Hitesh Matlani is a globetrotter with a difference — the 32-year-old uses only cryptocurrencies during his travels.
Matlani, who uses the nom de guerre ‘Paco de la India’ or ‘Paco from India’ on social media platforms, plans to travel to 40 countries in the next one year and share his experiences with his thousands of followers. And that means he will be paying for flight tickets and even the vada pavs in Pune with cryptocurrencies.
“The purpose has been about mass awareness … I want to meet them (crypto users) and grow the community,” he said.
DJ Nikhil Chinappa, the once popular host of MTV music shows, is now busy introducing cryptocurrencies to his followers. With his shows, Chinappa introduced international music to post-liberalisation India and now he plans to do the same with a new concept — cryptocurrencies.
“I’ve been fascinated by the crypto space for a while — not just me, artists all over the world like Reese Witherspoon, Paris Hilton, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen have realised the power of crypto,” said Chinapa.
Both Matlani and Chinappa are among a growing breed of social media influencers for cryptocurrencies who are raising awareness, sharing market insights and perspectives to their Indian audience. Several of them are backed by exchanges, which wish to influence more investors to join the fold.
In the last two years, cryptocurrency has become more than just a buzzword for the tech- and business-savvy, especially the youth segment. With thousands of different cryptocurrencies in the market, fuzzy regulations, high risk and reward ratio and high volatility, the crypto market is hungry for information and insights and that’s the space which the social media influencers are filling successfully.
“When I learnt that Bitcoin has grown at a CAGR of 200% over the last 10 years, I wanted to understand it,” said Rachana Ranade, another influencer who is also a chartered accountant.
“Bitcoin pretty much answers everything; it’s faceless and it’s peer to peer. I have only been using Bitcoin in my travels. It’s been a completely new experience,” said Matlani.
But can one realistically live just by using crypto? Matlani says it is possible. He uses BitRefill, an application, which provides products and services that allows anyone to live on cryptocurrency. Often, he also reaches out and ropes in other crypto investors in a city who spend in rupees, but take the payment from him in cryptocurrencies. “I started my journey from India on September 17 from Bengaluru and have only used Bitcoins to fund my travels, stay and food expenses,” he says.
His first step was Belgam where he opened a crypto wallet for a roadside tea vendor who took payment in cryptocurrency.
Crypto exchanges say they are making efforts to make cryptocurrencies more accessible.
Currently, there are close to 15 million crypto investors in India holding digital assets worth Rs 15,000 crore.
“Our mission is to make crypto accessible to everyone in India which is available for the global audience, with some unique features such as, instant INR (fiat) deposit and withdrawal options to help users enter and exit anytime 24×7,” said Nischal Shetty, founder of WazirX, a cryptocurrency exchange.
Cryptocurrency exchanges have roped in some influencers and are “encouraging” them to spread the word.
Instagram is probably the most popular platform where the influencers are all vying for eyeballs — and they seem to be getting those too with millions in views and thousands in likes.
Data from exchanges suggest that a majority of the users in India are below 35 years of age and from Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
Another influencer, Siddharth Sogani, founder of research and intelligence firm CREBACO, actively works with several European and South Asian nations to catch fraudsters trying to dupe the gullible.
“Our intention is to bring in a regulated ecosystem to the crypto industry because that will not only help the industry grow but also help plug scams,” Sogani told ET. “People have lost a lot of money in cryptos and initial coin offerings, so the intention is to rate and identify the right projects so that scams don’t happen.”