in the virtual world. But it still has a long way to go in the real world. “Places like these don’t really need bitcoins. PayTM and cash wallets are enough,” says Akshay Haldipur, one of India’s Bitcoin crorepatis (read Inside the fabulous life of Bitcoin crorepati Akshay Haldipur).
Bitcoins might be killing it in the virtual world. But it still has a long way to go in the real world
In most small businesses, despite the government’s push towards digital currencies, cash remains the easiest way to transact. It’s also tougher for Bitcoins to become mainstream because sometimes it takes longer to authenticate.
“I think globally, people are looking at it more as an asset rather than money,” says Benson Samuel, chief technology officer of Coinsecure, an India based Bitcoin exchange. “Even in the event of money, retail payments are a bit clumsy in terms of confirmations.”
“I think globally, people are looking at it more as an asset rather than money… Even in the event of money, retail payments are a bit clumsy in terms of confirmations” — Benson Samuel, CTO, Coinsecure
Suryawanshi, who is a typical mainstream user of Bitcoin, also feels that there will be more takers for the crypto currency when the regulatory cloud over Bitcoin lifts. India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has cautioned people from trading in virtual currencies.
Japan recognised Bitcoin as a legal payment method in February. In April, the Indian government said it will set up an inter-disciplinary committee to take a close look at the circulation of crypto currencies in the country. There’s a fair bit of support to legalise Bitcoins in India. Consumer protection and money laundering will be key issues the committee will look to tackle.
(With inputs from Sriram Sharma. Lead image: @BeingPractical)
Update: 19 June 2017, 6.47 PM IST: Edited to fix typos.
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. Blume Ventures is an investor in Unocoin.