10 September 2021 · 41 min read

Building India's First USD 1bn Crypto Exchange w/ Nischal Shetty

In this episode of Cryptonews Podast, Matt Zahab interviews Nischal Shetty, CEO and Founder of WazirX, India's largest crypto exchange.

They discuss COVID in India, the business of WazirX, India's crypto scene and regulations, non-fungible tokens, and much more.

Episode timestamps:

0:00 Intro 
0:49 COVID-19 in India 
4:05 Support from the crypto community 
7:43 India's 2018 crypto ban 
11:47 Binance acquisition 
14:32 Keeping up with demand 
21:54 Crypto regulation in India 
31:15 CBDCs 
34:45 Rapid fire questions 
36:18 NFTs 
39:53 How to grow your startup 
41:53 Hot takes 
43:21 Outro

The episode premiered on May 3, 2021.

Listen to Cryptonews Podcast on other platforms here or explore the latest episodes here.


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Episode transcript:

Matt Zahab: 0:07

Ladies and gentlemen, today's guest is a pioneer and future Hall of Famer in the Indian crypto community. He's the founder and CEO of WazirX, India's largest and most trusted crypto exchange. Last month, our guest and his team added 1 million users to the platform. You heard that right. 1 million users in one month, talk about banana land. On this show, we love men and women are the people and this gentleman is definitely one of them. He oozes empathy, and is leading the charge for crypto regulation in India. I'm pleased to welcome to the crypto news podcast, Nischal Shetty. Nischal, welcome to the show, my friend. Hey, man,

Nischal Shetty:


Thanks a lot for having me on the podcast. Pleasure to be here.

Matt Zahab:


Thank you very much, sir. We are extremely happy to have you on. First topic that I do want to get into is a bit of a dire one, and that is the unfortunate COVID-19 situation in India. I see this all around Twitter, I see this on the news. My condolences to everyone there. I know it's just bsolute craziness right now and wish that countries around the orld could do more to help you uys, because it's just not good nd quite frankly, everyone hould be chipping in. I would ove to hear your point of view s someone on the ground in ndia right now, about the whole ituation, the COVID 19 ituation in India.

Nischal Shetty:


It is definitely not looking good. Though, I think a few days back quite a few of the cities which have been majorly impacted in India have announced a complete lockdown. And right now, even me, I'm just sitting at hom . None of us are stepping out but, you know, this is like the econd way for India. The firs wave was bad. But this is prob bly worse in terms of... I'll gi e you an example, in the fi st wave, In my company, I gu ss only two or three people. So that's a very small number of pe ple got infected. But this ti e around, I think about 15 or 20 or even more number of pe ple in my company have been di ectly affected, and a number of family members. So you know, it s just not just people getting nfected, but even their family embers near and dear ones, even hey're infected. So this is whe you know, and it's real, an it's near you, it's in your ouse. And that is what is hap ening. And the result of this hole situation is that there are not enough hospital beds to accommodate those who r ally fall terribly sick due o the virus. And we are heari g reports of deaths due t a lack of hospital beds, or, y u know, a lack of, I would say, oxygen cylinders supplies this and, you know, add on top of thi , the whole fact that there's a lockdown and people can t run their, you know, shops, they can't make their daily ages, that's impacting even m re. So it's like a really grim situation, because it's not just financial. It's also fr m a medical supplies point f view, you don't have access t that. And I think the world a d the country is doing what t ey can. But these are unprecede ted times, you know, you ju t have to figure out what you an do. But sometimes it's real y hard because there's no solu ion in sight right now. But I eally be I think we are all pray ng that the number of cases com down. I think that's the immedi te solution, which is you an't really expedite the num er of hospital beds because b ilding a hospital takes time. I' hearing about you know, on a ma eshift hospitals being built o t. But that still takes time. o the fastest and the best is stay at home and, you know, pre ent the infection from growing o other people. I think that is being done right now, which i a good thing. Very well said.

