Cryptocurrencies may or may not be allowed in India in the future, but angel investor and former Coinbase CTO Balaji Srinivasan, one of its most vocal proponents, has successfully demonstrated its power in raising funds from different parts of the world and transferring them in hours, to help India fight the deadly second wave of Coronavirus.
Srinivasan has also used Twitter's RT (Retweet) function to great effect, using it to raise awareness and get people to pitch in. For instance, he tweeted that for every RT, he will donate another $50, up to $100,000, to help fight Covid in India.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, top executives of Coinbase, NotionHQ, and HubSpot have also contributed. How will the donations be converted into fiat where will they be used?Edited excerpts of a conversation that happened on Twitter between Balaji Srinivasan and Moneycontrol's Chandra R Srikanth:
Can you take us through how the global crypto community has come together to mobilize Covid relief for India? How can this be amplified?
Balaji: Sandeep Nailwal is the cofounder of Polygon, which is India’s first crypto unicorn and which I’m an investor in. He led the charge, setting up a crypto address and taking on the regulatory and accounting responsibilities. Critically, a new crypto address can be set up in seconds; rather than days (or weeks) for an in-person bank account. I retweeted it and then Vitalik Buterin did. We donated and encouraged others to also donate.
I read posts on how a million dollars was raised in just half a day in crypto, something that would have taken a couple of days at least if one were to use non-crypto networks....
Balaji: Crypto allowed us to set up an address in seconds and raise millions in hours from people in dozens of countries, with fully transparent public accounting of all funds in the blockchain. That’s just not possible with the traditional financial system, and indeed illustrates many of the concepts I’ve been mentioning in my articles.
How will this be converted into fiat money here, do you anticipate any hurdles there?
Balaji: I believe it is being done with Indian crypto exchanges. I understand Sandeep Nailwal is working with skilled volunteer accountants and the reputable ACT fund.
In terms of disbursals, are there specific causes you will use this for or will it be used directly to directly procure critical supplies from China,US etc
Balaji: Sandeep Nailwal and his colleagues are helping with directing the funds locally; I am just organizing donations. In addition to Vitalik Buterin, other global crypto people have joined in including Surojit Chatterjee (CPO of Coinbase) and Eric Meltzer (early crypto investor).
Has this also helped in demonstrating how crypto can help Indian businesses in the long run?
Balaji: The immediate issue is to solve the urgent and important problem of getting India past COVID-19 and fully vaccinated. The long-term issue is to solve the less-urgent but still important problem of rebuilding the economy after the stresses of COVID. It is here that the global crypto community could help in a different way, by investing in India, and helping with the economic recovery, as detailed in some of my articles
What does the Govt need to do to enable this going forward?
Balaji: The government should embrace crypto as a way for India to (a) protect Indian national security against de-platforming by American and Chinese tech companies and (b) rebuild the economy after COVID. Crypto is like the combination of economic liberalization and the internet, the two most potent forces since 1991 for Indian GDP growth. To have a chance of getting back on track to the $5T economy target for 2025, India needs to embrace the $2T-and-growing-fast crypto-economy.