Is the wave of cryptocurrency a destructive tsunami that shall annihilate the financial system or a lucrative opportunity that ought to be pushed towards profitable shores? Given that the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin, traded at $0.08 when it was created in 2009, even after accounting for its significant fluctuations, its current value of $35,876, is enough to make jaws drop and eyes roll.
What makes cryptocurrency so valuable despite it having no intrinsic value? Top cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and Bitcoin trade at amounts that are unthinkable for an intangible piece of code. While this can be baffling, on deeper scrutiny, print money’s valuation is equally without any intrinsic value. Once the gold standard was removed in the 1930s as a basis to value fiat currency, the central bank of a country was effectively the sole determinator of its value. So the RBI dictates the value of the Rupee and if it decides to devalue it against the dollar or print more money, it can easily do so. However, there is still a level of stability associated with the value of the rupee owing to several factors on the demand and the centralised nature of its regulation, as is true of most fiat currency from stable economies. On the other hand, it begs the question of whether a currency whose value can fluctuate from $58,000 to $30,000 on an Elon Musk tweet can be said to have any level of stability.
The value of cryptocurrency is derived from demand and supply, media forecasts and finite coin mining. Being platformed on blockchain technology and a decentralised distributed ledger system it has no central authority which approves and maintains a record of the database and determines its value. Despite the banking system being one of the oldest institutions backed by the Central government, the absence of an intermediary has not stalled the growth of cryptocurrencies because it has developed on a peer to peer network, being freely tradable by individuals and vesting control directly into the hands of the owner. Its convertibility into fiat currency is also at the behest of individuals who, through exchanges, are perfectly happy accepting it as tender which constitutes a discharge of debt.
Moving forward, there is great uncertainty about the place of cryptocurrencies in the formal economy on account of the concerns of the state-regulated banking system. Lately, the Chinese government, amongst others, has vowed to crackdown on crypto-exchanges amidst growing leakages from their financial system. El Salvador, in stark contrast, became the first country to formally introduce cryptocurrency in its financial system and recognise it as legal tender. Several countries stand between these two extremes and recognise cryptocurrency in a limited capacity by regulating its use. India is at such an inflection point and must decide which path to follow.
As with most significant technological developments, India viewed cryptocurrency with scepticism but did little about it from 2008 till sometime in 2018, when the RBI decided to come out with a circular that disallowed banks from allowing persons to trade in cryptocurrency. That step was taken without the legislature disallowing trade in cryptocurrency, so it effectively never made cryptocurrency illegal but created a surrogate ban for its official trade. The result was cryptocurrency exchanges relocating themselves outside of India and those wanting to trade in cryptocurrency proceeding to do it from outside the country. The RBI’s circular was struck down by the Supreme Court in its judgment in Internet and Mobile Association of India v RBI, which meant that crypto-currency, never considered illegal in India, could be traded and conversions into fiat currency done through the formal banking channel. However, as with most things, matters did not end with the Supreme Court’s decision. The recent experience with cross border trade in cryptocurrency in violation of foreign exchange guidelines served as another important reminder that regulation, and not prohibition, is the way forward. The cryptocurrency exchange WazirX was put on notice by the Enforcement Directorate for the alleged violation of foreign exchange laws.
Rather than a blanket or a surrogate ban, acknowledging that the Indian authorities are well within their rights to prosecute the unauthorised and illegal use of cryptocurrency is the way to serve all stakeholders and is better in the long run, even from a tax collection standpoint. Allowing interested traders to access the market through legitimate and regulated means would help negate many of the worries associated with cryptocurrency transactions. Banning cryptocurrency is likely to further incentivise investment through the black market thereby leading to even more leakages from the formal economy.
