CEO of Totality Corp explains why India is still largely untapped for NFTs


Despite its ranking as one of the largest cryptocurrency users among emerging markets, the majority of the Indian market has yet to embrace non-replaceable tokens (NFTs).

In an interview with TBEN, Totality Corp founder and CEO Anshul Rustaggi explained that social and cultural barriers, as well as anti-crypto regulations, are preventing NFTs from being adopted en masse, especially in some of the lower towns in the country.

India has a population of 1.38 billion people and is the second most populous country in the world, just behind China. Last month, the United Nations predicted that the country will overtake its competitor sometime in 2023.

However, Rustaggi explained that crypto trading and NFT collection are seen as speculative investments – a concept frowned upon in Indian culture and in a similar boat to gambling.

“India has a very love and hate relationship with speculation. So all of Asia, including India, loves speculation. But morally, we always like to say bad things about it,” he said.

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Rutaggi explained that even his time as a hedge fund manager in London was seen by his own mother as “basically gambling with other people’s money.”

“With NFTs, speculation was the only way to make money” […] As a society, we have not yet accepted digital goods.”

While studies have shown that most NFTs are bought because of their speculative nature, some collections can be seen as a “signal” for wealth and status, as in the case of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection which has a long list of celebrities . and heavy hitters in crypto as hodlers.

However, Rutaggi says that this concept has not taken off in India, despite the strong emphasis on “social status” in Indian society.

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“In India social status is very important, the biggest expense we have in India is marriage. On average, 34% of your living expenses are for your children’s marriage. And the thing is, it’s such a social event, you want to show your best to the world. So social status is important.”

Rustaggi says the speculative nature of NFTs has prevented it from achieving the same level of social “signaling” compared to a luxury car or Rolex watch, but noted:

“So I think the time will come for NFTs to become a great signal in India. I don’t think it is, but it will.”

In late 2021, Totality Corp launched its first “Lakshmi NFT” – inspired by the goddess of wealth and fortune. Rustaggi said this was “by far” the largest NFT drop in India, totaling $561,000 from a collection of 5,555 NFTs.

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Rustaggi said the decline was successful as it touted strike rewards in USD Coin (USDC) as an incentive to hold the NFT, making it a “guaranteed return” rather than “speculation”.

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Overall, however, Rustaggi believes that cryptocurrency adoption in India will remain a challenge as long as there is regulatory uncertainty.

The Indian government has maintained a strong anti-crypto stance since 2013. Earlier this year, the government proposed and enacted two crypto tax laws, which have caused trading volumes to drop and many crypto unicorns to leave the country.

“The government in India absolutely does not want crypto anymore […] The government says outright that we don’t like blockchain and we don’t like cryptocurrency. But it’s a bit ridiculous.”