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Unocoin Founder: Comparing Bitcoin Kiosk to a Bank ATM Landed Us in Trouble

Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:04 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated March 4, 2021 3:04 PM

About a week since the seizure of what was to be the first Bitcoin ATM in India, one of the co-founders of the firm that installed the cryptocurrency vending machine, Unocoin, has speculated that the debacle could have been avoided with better branding.

Speaking to Quartz India, the co-founder of Unocoin, Sathvik Vishwanath, has claimed  that by branding the cryptocurrency kiosk ‘Bitcoin ATM’ they probably created the wrong impression as the acronym ‘ATM’ carries certain connotations. However, according to Vishwanath, the device did not need any regulatory approval, unlike the traditional banking ATMs.

Unocoin’s bitcoin kiosk with the ‘ATM’ branding. Credit: Unocoin

“It is just a kiosk which enables our customers to transact with us and not really an ATM that requires the banking regulator’s approval,” said Vishwanath.

Marketing Error

This was not the first time that Vishwanath was making the ‘branding mistake’ argument. The Unocoin co-founder, who had been arrested last week together with co-founder Harish BV in connection with the Bitcoin ATM, also presented a similar case on October 26 after being released.

In a tweet, Vishwanath alluded to the fact that as a result of media reports a picture had been painted that the ‘bitcoin booth’ was like a bank ATM and thus required the approval of the Reserve Bank of India. Per Vishwanath, this is likely what triggered the police raid.

Vishwanath together with Unocoin co-founder Harish BV, now face a variety of charges including engaging in unlawful and unlicensed operations.

“The ATM kiosk installed by Unocoin at Kemp Fort Mall has not taken any permission from the state government and is dealing in cryptocurrency outside the remit of the law,” said the crybercrime department of the police.

The police have also said in a statement that the two were attempting to defraud their clients by promising to double their returns. Additionally, the two will also be tried for forgery and cheating.

Bail Application Hearing

Harish who was arrested on October 23 while he was supervising operational upgrades of the cryptocurrency ATM at Bengaluru’s Kemp Fort Mall, is still in judicial custody with his bail application hearing slated for October 30. Besides the cryptocurrency ATM, other items that were seized from the offices of Unocoin included seals of the cryptocurrency exchange, computing devices, a passport and cash amounting to US$2,500.

As previously reported by CCN.com, a lot of controversy was generated when the Unocoin bitcoin ATM was installed in mid-October. At one point Unocoin had to move the cryptocurrency vending machine to a secret location to avoid the backlash as preparations for its launch progressed. Some of those at the forefront of the campaign against the Unocoin ATM especially on social media platforms were activists who claimed that setting up the cryptocurrency vending machine was an ‘attack’ on the financial system of India.

Featured image from Shutterstock.