India can take several cues from beyond its borders on how to approach the regulation of cryptocurrency. The European Union, while cautioning against the dangers of cryptocurrencies, has permitted its use by regulating it. Cryptocurrency trading is also permitted in the USA, UK, Canada, Brazil and Russia, amongst others. For example, in the USA, people who trade in cryptocurrencies must follow centralised regulations and must register with accredited bodies to enforce anti-money laundering programs, keep appropriate records and make reports to FinCEN. With the active monitoring of such reports, it is possible to regulate the entire market holistically to avoid funding criminal activities such as terrorism.
With carefully crafted safeguards most of these concerns can be tamed. The potential for cryptocurrencies to destabilise the system can be addressed by simple checks such as permitting trading only through exchanges and limiting deposits and withdrawals. By placing limits on the volume of sales and purchases as a percentage of the total holding, the volatility can be controlled in the same manner as the stock market. That said, while there have been talks of cryptocurrency regulation in India and several policy papers, they have not materialised into a proper regulation. A bill in Parliament proposes criminal penalties for mining, holding, selling, trading, issuance, disposal, or use of cryptocurrency and at the same time introduces the Digital Rupee as the RBI backed digital currency. However, that was followed by a ministerial press statement that suggested that even if the bill was tabled for the RBI to launch a Digital Rupee, it would not criminalise cryptocurrency. That bill is yet to be tabled. Further, high echelons of the government and in particular the Finance Ministry have made positive statements to the media on the subject, which shines a bright ray of hope, but not without the usual policy surprises.
The question is whether India wants to follow China or embrace the winds of change with strong controls that are in sync with the liberal free-market economy. By embracing new technologies in our democratic and progressive nation, the twin objective of strengthening the dream of a digital India and not missing on the Blockchain revolution will become a reality. Gautam Buddha’s adage holds true even in today’s world: “Change is never painful, only resistance is.” There is no reason for India to impose a complete ban. Appropriate regulation and taxation are the tools to introduce it within the system for safe and legal use.
Nakul Dewan is a Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Barrister, Twenty Essex, Singapore and London. Nakul was the lead counsel who successfully argued against the RBI’s cryptocurrency ban in Internet and Mobile Association of India v RBI. Avishkar Singhvi is an Independent Advocate, Supreme Court of India. The views expressed are personal.
By embracing new technologies in our democratic and progressive nation, the twin objective of strengthening the dream of a digital India and not missing on the Blockchain revolution will become a reality. Gautam Buddha’s adage holds true even in today’s world: “Change is never painful, only resistance is.” There is no reason for India to impose a complete ban on cryptocurrency. Appropriate regulation and taxation are the tools to introduce it within the system for safe and legal use.
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Tushar Mehra & Mallika Puri, Co-Founders, Talentopedia on digitizing India’s freelance economy
In an exclusive conversation, as a part of NewsX India A-List, Tushar Mehra and Mallika Puri, Co-Founders of Talentopedia spoke about their venture and the importance of focusing on digitizing India’s freelance economy.
In his inaugural comments, Tushar Mehra said, “At Talentopedia, our aim is to digitize the Indian freelance economy and we are doing that by giving an app to freelancers to help them better manage and grow their businesses. There are about 20 million freelancers in India, despite that big number most of freelancing happens offline. The best way to grow your business is not to sell your services on online markets, the best way to do it is to get work through first degree networks.”
Joining the conversation, Mallika said, “I have been a freelancer myself, I’ve worked in the industry for 5-6 years. I have personal experience with respect to being a freelancer and the challenges that we ourselves faced. I have tried to generate business as a single army through online platforms like freelancer.com, fiveearth and I could never generate any business because I would spend my prime hours of working on online platforms just to generate business.”
“I realised these platforms are not build for freelancers and people like myself, they are built for buyers where they come on board, generate as many leads, whereas, the freelancers are just on the platform to bid for those leads that are coming on board. But we are constantly cost-cut, facing a lot of challenges with various different freelancers who are verified by the platform. Thus, we land up with zero work. So, we’d rather switch to offline channels through first degree networks to get our own business and manage work. That’s how Talentopedia was born. So, that we could cater to the freelancers first, make them our focus, focus on their challenges and then cater to the buyers,” said Mallika.
