Buying with bitcoins

New gateways let people use virtual currency to shop, and even pay for school fees
It’s still too early to throw away your credit card, but bitcoins are making inroads in India as a mode of payment. India cur rently has around 50,000 bitcoin enthusi asts, with 30,000 of them actually owning the currency . With increasing ease of using them for purchases through mobile apps, bitcoins are quickly transitioning from being trading units to shopping currency .Just a year ago, bitcoin owners in the coun try had few avenues for using the currency . Since the cryptocurrency is technology driven, sellers need to have platforms to accept it. This is where things have changed in recent times. Unocoin, an Indian bitcoin exchange, has launched a `merchant gateway’ which enables business entities to accept bitcoins. Sellers like Sapna Book House, bus ticket booking por tal e T r av e l S m a r t , Dharwad International School, fashion portal, and internet platform service provider are among those who have signed up and are now accepting bitcoins from their customers.Coinsecure, another Indian bit coin exchange, is likely to introduce a merchant gateway in the coming months.

Zebpay, an app-enabled bitcoin mobile wallet, earlier provided for just trading of the currency . This June it entered the payment sphere; its users can now buy vouchers of Amazon, Flipkart, Freecharge, Bookmyshow and Makemytrip. In July , Zebpay also enabled its bitcoin-app users to recharge their pre paid or pay for their postpaid plans with telecom operators such as Vodafone, Airtel, Uninor, Tata Docomo, Reliance, BSNL and MTNL. This offering also covers several DTH service providers. The company sees at least 500 new users signing up for the bitcoin-app each week.

A couple of weeks ago, ePaisa, a mobile point-of-sale (POS), enabled brick and mortar stores to accept bitcoins. “Since our an nouncement, we have seen tremendous inter est from brick and mortar stores and we ex pect to reach around 100 outlets by the end of the year,“ says Siddharth Arora, co-found er and CEO of ePaisa. “All that the buyer has to do is select the bitcoin option at checkout.A QR code will pop up with the amount due and the customer will only need to scan that code using their own bitcoin wallet app. The store can receive the payment either in its bitcoin wallet or in the bank account,“ explains Arora.

While the concept is new, some retailers have realized the advantages of accepting the currency . “When a merchant offers the bitcoin option, he reaps the benefits of lower transaction fees, no chargebacks, fraud prevention and quick payment. Merchants can instantly convert the bitcoins received into Indian rupees in their bank account,“ says Sunny Ray , president, Unocoin.

The interest is not limited to e-commerce he interest is not limited to e-commerce sites. Dharwad International School in Karnataka introduced bitcoins as an online payment facility for school fee this academic year. eTravelSmart, which offers 80,000-plus bus routes, started the facility in May and sees averagely five bitcoin transactions per month. “The bitcoin user base in India is increasing and cannot be ig nored,“ says Bhav Singh Bhukya, co founder of YK Solutions, which owns the eTravelSmart portal. “Customers now pay their ticket fare in bitcoins.

For instance, if the fare is Rs 1,000, bitcoins equal to this value are de ducted from the custom er’s wallet, which at present works out to 0.06269592 bitcoins,“ explains Bhukya. In August, the buy value of a bitcoin fluctuated be tween Rs 14,000 and Rs 15,000.

Saurabh Agrawal, co-founder at Zebpay , says the most popular avenue for use of the cryptocurrency has been vouchers. “We buy vouchers from e-commerce companies and sell these online against bitcoins. We are seeing a monthly growth of 100%,“ he says. However, the legality of bitcoins has often been a topic of debate. Advocate Vaibhav Parikh says bitcoins are legal in the country. “The dialogue around their illegality among potential investors or merchants is simply a fear of the unknown. The only word of caution -people should be wary of accepting bitcoins from outside India as exchange control regulations are applicable.“ Parikh favours a self-regulatory mechanism like in the UK for India-based bitcoin exchanges and other players in the cryptocurency spectrum.

 Source: The Times of India


Neeraj; an entrepreneur & a visionary in the field of Railway, Defense & Automobiles, is a graduate in commerce and a Harvard Business School Alumni. He’s an expert in govt. liasoning & contracting and has an exceptional network & connections at both local as well as global level. He’s an expert in Market Strategy & Planning and has served number of overseas companies as an advisor/consultant. He takes a profound interest in upcoming startups & is very receptive towards ground-breaking ideas & innovations. He likes to brainstorm those ideas and if the values & philosophies matches; he is even ready to invest his resources, serve as a mentor or act as an incubator to futuristic businesses.

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