Matt Zahab:


I know the crypto community has definitely stepped up to the plate and has really helped. A couple days ago one of the biggest and most famous Indian tech founders Sandeep Nailwal, he is the founder of the Ethereum scaling platform, Polygon. And he set up a fund to help with the crisis. And I believe two days later or a day later, two big dogs and Vitalik and Balaji publicly announced their donations as well. Vitalik I believe, donated 100 Etherieum and 100 maker worth about $600,000 USD and Balaji donate 100 grand as well. This has bee incredible. Love seeing th crypto community step up to th plate and really contribute. An I know WazirX has also done a incredible job as well. You an the team launched a donatio platform on the website and yo guys are sending these funds t NGOs around the country tha will supply oxygen cylinders medical equipment, feeding th underprivileged and providin medical assistance. I'd love i you could tell me a little bi more about this program that yo guys have set up

Nischal Shetty:


Sure. I think, first and foremost, what Sandeep did with the whole campaign, I think that's very commendable, because it's sort of channelized people from across the world, and I think that's very significant. And the fact that it's happening on crypto has made it really easy for people anywhere in the world to donate, compared to like, say, if it was a traditional Fiat route, I doubt we would have seen that kind of participation. So that's something I think, I truly appreciate. And what we've done at WazirX, we've committed to donating $1.1 million, approximately, to various causes. Now, we had two options, we could have, you know, used that money to buy the supplies and all the necessary items ourselves and then directly reach the people. But we realize the situation is that we cannot spend time figuring out execution, which is why we decided let's shortlist some of the existing NGOs and other initiatives that are already operational, and just redirect the funds to them. So we've sort of selected about, I think, eight to 10 such initiatives. And probably in the next few days, we're going to announce all of them. And the objective is to also, in the true ethos of how the whole crypto ecosystem works and be very open about it. So we're going to publicly name all the initiatives we are going to donate to with the amount that we will donate, and the objective with this, I think the good thing that will happen is it will also motivate other people, whoever is looking to help to directly contribute to these different NGOs that we'll list. So that's what we are doing. And in parallel, we have also got a lot of feedback from our customers that they want to donate their crypto to the cause. So we've also launched our crypto page. We just announced it, where if you want to donate... but we are restricting it only to our customers or, you know, KYC users, because there are some regulatory hurdles in India to receiving international donations. And again, we don't want to spend time, though, Sandeep is figuring that out from his campaign. So I think if you're an international user donating to Sandeep's campaign is probably better because he's handling the whole, how do you get the money into the country in the right way? And for us, we are looking at it more from a local-national level. How do we channelize our existing user base? And how do we funnel our donation to the right causes out here.

Matt Zahab:


That's incredible. Hats off to you guys. That's just doing an amazing job. And hats off to Sandeep as well. For a nice little starting point to get into the history of was WazirX and what exactly is WazirX and how you've turned your company into such a behemoth? Let's go back to March of 2018, and three weeks after you guys launched in March of 2018, the Indian central bank released an imposed rather, a blanket ban on virtual coins in the country and that created an absolute shitshow. However, you in the team found a way to bash through that and have now created an absolute behemoth. I'd love if you could tell me that story.

Nischal Shetty:


Sure. And it is indeed funny because, you know, it was us. We were all excited, we spent about I think 45 days to build the first version. And we launched it on the eighth of March 2018. And within three weeks, we got this whole announcement by our central bank that crypto exchanges in India or any crypto related businesses in India cannot have a bank account. And none of the banks can provide them with banking services. And what essentially that did was cut you off from the Fiat ecosystem. And as being an on-ramp where you bring in your fiat currency and you buy crypto, that technically meant the death sentence. But because we had just launched and I keep telling everyone that maybe that was good timing in a way, because we were at ground zero, we had nothing to lose. We were a new exchange just launched, so what we did is, we tried to understand what's the alternative to this? You don't have a bank account? How do you continue to provide the same on-ramp experience to people and the option in front of us was to launch a peer-to-peer way for people to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, with Fiat. Now what that meant was, we would just custody the crypto because we did not have access to Fiat. And we would ask you as a buyer to directly send the money in the fiat currency to the sellers bank account. And this created a beautiful system where we could ensure that in India, people still participated in crypto, despite the banking restrictions, and the community in India found this as, and we were the innovator, we were the first ones to launch. So the community found this as the best way to still be involved in crypto. And that's how it gave us that initial boost, I would say, in gaining attention of the community, and to be seen as that platform, which still allowed you and helped you participate in crypto. So yeah, and by the way, during this time, I don't know if you remember, but the bear market had just started. So you know, it was two things. Because, ideally, if you see in a bull market, it doesn't matter what you do, you give the most difficult way for people to get onboarded, they will come. But in a bear market to find in a bear market, you have to really, really make things easy for people to onboard. So this was like a double challenge. You know, you have a bear market, you have a banking restriction, how do you still get involved in crypto? And how do you still provide the right services for people in your country who want to be involved in this? A good learning experience and I would say it's a very important thing, because after that, we've seen and heard of these central banks, in different countries causing issues and trouble. And I would always suggest that there's a lot of lessons to learn from our experience for other geographies, because I think we've recently heard about in Nigeria, where there was a banking restriction. So a peer to peer way of continuing is the right way. Never give up. Just because you don't have banking access does not mean you cannot help people to get into crypto. And I think peer to peer really works well in that aspect.