Commenting on how Talentopedia is set apart to help freelancers apart from helping and creating a market place, she added,“Freelancers are our prime focus, they are our customers. We look at providing them business-management tools through our application that helps them to manage their business, generate leads and also grow their business.”
Explaining how Talentopedia works, Tushar stated, “We have an application on the google play store. We have a portfolio to upload projects freelancers have done, list their skills and services they sell. You can even input reviews you get from Facebook and other platforms. You can use our payment links to get easy payments like UPI (Unified Payments Interface). If you are working, getting clients offline through your first degrees, use our tool, manage those clients.”
Recalling their journey so far and future plans for Talentopedia, Puri said, “The journey has been absolutely amazing, we have around 100,000 freelancers on our Android app. In next five years, we want to see 10 million freelancers on our app. We want to create job opportunities for people who are looking at freelancing as their source of income in the pandemic.”
Towards the end, Tushar added, “If you’re a freelancer, this is the perfect time to join our platform and start growing because with the pandemic, a lot of start-ups have recently started to hire freelancers as they have realised the power of freelance.”
“Got a lot of opportunities from global companies after Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative”: Raj Chodankar, Chairman & CEO, Rrps4e Innovation Pvt Ltd
NewsX was recently joined by Raj Chodankar, Chairman & CEO, Rrps4e Innovation Pvt Ltd for a candid conversation with in its special series, NewsX India A-List.
Raj kickstarted the conversation by sharing insights from his experience in the electro-optics and healthcare industry. He said, “Our journey actually commenced in the year, 1990, that’s when we first ventured into doing some sort of business in India, but, the real assignment that we took up was in 2001 when we built up a very unique nano-machining facility, one of its kind in India, which catered specifically to the nuclear fraternity. So, that was the platform which took us into electro-optics because most of the optical elements that go into an electro-optics need the nano-machining setup and that’s where our journey began in 2010-12.”
He further added, “2014 was when we did a really good job for the Indian army as an outside partner with an Israeli company where we built all the optical elements for thermal imaging fire control system which gets mounted on a tank that is where we started getting recognition and our journey then progressed into trying to offer complete products rather than only components because there was a lot of value addition in the products.”
Throwing some light on their journey further, Raj expressed, “We got very prominent in 2018-19 and we were recognised well. 2020 was the time when we diversified into healthcare and it was only because of the challenges that the entire world was facing due to the pandemic. Because we had this thermal core technology which was the base, we used that thermal core technology to build thermal scanners for fever detection and then we use this thermal camera jointly with a Japanese company.”
Further talking about their collaborative projects in India and PM’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, he said, “The era of making India Atmanirbhar is something that has always encouraged us and it continues to encourage us, or else life was very difficult for any entrepreneur to display his skills or innovation because at the end of the day we have to remember that if we are going into some niche technologies or products that go into Indian army, it is very important that these products go through some extensive trials and these trials by default can be anything between 1.5 to 3 years. The use of the Atmanirbhar plan under Make In India plan allowed us to buy technologies from global companies which made the buyers life much more simpler because it was a proven technology, and, we could then display our skills because the global technology provider will allow us to build 50 per cent of those modules or components in India which we call as the indigenously designed, developed and manufactured in India, the IDDM category.”
Towards the end of conversation, Raj shared about their global tie-ups. He stated, “After this Atmanirbhar setup, we got a lot of opportunities from global companies that wanted to partner with somebody who is already a part of the ongoing technologies and which is where we got an upper hand over the others. Not that we are of corporate level, we are just getting into corporate zones. We are doing really well, our growth pattern is going into constant jumps.”
“We want everyone who follows and wears the brand to be love generation”: Founders of LoveGen
Founders of LoveGen, Bhavana Pandey, Nandita Mahtani and Dolly Sidhwani joined us on our special series and shared with us the idea behind the brand and their experiences.
