Earlier this month, 19-year-old Sumit Dewan (name changed) borrowed Rs 2,000 from his elder sister to “stack” on his initial investment in various virtual currencies. Within two hours, he had earned Rs 100 on it. In the five months that Dewan has been investing in cryptocurrencies, he has seen a good 12.5 per cent profit on his investments. The money usually comes from his monthly allowance.
With reports of the government venturing to prohibit private cryptocurrencies in the country through a Bill in the upcoming winter session of Parliament, Ghaziabad-based Dewan is holding out on selling off his investments. “The Bill is not out yet and I don’t want to panic without knowing anything for sure. I know this market is volatile and was prepared for such a fall. It is like seeing a market correction after a bull run,” says the second-year BCom student.
Trading and investing in cryptocurrency has had a firm grip on youngsters for a while now. A horde of advertisements, many of them featuring Bollywood celebrities including Ranveer Singh and Ayushmann Khurrana, have added to the excitement and chatter around digital currencies and, by extension, their pitfalls.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had chaired a high-level meeting on the way forward to manage the cryptocurrency sector. And at the Sydney Dialogue last week, he said that international order should ensure regulating cryptocurrency to prevent any harmful impact on youth.
Sharan Nair, chief business officer, CoinSwitch Kuber, a crypto exchange that crossed 11 million users in 15 months, says, “Most Indian crypto enthusiasts are digital natives, usually first-time investors from non-metro cities and less than 28 years of age.”
With no amount too small to begin with, many youngsters like Dewan have been experimenting with investment in digital portfolios.
“I went down a YouTube rabbit hole around May this year, when Bitcoin was trading at around $48,000. From my savings, I invested only a nominal amount, which I was not scared to lose, just to test the temperature of this market,” says 23-year-old Madhuri Guleria (name changed).
Guleria, who used to invest in Ethereum, Solana and Bitcoin, says she has seen a 75 per cent return on her investment in a matter of six months.
Chaitanyaa Tiwari, 19, has been investing in cryptocurrency — his choice being Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Polymatic — for the past seven months. “Bitcoin was obviously the first choice and I moved to Ethereum, but it seemed dicey. I eventually started trading in smaller currencies as I think they give more returns. I also go after smaller returns — buying at 126 and selling it off at 130, then buying again at a decreased price,” he says, adding that he has earned a profit of Rs 10,000 on an initial investment of Rs 15,000 since he started trading.
Riya Seth (name changed) started investing in crypto to understand how the wallet and system work. “I started investing in Shiba Inu and Dogecoin just to see what the hype was about, with Rs 4,000, and I plan to hold on to it instead of selling it” — the forthcoming Bill, notwithstanding.
Kartik Malik (name changed), a 27-year-old entrepreneur, too, has decided to not sell anything yet. “There was some panic in the market since there is no clarity about the difference between private and public cryptocurrencies. As a tech enthusiast, I know blockchain technology will gain importance as time passes and once the ball gets rolling on that, the price of currencies will rise due to the rising momentum of the technology it uses,” he says, optimistically.
Malik, in fact, bought more coins, including one Ethereum at Rs 2.75 lakh, after Tuesday night’s crypto crash. And today it is trading at Rs 3 lakh in the international market. “A lot of people sold coins thinking they’ll book profit or hedge losses. While the prices have fallen in Indian exchanges, they will rise to match international prices later,” he says. “Experts are saying the market will sustain in the coming rain and a few currencies will go on a bull run again. I don’t think it is the time to back away.”
On a total investment of up to Rs 10 lakh, Malik has earned a profit of almost 30 per cent in a matter of five-six months.
However, as the winter session inches closer, some young investors are also getting jittery.
Raghav Sarin (name changed), who has faced an almost 50 per cent loss on investments earlier, decided to sell of his remaining investment. Says the 23-year-old New Delhi-based master’s student: “I have the money in the wallet but I have sold off my coins.”
While news of the Bill has unsettled some like Sarin, who have opted to pull out, others are watching the developments keenly, dipping into the thriving crypto information ecosystem that has developed in the country.
“With the upcoming bill, we hope to see clear regulations around crypto assets, the industry, and a clear view on the taxation of these assets. We believe more people can confidently start investing with a regulatory framework in place for this new asset class,” said Avinash Shekhar, co-ceo, ZebPay, a crypto exchange.
For many, research is continuing online. As it is, for these young investors, articles on CoinDesk, Twitter spaces conducted by crypto experts, Telegram and YouTube channels, and conversations among their peer circle are what keep the momentum going.
“I think it’s much more organic for people from this generation as they have been brought up with the internet and the meme culture,” says Dheeraj Shah, who runs a podcast about crypto and Web3. “I think they have an unfair advantage as they absorb this culture much more quickly than the older generation.”
As the world shifted online during the pandemic, experimenting with cryptocurrency also became an outlet for the boredom it brought. During the pandemic months, “there has been a definite spike in the number of young people investing, even though the ticket size is small,” says Kashif Raza, founder of crypto education platform Bitinning. “This is a generation of bar code scanning. Just like they prefer UPI over cash transactions, crypto is their chosen avenue for investing.”
Adds Pareen Lathia, co-founder at Builders Tribe, a platform working with crypto startups: “I think regulation is a positive step because it means people have more certainty and clarity. The rule of thumb is to invest only what you can afford and the youth has more sticking appetite. They’re young and it is a good learning experience. There is no reason to tell young people to not invest…the ideal way is to tell them to learn about it and become an informed investor.”
It is this appetite that has been put to the test now.
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