Matt Zahab:


Tell me more about WazirX present day. Well, firstly, I should be congratulating you guys on the by Binance acquisition. That's absolutely incredible. Let's start with CZ. Have you ever met CZ?

Nischal Shetty:


Yeah, of course, I've met him a few times. And I think the first time I met him was before the acquisition. And after the acquisition, I met him a few times. I think if you meet CZ, it's not very different. If you've interacted with him on Twitter, or if you've seen his replies, he is exactly that way. So you know, he's an open book and that's a good thing. So I think the thing that was motivating for me also to take that decision to go with Binance. Because externally, of course, we all know, Binance is a good product and it's, you know, one of the leading exchanges, the innovators, and rapid building. But when you meet him, you realize that it all comes from the whole mission that they want to make crypto accessible to everyone. So that was our mission. Our mission is to make crypto accessible to everyone in India. And when we started talking, I realized that mission alignment was very important. When when missions align, you really don't have to worry about anything else, because then you're all thinking in the right direction because in an acquisition, some of the things that can go wrong usually are when teams want different things. And I know a lot of people think about features and marketing ideas, but I think mission alignment is like the most important thing when you get into a partnership. And that showed me that this would be a good journey together and it's turned out well. Apart from mission alignment, I think what I was most excited about with Binance was to learn how do you really know scale that quickly? And despite the scale, how do you continue to be delivering products that quickly? Because if you look at the way Binance delivers, it's similar to probably 10-20% small startup doing it. Because we've always heard about startups being quick, and large companies being small, slow, out here Binance has completely turned it upside down. Despite being a large organization, they still deliver at a rapid pace. And I think I wanted to learn that how do you rapidly scale while ensuring your speed of execution stays intact? And I've been able to watch that closely, you know, you can just learn about it on a blog post. Because if you want to ask any one person, no one will be able to tell you exactly how this is done. But once you get in, and once you experience it, you have to be there and experience how things are moving, then you can learn it and implement it, and I've done the same thing at WazirX. So if you see our last, I think 12 months or 18 months, we've grown 20x in terms of you know our volumes, our signups, everything, and I think a large part of that is the learning I've got from watching Binance and how they broke.

Matt Zahab:


Sorry, you said 20x you've grown in the last 12 months?

Nischal Shetty:



Matt Zahab:



Nischal Shetty:


Or more than that. I'm just being conservative, but I think we've grown probably more than that.

Matt Zahab:


Humble brag, I love it. And well, speaking of scaling and growing 20x, last month you and the team added 1 million users to the platform. Not even last month, we're still in April. This April of 2021, you've added 1 million users. Now, in India, there are currently more than 11 million crypto users, there are half a million day traders, and more than 4000 people employed in the crypto industry. Tell me how was your x's really impacted that? And how are you guys going to keep up with this crazy demand that you're getting at the moment?

Nischal Shetty:


Sure. See, I think in India, I think first we have to understand what has led to this whole rapid adoption of crypto assets in the country. And it's a culmination of a lot of things. Starting from the last three years, what we've been doing, as an exchange and as an industry, is to ensure that we spread the right information and knowledge about crypto, because in 2017, one of the things we saw happened was a lot of people jumped into it, not understanding what crypto was, with the only objective that enterprises were doubling every week. And then you saw what happened. And in this in between, there were a lot of scams, because people took advantage of this whole fact that people wanted easy money. So the last three years, we've been working really hard on educating everyone on building a community to make sure that there are no scams or you know, I would say bad actors in the ecosystem. And it's worked out really well. And the way we've done that is, take my example. Me as a founder, I'm very, very communicative on Twitter. And we've also seen a lot of other influencers in crypto in India emerging in the last three years. What the whole influencer community does, is they make sure they can help their followers and fans to know what are the good projects and what are the ones that you should stay away from. That did not exist in 2017, which is why we could hear about a lot of scams. But today, if there is any shady, I would say product out there, the influencers and you know, everyone else, they make people aware that you know, stay away from projects like these. So that's helped a lot in ensuring we have a clean ecosystem. And then last year, in March 2020, the Supreme Court of India, they lifted the banking restriction, or the banking ban that existed, which again opened up the doors for a lot of people to be comfortable with the buying and selling of crypto. Then India experienced the first lockdown. This was in March 2020, we experienced the first long term which extended for three to six months in different parts of the country. And during this time, a lot of people started spending more time online and all the education initiatives that all of us as an industry have been working on, people started consuming those information, trying to understand what cryptocurrencies are so the three to six months of the lockdown worked as a catalyst for people to learn and understand what crypto is. And subsequently what happened is, globally the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies started going upwards. So now these people who got educated, they started now coming into buying cryptocurrencies to get involved. So that started the rapid rise of I would say, the new set of people coming into crypto. The difference this time was these were people who are more informed, more educated. And I would say they were taking an informed decision compared to 2017, when it was just, you know, let's just buy something and because we're going to make more money. So that helped and then after that, I think a few more things happen. For example, PayPal announcing. So in India are brands like PayPal, Elon Musk, Tesla, these are known names. Even though we don't have a Tesla, you know, being sold in India today, people know about Tesla people know about Elon Musk. So when all of these companies, and these are known celebrities, and known names. When they start talking about crypto, people have even more impact and more, I would say, trust on the whole crypto ecosystem. So that again, bubbled up the whole influx of new people. And that's been going on month on month. In fact, every month now, we are seeing more people entering crypto in India compared to the month before that. And I think this number is only going to increase, we're still probably at the very early stages. Not to forget the Coinbase IPO that brings in more legitimacy. So what is happening in the last two to three years, you see the trust factor has been increasing. And that's the most important thing in crypto, because what lacks today, or what lacked in 2017 was the trust factor. People did not trust a lot of projects. People did not trust the ecosystem. But now that trust is building up thanks to all of these activities. Not just local, but also the international activities. And I think this is only going to increase, you know, I think every other week, you hear of a new company like, I think a few days back there was Nexon from, if I'm not wrong South Korea, which said they bought $100 million dollar worth of Bitcoin. So all of these news are like, you know, impact building and trust building exercises for the crypto ecosystem and Indian audiences, we see that they're really consuming this information and then taking the decision to get involved.

Matt Zahab:


That's very enlightening. And again, just crazy the amount of people in India that can really contribute to one, the economy in general and furthermore, the crypto economy. A very bright future ahead. Folks, we're gonna take a quick little break and want to shout out one of our best sponsors and that is our friends at CoinPoker, who created the world's premier crypto poker platform. If you are a poker fanatic like me also a bit of a sports gambling fanatic, CoinPoker is the place to go. If you're also in the crypto world, it is a revolutionary blockchain technology based platform that was developed by an incredible team of poker lovers and sports gamblers alike. CoinPoker uses USDT as the main in game currency as well as $CHP which is the in game fuel. $CHP has done very well on a separate note. Tons of incredible features allowing you to transact in USDT Ether Bitcoin $CHP tokens, you name it. My favorite part is no KYC. You jump on board, you're locked and loaded. There's huge promotions, 1000s in Fiat giveaways, tons of benefits, future developments, you name it, and I guess my favorite part of all i should say is probably the mobile app. Whenever I'm on the go, I whip out my phone, if I'm waiting in line or doing whatever when I'm not on crypto Twitter, I will play a couple hands of Texas, maybe bet on some sports, see what's happening in the world of crypto poker and sports. And that is all done on coinpoker.com. Again, that is coinpoker.com. Now back to the show. Nischal, you just touched on the efforts of regulating crypto in India. I know this is a very potentially huge issue right now. The Indian government is potentially banning private cryptocurrencies. And that is part of the bill that was tabled. The bill is the cryptocurrency and regulation of official digital currency bill of 2021. Before we get into what you and your team are doing, the negative aspects of this bill include blocking the IP addresses of crypto companies. It would also give holders of crypto up to six months to liquidate, I don't even know how you do that that would be a nightmare, and as stated earlier, India has over 11 million crypto users, half a million day traders and more than 4000 people employed in the industry. This just seems like a bonfire waiting to go off. You and your team have launched and spearheaded something called the code of conduct. And that is obviously in part that you are a member of the internet and mobile association of India, working on that code of conduct for cryptocurrency companies in India, which pretty much sets out a guideline for KYC, AML, which stands for know your client anti-money laundering and other regulatory related features. I know the whole point of this is to you know, curb the illegal activities, and so exchanges can help with law enforcement agencies and educate the masses of crypto. I hope I got most of that right, but this is something huge and you guys can literally curb this whole regulation that could happen. And I would love if you can just tell me the very high level explanation of what's going on back home?