In an exclusive interview with NewsX India Alist, Founders of LoveGen, Bhavana Pandey, Nandita Mahtani and Dolly Sidhwani joined us on our special series. LoveGen is a brand that is uniquely tailored to meet the taste of an adventurous young generation who love to enjoy life and are interested in fashion, music and social media. LoveGen allows both young men and women to express themselves through clothes at every occasion.
Bhavana shared with us the idea behind the brand and said “All three of us have been friends for almost 20 years now. Fashion and marketing was something that was common between the three of us now, Nandita has been a designer for many years and Dolly had a brand and comes from an export background. I had a bit of marketing experience in fashion. Over many of our conversations, we realized that we don’t have fast fashion Indian brands which can be spread over all age groups and something comfortable.”
“That’s how the idea came about, and three of us were pretty much on the same page with it and we just decided to go for it and finally execution happened quite quickly,” added Bhavana.
Nandita Mahtani shared with us about the coming of the brand together and said “This is something that we all individually wanted to do and it was just about finding the right people to do it with because to start a new brand on this level is not an easy job. The three of us connected and our synergy was great and there was no turning back.”
Dolly Sidhwani talked to us about the thought behind the brand’s name and how LoveGen wants everyone to be loved. “We wanted to create a community about love, and there was a lot of hate around the world right now. We want everyone to be about love and everyone who follows us and wears the brand to be love generation,” said Dolly.
With so much prior experiences in the world of fashion and design, the founders elaborated on the USP of the brand and what sets it apart from others in the market. “Right now we are very focused on denims and what is really different about our brand is that it is very relaxed and at the same time it’s very glamorous and simple and interesting and it’s very cool and this is what sets it apart. A lot of our design elements come into play from our travels and whatever we carry back from our travels,” explained Dolly.
Renowned fashion designer Nandita shared her experiences working on that brand and said “LoveGen is a very affordable brand for everyone and it was very exciting to design. We have a lot more styles for every season and it’s more sort of interesting for the younger generations.” “We wanted more mass appeal so there was a lot of more scope,” added Nandita.
Throwing light on the journey of the brand in the wake of the pandemic and turbulent times, Bhavana told us “The last one and a half years, people have been through so much. We were fortunate because we have got partners who’ve invested in the brand. They were really supportive with us and the three of us been like very strong about it. We made sure to keep that our employees, our people are loved as much as we could. And we’ve kind of waded through this whole time together.”
Adding on how they are looking at the positive side, Bhavana further added “Our store in Malad, which is the Inorbit Mall has opened again and two more stores in Indore. We’re looking at opening more stores this year. We have started our brand online as well so we’re getting a lot of eyeballs on LoveGen.com.”
Talking about the emergence of digital marketing and sales, Dolly added “Social media is a huge part of our world but somehow I think there’s always going to be a balance between brick and mortar and digital. It is going to be a lot digital going forward but we are also planning to open 30 to 50 stores in the next two years.”
On an ending note, the founders of the brand advised their fans and viewers to never give up on dreams and follow their dreams and do what they love.
I never thought that I would ever going to be part of Hungama 2: Meezaan
After making his debut with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Malaal, Actor Meezaan is all set to carve a space for himself in the hearts of audiences with Hungama 2 on Disney + Hotstar. The young hearthrob recently joined NewsX for an exclusive conversation as part of NewsX India A-List and spilled the beans on ‘behind-the-scenes’ hungama.
Reminiscing memories from the release of earlier ‘Hungama’, Meezan said, “I was actually 8 years old when the movie had come out in 2003. I remember going to Globus theatre in Bandra and watching it with a friend of mine and his mother. Ever since, even when the film comes on TV, we watch it till date. Sometimes while scrolling through the channels, suddenly we see Hungama, we always stop by for those iconic scenes. I never thought that i would ever going to be part of Hungama 2 about 18-19 years later. It has been a surreal experience for me. I am just grateful for this opportunity that has come and working with the people who are working on this film.”
