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India’s Best-Funded Bitcoin Exchange is Running Low on Cash and Employees

Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:44 PM
Mark Emem
Last Updated March 4, 2021 2:44 PM

By CCN.com: India’s regulatory uncertainty on cryptocurrencies has taken a toll on Bengaluru-based exchange Unocoin forcing it to lay off employees. According to The Economic Times , the bitcoin exchange has laid off over a dozen employees and now only has 14 employees remaining.

The changes are drastic considering that last year in February Unocoin which is in its sixth year of existence boasted of over 100 employees.

Per Unocoin’s CEO, Sathvik Vishwanath, the cryptocurrency exchange – the best-funded in the country – only has cash reserves to last it just a few months. Unocoin had previously attempted to raise funding but this did not materialize.

Reserve Bank of India Quick to ban, Supreme Court Slow to Decide

The future of the bitcoin exchange also rests heavily on the kind of ruling India’s Supreme Court will make regarding the banking restrictions imposed by the country’s central bank on cryptocurrency businesses, according to Vishwanath:

We did ask people to leave last week, but our operations will continue for the foreseeable future. We have some amount of reserves to push through for the next couple of months and will wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Initially, the Supreme Court of India was to issue a ruling on the matter on March 29. This has now been postponed to July 23 igniting some street protests by those angered by the delays.

How India’s Cryptocurrency Exchanges are Coping With the Regulatory Uncertainty

The lack of regulatory clarity in India regarding cryptocurrencies has seen some exchanges moving abroad as others shut down.

A little over two weeks ago Indian crypto exchange Coindelta announced that it was closing shop . The exchange had been in existence for one and a half years of existence. Coindelta attributed its woes to the ‘curb on the bank accounts’ by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Per Coindelta, RBI’s move to ban banks from providing financial services to crypto exchanges had ‘handicapped’ its operations. Additionally, the delays by the Supreme Court had injected even more uncertainty into the business. Users of the exchange now have to withdraw their funds by the end of this month.

One exchange that has chosen to move abroad is Zebpay which ceased its Indian operations  last year on September 28. It was the oldest exchange in India at the time. Zebpay stated that the ‘curb on bank accounts has crippled our, and our customer’s, ability to transact business meaningfully’.

Now the crypto exchange has registered offices in Singapore and Malta and offers services to mostly European residents and citizens.

Despite Closures, Relocations and Now Unocoin Layoffs, Not All is Doom and Gloom

Despite the curbs on banking services and the Supreme Court delays, it’s not all skepticism in India’s cryptocurrency sector. New crypto-related businesses are still being launched, though at a reduced pace, and existing businesses continue to raise funding.

Last year in September, on the eve of the Supreme Court’s final hearing, a new cryptocurrency exchange CoinRecoil was unveiled .

And just last month the startup investment arm of U.S’ private equity firm Bain Capital, Bain Capital Ventures, invested an undisclosed figure in Mumbai-based cryptocurrency exchange CoinDCX .