Nischal Shetty:


Sure. I think you got everything right. And if you look at the regulatory scenario in India right now, I see that as progress, though, you know, it might come off when you read the news that it's all so negative. I would say I see that as progress for a few reasons. The first is, until this year, our government has never officially spoken anything about cryptocurrencies, neither negative nor positive. It's just been reports in the media and probably unknown sources that we've heard from, but we've never had any official communication around cryptocurrencies or how to regulate. So whether it's positive or negative, I would say the government of India has now taken the steps towards regulation. Now the thing is, you heard about the bill and there was a small description when the bill was announced. We don't know what the exact contents of the bill are, we just have some three liners, the description of the bill, which is where the intention to ban private currencies was mentioned. But after that, our finance minister, she came on record on a video interview and she said that India does not intend to go towards a very negative approach, but India will take a calibrated approach towards regulating In cryptocurrencies, and I think that's a very positive move. And she also mentioned that other countries are participating, and India cannot stay on the sidelines, and that's something that everyone in the industry also resonates with because if you look at India's history, we are a tech first nation. We are one of the top nations in software technology as well. So, you know, I believe that as a nation, which is so deep into software, we are not going to sit on the sidelines, while the rest of the world innovates in crypto. And I don't believe our leaders are going to do that. But the regulatory process is very different. What happens is, when you want to get into regulation, the first thing that regulators usually look for is what are the problems that exist? And this is where the concerns come up because there are a lot of I would say, misconceptions around what cryptocurrencies are, there are misconceptions around the way cryptocurrencies can be used, and these misconceptions coupled with some of the, I will say past, like I was talking about, you know, the scams and all the unwanted activities that are happening in the past. They take a different approach which is how do you curb this? And that's where I think, you know, discussion around a ban, or how do you stop it? Or how do you block it, that appears. But it's all right, because as an industry, our objective is, now how do we take all of these concerns that regulators might have, and, you know, sort of compose the right set of things to do so that these concerns can be eliminated. And that's where the code of conduct that you were talking about comes into the picture. So what we did as an industry, instead of waiting for the regulator's to come up with some regulation and then implementing them, we prepared a code of conduct, which addresses all of these concerns that we have seen the regulators have and we want to adopt the measures like your know your clients, or know your customers that we call out here, which is to make sure that we have identity document, anti money laundering measures, we already implement that as an exchange and the other exchanges in the country do that. Our objective is, once we adopt these things on our own, without waiting for regulators, when the regulator's finally want to regulate, they come to a clean ecosystem, instead of having to come to an ecosystem where there is a lot of fires to put out, because of various, you know, wrongdoings in the industry. So this, I'm proud to say that we have a very clean ecosystem in the country today in crypto. And that's because all of us have taken the approach of self regulating, you know, instead of waiting for regulators to come in. Now, what direction do we go from here? I think the most important thing about the bill that is yet not introduced or in the public domain is the bill has been built completely from a theoretical knowledge of cryptocurrencies. And why do I say that is because none of the industry players in the country have been approached for any discussions. And that I would say is, again, a good thing. Because the way a bill gets into law is, there is always deliberation for the industry. Since it has not yet happened, I believe it will happen in the future and when that happens, we'll be ready with all of the content and all of the implementations we've done on our end, to present it to our lawmakers to show them how on the ground, while you know, you might have concerns, but on the ground, this is a reality. This is the data. This is how people are using cryptocurrency. And these are the kinds of self regulatory approach we've taken. So we as an industry are waiting for that dialogue to start, and I think regulations will take time. Even if there is a bill, it takes time for it to be converted into a law, and I think that timeframe is where as an industry, we want to make sure that we represent ourselves in the right way. So i think i'm just i'm very positive. I'm just happy that our government has started this path towards regulation. And I'm confident we will find a middle path and not go towards a complete ban because like you said, there are over 10 million people in India over cryptocurrencies, and it's worth over $1.5 billion. And I'm just talking conservative numbers by extrapolating amongst the various exchanges. I'm sure there are a lot of decentralized wallets, a lot of international wallets that people use. So overall, I think it's a large industry. And there are rumors about giving six months to exit. But think about it, Indians can only sell it to Indians. If there is indeed a ban that is being planned, how would you ever exit because no other Indian is going to buy those cryptocurrencies? So you know, that's an issue in itself. So I think, I don't believe we are going to go in the direction of a ban, it's just that this is how regulations work. It takes time. There is always a negative side and a positive side and the right way to treat this as To find that middle path, and I'm confident that India will do that eventually.

