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One of the biggest road bumps when it comes to the universal acceptance of cryptocurrency is how difficult it is to buy cryptocurrency. Many exchanges require lengthy verification methods, and don’t allow cryptocurrency to be purchased with debit or credit card. Not to mention that most exchanges have restrictions on the countries where they can be used.
Just as America runs on Visa, India has its own payment system which works with all the banks within the country called UPI (Universal Payment Interface). In order for Coinbase to allow Indians to purchase cryptocurrency with Rupees (as they promised would be possible) Coinbase needs to be able to use UNI.
Well, UNI stated on April 8th, 2022, that “no cryptocurrency company was currently using their system.” This means that Coinbase, excited with their announcement, didn’t go through the proper channels before they announced. It also seems like UNI is in no rush to help Coinbase with their launch, in fact is seems they are rather opposed to working with the cryptocurrency company.
Besides the payment interface problem, Coinbase’s announcement comes at a weird time. On April 1, 2022, India passed a law that there would be a 30% tax on any cryptocurrency earnings. And because of this, purchases of cryptocurrency declined rapidly overnight. Not only that, but there would be a 1% fee attached to any cryptocurrency purchases within the country.
This means that not only does Coinbase need to get set up with UNI, but they also would need to upcharge all the citizens of India a 1% fee every time they made a trade—and this money needs to somehow be delivered to the Indian government.
It’s surprising that Coinbase is running into problems in India because the Indian government has been on board with cryptocurrency payments since 2013. In fact, the government has always said cryptocurrency transactions were legal within the country.
With cryptocurrency, the whole name of the game is decentralization, meaning this move by India is going to be much harder to enforce than they think—unless, of course, Coinbase gets on board and reports all the sales and purchases directly to the Indian government.
As shocking as this may sound, Coinbase has always been on this side of the cryptocurrency/decentralization/taxes battle, as they participate in all of the KYC and AML laws in the United States, as well as report all large transactions to the US government. Therefore it is no surprise that they are ready to step in and do the same for the Indian government.
As mentioned above, this announcement that Coinbase is opening in India isn’t that surprising as Coinbase already has an Indian hub which employees 300 locals (for a fraction of the price it would cost to employ Americans). But Coinbase is feeling very positive about their India announcement, and therefore this week announced they plan to hire over 1,000 more people to work at their India hub.
This could bring some much needed tech jobs to India, as well as represent a growing movement where American firms are looking for cheaper, and more technical labor, outside of the United States where inflation is running rampant.
Although this article may sound a big gloomy, the reality is, it’s amazing that cryptocurrency is spreading all over the world. Especially in a nation like India, where it could infiltrate communities that don’t have access to banks (but Coinbase won’t exactly help with this).
The main issue is that Coinbase coming into India doesn’t necessarily fix the problems cryptocurrency is supposed to fix. For example, cryptocurrency is supposed to make money more decentralized, and give its power back to the people. But if Coinbase goes along with the India rules and regulations (which is probably will) the Indian people will be paying a high tax to use cryptocurrency, thus hindering it’s adoption.
Additionally, cryptocurrency is supposed to, in essence, replace the needs for banks. But if Coinbase uses UNI, it basically becomes another bank of India and makes it more difficult for those who don’t have access to banking services already, to access it. Therefore it doesn’t really seem that Coinbase will be the magic economical fix that India needs.
Regardless, it is great to see cryptocurrency spreading all over the world and being used by people of all nations and backgrounds. It’s only a matter of time before Coinbase extends to more countries with more jobs, and more teachings about cryptocurrency.
Overall, it’s hard to be mad about Coinbase opening a new branch in India, after all, it’s great that they are expanding! It’s just hard to swallow the fact that Coinbase moving to India will likely give the Indian government more power to tax their people on cryptocurrency—in a country filled with people already so desperate for enough money to get ahead in life. But at least Coinbase will bring some much needed tech jobs and more exposure to cryptocurrency to the region.