Over the last couple of years, some new words have been added to this reporter’s vocabulary — blockchain, cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. After some initial confusion and many Google searches later, basic information was gained. But there is a long way to go as far as understanding it properly is concerned. And it is for people like us that Unluclass — an e-learning platform that makes masterclasses by industry experts accessible to all — launched a course on cryptocurrency.
Taught by Siddharth Menon, Co-Founder and COO of the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange platform, WazirX, the class promises to give everyone who isn’t aware about cryptocurrency a glimpse into what it means and how the system works. On launch day, we spoke to Siddharth about his new course and picked his brain about all things blockchain. Excerpts:
Tell us about the key takeaways of the course.
In 2017, when I learnt about cryptocurrency and told people about it, it was very difficult to explain it. While there is a lot of content about cryptocurrency online, it is not structured. With this course, we are hoping to bring some structure to the content. So, this course is for people who don’t know anything about cryptocurrency but wish to learn about it a bit. It is also for people who want to become entrepreneurs or are thinking about a career shift to cryptocurrency. It’s a first glimpse of what the industry looks like.
Being so new, I’m sure there are a few misconceptions about cryptocurrency.
There are three misconceptions I commonly see. The first one would be that cryptocurrency is illegal in India but the situation is improving now. It is completely legal to hold cryptocurrency, even though it is not regulated yet. Another misconception is that people think it’s a quick-rich scheme. Cryptocurrency is a long-term investment. A lot of people are not aware of what cryptocurrency does in the internet space and how it is used.
Finally, cryptocurrency is not a currency. It is not going to replace INR. It is more of an asset or a commodity just like how gold or silver is. This is one of the biggest misconceptions, even at the government level. That’s why the RBI also wasn’t comfortable with it. When they saw the word cryptocurrency, they thought that people would stop using INR and use this instead. There’s not an infinite amount of cryptocurrency and it is not used for transactions.
Cryptocurrency is not a legal tender in India yet. So does it make sense to invest time and money learning about something like this now?
Cryptocurrency is a small gateway to what we believe will be the future. Explaining cryptocurrency to someone now is like explaining the internet to someone in the early 2000s. The blockchain revolution is going to unlock a lot of possibilities of us living on the internet more. Today, people spend a lot more time virtually than in reality and their is a need for an economy and value exchange there. This is where cryptocurrency comes in. Cryptocurrency is native to the internet. As the metaverse becomes more real, cryptocurrency seems like the inevitable support that is needed to make that happen.
What can be done to increase the adoption of cryptocurrency, in your opinion?
There is a need to create awareness. Back in the 2000s, parents were very scared of the internet. It was seen as this big bad world. But today, the internet has managed to connect the world. Similarly, there is a need to create awareness about cryptocurrency — how it is changing the world, what can be done with it.
We should support and encourage entrepreneurs and people who are creating products in the blockchain space. Someone created Facebook back in the day and today, it has added value to so many lives. Similarly, the next Google or Facebook will be created in the blockchain space. People choosing cryptocurrency as the next big career shift will also help give rise to a cryptocurrency industry.
There are a lot of new players in the cryptocurrency market currently. How has that affected job prospects?
There are more than 400 million internet users in India but if the entire user base of all cryptocurrency exchanges are considered, there aren’t more than 16 million users. There’s a large gap where adoption needs to happen. So many products can be built, not just exchanges. It is a vast entrepreneurial and career opportunity in this space.
The whole FinTech world as it is today will be redefined in the cryptocurrency space. In the last one year, I have seen a lot more people build with cryptocurrency than I have seen in the last four years.
The cryptocurrency market can be very volatile and this can make people wary. What’s a way to overcome that?
It was the same with the stock market in the 90s, which was quite volatile as well. But that didn’t stop the stock market from growing. Products like mutual funds, FinTech have been built based on the stock market. Any new market will always be volatile in the beginning but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any value to it in the long term. People who are investing in cryptocurrency today are aware of this fact. You can’t look at the current market to decide whether you should invest in it for a longer term.
Where do you see cryptocurrency in the next few years?
From an industry perspective, cryptocurrency is just getting started. We are just at the beginning of the boom. I see a lot more talent working towards it, a lot more traditional companies exploring cryptocurrency and a lot more companies holding cryptocurrency in their treasury. There should be at least a 50X growth in the near future.