Matt Zahab:


And correct me if I'm wrong here, but the more Indians who start holding crypto, and the more people who join the industry, would it not be harder for government and the regulators to put a stomp on this?

Nischal Shetty:


Yeah, absolutely. It's very similar to the internet. Now think about the internet. A lot of the internet businesses, even today, are not regulated, but they service millions of people. Social networks, for example, They're still not regulated, and they have millions of people using them, which is also the reason why governments have to take the time to understand what's the right approach to regulating an industry. And the more an industry grows, the more cautious every government has to be. And in fact, this is one of the reasons I'm a large proponent of growing the ecosystem. While we always work towards the regulation, but I think the best way to get in the right regulation is to grow the industry as fast as possible, and build really large startups in the country, because that also shows the good side of crypto. So I think this whole inflow of large number of people coming into crypto in India, that's a very good time for the ecosystem out here.

Matt Zahab:


Hopefully, your finance minister is listening to this podcast, and they can get you in the team on the board. That would definitely move the needle. I'd like to stay on this topic for a little bit longer. It's very interesting. I know your finance minister also touched on a potential a digital rupee following the whole CBDC trend. Would that be bullish or bearish for the country? And how would you see that playing out long term?

Nischal Shetty:


I see that as a really bullish sign because, you know, there are a number of advantages to India, bringing its own central bank digital currency, and I think the... let's look at what are the advantages. I think the first advantage is the central bank getting deep into crypto. So all of the misinformation that we are concerned about would get automatically eliminated the moment they start working on this technology. And as they start understanding it deeper. The second is, if we look at India, we are a nation which has a really sophisticated banking, I would say infrastructure, but we still have a large number of unbanked population. It's about 200 or 300 million people in India, who don't have access to traditional banking. Why is because the traditional banking requires infrastructure to be, I would say close to your place of wherever you live, and it's hard to get banking infrastructure in every nook and corner of India, every village in India. But you have everyone in India, the mobile penetration is really high, mobile and internet. So the moment a central bank, digital currency comes, all you need is a mobile phone and internet to get access and to be involved in the digital economy. So this I see is a great way to onboard the 200 to 300 million unbanked population in India into the old digital economy. It will be way faster than waiting for banking infrastructures to be set up in every village in the country. So that's something that's very motivating. The third aspect is how you can make banking even more efficient, because today, banks have a settlement period that goes anywhere from a few hours to a one week period, where if you were to withdraw money, and for whatever reason there's an error, it might take a few hours to a few days for the banks to revert that money. But in crypto, the moment that is blockchain, your settlement is instant. You're either transferring the money to the other party, or it's in your wallet because it's peer to peer. So that's something that will ensure that there's not a lot of money stuck in between the banking channels. So I think I think overall, I see this as a very bullish move, and I believe that India should go faster on CBDC rather than slow down, because this is also the first mover opportunity that you get as a nation if you, not just India, but I think every nation should really think deeply do CBDCs because this is that opportunity to, you know, create, I think, immense value for not just your local population, but also you get a second chance at getting your currency to be a globally accepted currency. Because CBDCs just make it easy for anyone in the world to get access to your token or your currency. And I think that's a great opportunity for every country to make sure their local currencies can now have a chance to be global.