On his full-fleged entry into the comedy genre, a genre in which his family has made a huge mark and their reaction to the script, Meezaan said, “The funny thing is that there was no script. There was just a name. I got a call saying, ‘Will you do a Priyadarshan film?’, and I said, ‘Ofcourse, yes’, without any hesitation because it is Priyan sir and it is honestly an honour to be working with him in my career. It is my second film and i am thrilled to get this opportunity and it has turned out to be amazing. I can’t wait for people to finally see the movie.”
Speaking about his experience of working with Filmmaker Priyadarshan and Actor Shilpa Shetty, Meezaan expressed, “It was a surreal feeling because there are too many things that are working in favour of this film, in terms of putting the film together. There is Priyadarshan coming back after a long time. There is the title, ‘Hungama’, which is a big franchise. The producers- Venus, Ratan ji had launched Shilpa Shetty and had done movies like Khiladi, Baazigar and so many other iconic films. You have the starcast, including Paresh ji, Rajpal sir, Johhny Lever, Ashutosh Rana- so many veteran actors. They are amazing at what they do. At the same time, there is Shilpa Shetty as well, who is making her comeback. There is also this song, ‘Chura Ke Dil Mera’, which is an iconic song and she is in the original song. I am with her in this remake. It’s too much that is going on. There is a lot of Hungama happening as it is. I am very happy. It has turned out to be wonderful.
“I am glad i made so many friends, including Shilpa ma’am. She is a wonderful person, full of life. I think she is aging in reverse. She is looking wonderful in the song. She has absolutely killed it. Till date, she has maintained the same energy, same dedication, same work ethic. I’m actually inspired by her and it was a lot of fun working with so many people, ” he added.
Sharing the response he has received for the song, ‘Chura Ke Dil Mera’, Meezaan said, “It has been great. People have loved it. They showered their love, whether through social media, YouTube and stuff like that. It has been great. I have no complaints and it is still going on. There is a lot of Hungama still to be done. We’re taking it one step at a time. There is one more song that came out after, which is called, ‘Chintan’. That song also has received a lot of love from people everywhere. Now we have other song coming out, which is the Hungama title track. It is going to be wonderful and i am excited for everyone to see the whole film as it is.”
Check out the entire interview on NewsX YouTube:
IDEA BEHIND DAMROO IS TO SUPPORT INDEPENDENT MUSIC: RAM MISHRA
In an exclusive conversation with NewsX India A-List, Ram Mishra, Founder and CEO, Damroo App, spoke about his app and how it promotes independent artists and their music.
Ram Mishra spoke about collaborating with singer Kailash Kher and BJP leader Dr Sambit Patra and how his app promotes independent artists and their music. Talking about the collaboration, Ram said, “I am thrilled about the song ‘Shri Jagannath Ashtakam’, composed and sung by Kailash Kher and Dr Sambit Patra. I am thankful to them and excited to release this song exclusively on the Damroo app. It is a beautiful song about Lord Jagannath. For those people who are not able to attend the Jagannath Yatra this year due to the pandemic, this song is for all of them. Those who don’t like spiritual songs should listen to this one. It is going to fill your mind and heart with energy.”
On being asked about his app, he said, “The idea behind this app is to support independent music and non-film music. There are a lot of digital platforms and apps, that are promoting International and Indian music but this is the only platform that promotes independent music and non-film music. We also kept in mind that a lot of people want to listen to regional music- be it Punjabi, Odia, Gujarati, Assamese, Rajasthani, Bhojpuri or anything else. This platform will provide them with all of this. Just one click and they will be able to get their choice of music. We have songs in more than 20 languages and are also collaborating with regional and independent music artists and labels.”
“We have a service in Damroo Plus, which is designed to support independent artists. There are times when independent singers/musicians don’t have proper platforms or labels to support them, this service will help them to showcase their talent and give opportunities to upload their songs and music on this App. Through this platform, they can also upload their songs on other platforms like Saavn, Gaana and Spotify. In this App, they can also keep a track of their songs/music, like how many people have listened to their song, in which country/cities is it getting popular, how much revenue they are making through these songs and as soon as they claim this revenue from us, we pay them immediately. And, like other music apps or platforms, here also they can make their playlist and create their fan base”, he added.
