India’s oldest exchange for trading cryptocurrencies aims to double monthly transactions after an explosion in demand, despite concerns of looming curbs from the nation’s authorities.
ZebPay, a platform with about 4 million customers, expects to churn $2 billion worth of trades per month, said chief executive officer, Rahul Pagidipati. While that’s still less than one fifth of trades handled by top U.S.-based exchange Coinbase Global Inc., there is a vast untapped market in India, he said.
“India holds less than 1% of the world’s crypto currencies and its potential investor base is 100 million,” Pagidipati, 43, who started investing in digital coins about 10 years ago, said in a phone interview from Durham, North Carolina.
The future for crypto trading in India is highly uncertain after the central bank and government’s expression of concern fueled speculation that an out-right ban of private coins may come into force. Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, soared to a record high this month amid more signs of adoption from institutional finance organizations.
While possible changes to the regulatory framework do raise concerns and risks, those will fade in time with clearer rules, said Pagidipati, who owns two-thirds of ZebPay together with his wife. India will not ban crypto currencies given the strong user base and demand, he added.
“When an airplane is first invented you would not want to fly as it might not be safe,” he said. “But with each year it gets safer.” His Singapore-headquartered firm follows strict anti-money laundering regulations for its customers who operate through banks, he said.
ZebPay was founded in 2014 in the western Indian state of Gujarat, home of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He expects ZebPay trading volumes to generate $25 billion in 2021.
India had banned banks and other regulated entities from supporting crypto transactions in 2018. The Supreme Court removed the curbs last year in response to a petition by cryptocurrency exchanges.
Pagidipati, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, doesn’t expect the demand for Bitcoin to wane despite it looking pricey, and sees it worth $100,000 before the end of this year.
“There is a massive demand for cryptocurrencies,” he said. “It is like Apple stock, expensive but valuable.”