Matt Zahab:


Interesting. And Nischal, this has been incredible. A couple more questions, if you don't mind before we wrap up here. I know you are an extremely busy man. Let's get into a couple of the shorter slash rapid fire questions. One thing I'm curious of the name WazirX. Tell me about the name. Why did you choose that?

Nischal Shetty:


I've been, it's not like I'm a great player, but I've been a big fan of the game of chess. And the Queen piece in chess is called Wazir in Hindi. So, you know, and our objective was how do we build an amazing platform where users can make all the right moves. If you look at the Queen piece of chess, it can make whatever move it wants in the on the chessboard, that all the moves are allowed for the queen piece. So we decided that we would name it Wazir and X stands for whatever you want, you can call it exchange. The other day someone said is like, you know, crypto is 5x 10x 50x 100x. And then WazirX. So you can consider x as whatever you want, but Wazir is the queen piece of chess. That's the name in Hindi.

Matt Zahab:


I absolutely love that. That is amazing. That's got to be one of the coolest little, you know, name innuendos out there. Well done on that one. Bitcoin and Ethereum? What will happen first Bitcoin going to 100k or Ethereum, hitting 5k?

Nischal Shetty:


So I look, I think that's one of the most difficult questions to answer. But I think Bitcoin, if I was to answer Bitcoin.

Matt Zahab:


Nice Bitcoin going on a run. Tell me about NFTs. I'd love to know if any of NFTs are as popular in India as they are in other places around the world. I do understand you guys also, WazirX also just released a NFT platform. Tell me more about that.

Nischal Shetty:


Sure. I think NFTs, in fact, I believe would be one of the most popular crypto related product in the country. And the reason I say that is because India has a very large creative audience. And India has millions of influencers. And, you know, big and small. YouTubers, podcasters, bloggers, musicians, a lot of them. And the fact that India has so many languages, each of them has very unique set of audiences. Now, if you look at, you know, a bit, a quick bit of my history. My first company startup that I started was called Crowdfire. It was all focused on how do we help influencers and creators grow on social networks. So I have sort of a history there. And when I saw NFTs, I look at the journey of the creative people in the world as the first five or 10 years of the social networks was where you built out your followership, your ecosystem. And now is that opportunity for you to monetize that, and in between, we had these sponsorships and maybe ads as a monetization. But I think NFT provides a true monetization for all of the influencers, not just in India, but around the world, which is you interact directly with your fans, you give them something, why they follow, you know. For example, you make a short clip out of these podcasts that you make, and true fans of your podcast are going to buy them out as an NFT someday. And that's direct monetization for you. The other thing is, there are always influencers who might not have millions of followers, but they might have 1000, really core followers who believe in what they create. So even these people can buy them and you can monetize. You don't have to wait for a million people to follow you or to hear you to make money eventually, because that's how the world is today. So I think I'm a big believer of NFTs. And I believe that they will take off in a very good way in India. To add to that, I think one perspective we need to hear is, if you look at the crypto ecosystem, crypto tokens were in the domain of startups and companies and people who are technically savvy. NFTs, on the other hand, are something that is for anyone who's creative. You don't need to be a startup or a tech guy to create an NFT and sell it. You need to be a creative individual, and creativity exists in a lot of people. So I see this as like that, you know, the blogger movement on the web on the internet, where the moment blogger came in, and WordPress came in, everyone had a blog, and there were no restrictions. And you didn't have to be a company or a startup to have your own website. Everyone had a website. So I see the same thing happening to NFTs. And NFTs would probably be that, you know, thing in crypto where there is mass adoption from a creator point of view, not just from the consumers point. So it's very exciting. I was just talking to from the part of Metaverse where they met up or where they bought, the people are. And they have a similar thesis that NFTs are going to be something that will bring a lot of creators into the crypto ecosystem. So it's very exciting times.

Matt Zahab:


Absolutely love that. You touched on Crowdfire which was, I believe your first startup. To my knowledge you're two for two, not a bad track record. That'll get you in the Hall of Fame in every single sport. Tell me, what's the secret sauce of making a startup go to the moon? You're two for two, you obviously know what you're doing. What's the secret sauce there?

