Despite being listed as one of the countries with the highest cryptocurrency adoption rates among emerging markets, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are yet to be accepted by most Indian markets.
Anshul Rustaggi, founder and CEO of Totality Corp, explained in an interview with Cointelegraph that social and cultural barriers and anti-cryptocurrency regulations have hindered the mass adoption of NFTs — especially in some lower-tier cities in the country.
With a population of 1.38 billion, India is the second most populous country in the world after China.Last month, the United Nations predicted that the country will Exceed Its rival sometime in 2023.
However, Rustaggi explained that crypto trading and NFT collection are seen as speculative investments — a concept that is unpopular in Indian culture, similar to gambling.
“India has a love-hate relationship with speculation. So all of Asia, including India, likes to speculate. But morally, we always like to speak ill,” he said.
Rustaggi explained that even his time as a hedge fund manager in London was considered by his own mother to be “basically gambling with other people’s money”.
“For NFTs, the only way to make money is to speculate […] As a society, we have not embraced digital goods. “
While research has found that most NFTs are purchased due to their speculative nature, some collectibles can be seen as “signals” of wealth and status, such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collectible which has a long list of celebrities and cryptocurrencies. The thumpers act as hodlers.
However, Rustaggi said that despite the strong emphasis on “social status” in Indian society, the concept has not caught on in India.
“In India, social status is very important and our biggest expense in India is marriage. On average, 34% of your lifetime expenses are spent on the marriage of your children. The thing is social events like this, you want to show the world your best side. So social status is very important.”
Rustaggi said the speculative nature of NFTs prevents them from achieving the same level of societal “signaling” compared to luxury cars or Rolex watches, but noted:
“So I think the time for NFTs to be a big signal will come in India. I don’t think it has come yet, but it will come.”
In late 2021, Totality Corp launched its first “Lakshmi NFT” – inspired by the goddess of wealth. Rustaggi said it was the largest NFT drop in India “to date”, bringing in a total of $561,000 from 5,555 NFTs.
Rustaggi said the drop was a success because it touted staking rewards in USD Coin (USDC) as an incentive to hold NFTs, making it a “guaranteed return” rather than “speculation.”
related: Indian government’s ‘blockchain not crypto’ stance highlights lack of understanding
Overall, however, Rutaggi believes that crypto adoption in India will remain challenging as long as there is regulatory uncertainty.
The Indian government has maintained a strong anti-crypto stance since 2013. Earlier this year, the government proposed and implemented two crypto tax laws, after which trading volumes plummeted and many crypto unicorns left the country.
“The Indian government definitely doesn’t want cryptocurrencies anymore […] The government is bluntly saying that we don’t like blockchain and we don’t like cryptocurrencies. But that’s kind of ridiculous. “