Report card: 30 years of reforms in CPSUs
The country was in a deep fiscal crisis and facing a very difficult balance of payment (BoP) situation during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The acute fall in the BoP led to an expeditious depletion of forex reserves. It declined to Rs 3142 crore and this sum was not even enough to finance imports for one month.
At that time, there was a minority government at the centre with the support of Congress from outside. To counter the problem and for fiscal correction, the government decided to divest up to 20% of its equity on selected central public sector undertakings (CPSUs) as one of the measures through the interim budget, presented in March 1991.
Later, the Congress party formed the government and introduced a new economic reforms policy in July 1991. The new era of reforms started and it led to the adoption of the disinvestment policy of the previous government. Since 1991, all successive governments have been adopting more or less the same policy for the disinvestment of CPSUs.
In 1998, the BJP-led NDA formed the government and took the initiative of speeding up the process of disinvestment. During the NDA government, the maximum amount was realised through disinvestment in the form of strategic sales. In such a case, the ownership of the CPSUs was given up by the government.
From 2004 to 2009, the pace of disinvestment had slowed down. At that time, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was in power with the support of the left front. The left parties were not in favour of the disinvestment policy. The left parties forced the government to retain the existing Navratna companies and profit-making CPSUs will not be sold. Accordingly, the strategic sale methodology was called off.
However, during 2009-14, the process of disinvestment had picked up pace as the Congress-led UPA-II formed a full majority government. The government ruled to bring its equity in CPSUs down to 51% without diluting its public sector character.
Henceforth, the BJP-led NDA came back in power under the leadership of Narendra Modi and formed the government in 2014. It seemed that the government would not go ahead with the disinvestment policy as the BJP had not even put disinvestment on its manifesto. It was expected that Narendra Modi may choose to revive CPSUs instead of selling them off. But by ignoring all earlier assumptions the Prime Minister Modi had started giving a new impetus to the process of disinvestment. The government raised Rs 322383 crore from the disinvestment of CPSUs in its five-year tenure. This was done in an average of 21 transactions each year.
In the general election of 2019, the NDA again formed the government. However, this time the government faced tough challenges. The government faced the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic in the financial year 2021. The global pandemic had increased the government’s expenses too much and reduced income drastically. The government tried to speed up the divestment to increase its revenue but failed. The global Covid-19 pandemic had also hindered the process of disinvestment. The government had realised only 15.64 per cent of the amount against the target in the financial year 2020-21.
Therefore, the government adopted a new robust privatisation policy as ‘The Strategic Disinvestment Policy-2021’ (SDP21) for the CPSUs to reduce the fiscal burden. This time the government replaced the word ‘disinvestment’ with ‘privatisation’. All CPSUs have been divided into strategic and non-strategic sectors. The CPSUs of the non-strategic sector will be completely privatised. The government has kept four sectors under the strategic sector and planned to limit its presence in this too as a bare minimum presence.
In addition to disinvestment, the government came up with a monetisation programme under the policy of CPSUs reform. The government has introduced a roadmap for asset monetisation in the budget for 2021. The government has proposed to launch a ‘National Monetisation Pipeline’ to assess the potential value of underutilised and unused government assets.
It is expected that the government’s privatisation programme for FY22 may get delayed due to the second wave of the pandemic. But the government is confident that the target of Rs 1.75 trillion is still achievable. Nevertheless, the government should introduce a transparent policy for CPSUs reform and not limit itself to privatisation alone. The amount raised through disinvestment should be used either to retire old debt and/or to restructure CPSUs. It should not be used for expenditure.
Vinay K Srivastava teaches at I.T.S Ghaziabad. His Twitter handle is @meetdrvinay
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