Nischal Shetty:


Honestly, I think there's no secret sauce. But if I was to choose one, I would say it's persistence. You know, persistence and mission. If you know what you want to achieve and if you set on that path, and focus on that, I think you can achieve it. I could always go deeper into execution. For example, I'll tell you, some of the things I see being done wrong is people think that focus means just doing one thing. But that's not right. Think of this as if you were to have a healthy body. And if you were to work out, would you just work on only your arms? Or would you work on all parts of your body? You would ideally want to work on all parts of your body. And that is the same when you build a startup or a product. Don't focus only on one thing, because I see a lot of people just focusing on "Oh, I want to build the best product, let me build the best product". But you forgot marketing, you forgot sales, you forgot customer support, and what that leads to is not the fully formed body, but something that's malnutritioned in some parts. So I think understanding that focus does not mean letting go of the other essential parts of your startup. I think that's very, very important. It came a bit late to me. But if I was to tell everyone, he said, build an all round approach from day one. Don't say that I'll build the product, then I'll market it, then I'll do some sales. Do it all together, find the right people. If you can't do it alone, and most times you can't find people who are good at it. You focus on your part, the others can focus on their strengths. And together you can build the right startup.

Matt Zahab:


I love that. I just to paraphrase what you just said you could use the analogy of not skipping leg day. I would say don't skip leg day. That's a new slogan. You can you can slide me a couple of Bitcoin for that one. Last question. Any hot takes within the industry, within the crypto industry that is? Are there any areas or sectors or products that you think are extremely undervalued that will pop off in the near future?

Nischal Shetty:


If this is a part where I can shill something that I'm related to? So if that's okay, so let me tell you know, I truly believe in these guys. They are building a decentralized notification on top of Ethereum. And I believe that if you look at the whole infrastructure that has been built on top of Ethereum, I think notifications, truly decentralized notification protocols don't exist. And it's probably because also there's a cost involved today. But I think when Ethereum, the 2.0 comes in where transactions are made really cheap and you can just do it quickly. I think that's where products like these, this is called EPNS - Ethereum Push Notification Service. So protocols like these will emerge. So I'm a big proponent of looking at projects that are going to be on top of Ethereum 2.0. And I think now is probably the right time to identify such protocols.

Matt Zahab:


Incredible. I'm definitely going to take a deep dive into that. Nischal, this has been absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for coming on. Before we let you go, can you please tell our guests where they can find you? And WazirX on socials?

Nischal Shetty:


Sure I'm on Twitter. Nischal Shetty is my handle. And WazirX is also on Twitter. It's WazirX India. So I am very active on Twitter. You can just reply to me if I am whenever I'm active, I try to reply, though I get a ton of replies these days due to the whole, I would say massive audience coming into crypto, but I try my best to respond.

Matt Zahab:


Nischal, thanks again. This has been absolutely incredible. I learned so much this podcast, and I just had an absolute blast speaking with you. I've had so much fun over the last, you know, 45 minutes or so. I'm going to need you 100% to come on for a round two especially with how quickly the space is moving in your beautiful country of India. This has been incredible. And on behalf of you know the whole community I just want to thank you for really being a mogul and educating investors about cryptocurrency. I know, that's part of the reason why you join podcasts like ours, we appreciate that why you speak out often why you write blogs, you know, speak at panels, and do all those types of things. And that is just to spread awareness and to show people the benefits and the power of crypto. So thank you for that. Nischal, this has been incredible. Thanks, man. Appreciate it.

Nischal Shetty:


Thanks Matt. And thanks a lot for inviting me. It was fun, you know, having this whole discussion. And I think discussions like these are very important so that we can spread the right information about crypto and what's happening around the world.

Matt Zahab:


Amazing. Thanks again. Folks before we let you go, if you enjoyed this episode and we hope you did, please give us a subscribe. You can find us on all major podcast players. We are the crypto news podcast. You can find us on cryptonews.com. Same handle on pretty much all socials and just want to give a huge shout out to the whole team, couldn't do this without you guys, thank you so much. love you to death and a special thanks to Justace our sound guru without him I'd be absolutely toast so Justace you're the man. The whole team, you guys are the best, love you thank you. And Nischal, thanks again, this was treat. Folks we are the Cry tonews podcast. Hope you had a blast and we will see you in a couple days. Have a great da