Even though “social status” is heavily emphasized in India, hosting a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT there doesn’t impress anyone.
The majority of the Indian market is yet to accept nonfungible tokens, despite being one of the emerging markets with the greatest adoption rates of cryptocurrencies (NFTs).
Anshul Rustaggi, the founder and CEO of Totality Corp, said that societal and cultural impediments, as well as anti-crypto policies, are preventing the widespread adoption of NFTs, particularly in some of the nation’s smaller cities.
India is the second-most populous nation in the world, only after China, with 1.38 billion inhabitants. The United Nations predicted last month that sometime in 2023, the nation would surpass its rival.
But according to Rustaggi, cryptocurrency trading and NFT collecting are viewed as speculative investments, which are detested in Indian society and fall under the same category as gambling.
“India has a very love and hate relationship with speculation. So all of Asia, including India loves speculation. But morally, we like to always say bad things about it,” he said.
Even his own mother at the time viewed his stint managing hedge funds in London as “basically gambling with other people’s money,” according to Rustaggi:
“With NFTs, the only way to earn money was speculation […] We haven’t yet as a society accepted digital goods.”
However, some collections can be viewed as a “signal” for wealth and status, as in the case of the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection, which counts a long list of famous people and influential figures in the cryptocurrency industry among its hodlers. Surveys have found that most NFTs are purchased due to their speculative nature.
Rustaggi claims that despite the heavy emphasis on “social status” in Indian society, this idea hasn’t gained much traction there.
“In India, social status matters massively, the largest expense we have in India is marriage. On average, 34% of your life’s expenses are for the marriage of your children. And, the thing is that it’s such a social event, you want to showcase your best to the world. So social status is important.”
Rustaggi claims that NFTs have not been able to achieve the same level of social “signaling” as a luxury car or a Rolex watch due to their speculative character but added:
“So I think that time for NFTs to become a great signaling will come in India. I don’t think it has come yet, but it will come.”
In late 2021, Totality Corp unveiled its first Lakshmi NFT, which was designed in honor of the goddess of fortune and wealth. Rustaggi said that with a total collection of $561,000 from a collection of 5,555 NFTs, this was “by far” the greatest NFT drop in India.
Rustaggi claimed that the decrease was effective because it advertised USD Coin (USDC) staking incentives as a reason to hold the NFT, making it a “guaranteed return” rather than “speculation.”
Overall, though, Rustaggi thinks that as long as there is legislative uncertainty, crypto adoption in India will continue to be difficult.
Since 2013, the Indian government has maintained a staunch anti-crypto position. Two cryptocurrency tax policies that were proposed and enforced by the government earlier this year have caused trade volumes to collapse and the exodus of numerous crypto unicorns.
“The government in India definitely doesn’t want crypto anymore […] The government is outright saying ‘we like blockchain but we don’t like cryptocurrency,’ but it’s kind of ridiculous.”