India’s cryptocurrency craze is minting a new class of investor: the enterprising teen.
Their pocket money is helping fuel India’s surge in crypto investments, which stood at nearly $6.6 billion (Rs 49,189 crore) in May from just $923 million a year earlier. Drawn by the promise of huge profits and looking for ways to beat pandemic boredom, kids are buying bitcoin and other tokens – and quickly getting acquainted with market ups and downs.
“As an investor, I think cryptocurrencies are a good way to exponentially grow your wealth,” said Hashir Hussain, a 17-year-old student from Kolkata. “High volatility is a risk factor, but the profitability is a great plus.”
Along with the pandemic, which spurred the transition from online learning to online investing for many teens, the Supreme Court’s decision last year to revoke a 2018 ban on trading digital tokens has increased interest in cryptocurrency. Some teens are even convincing their parents to try a hand at trading digital tokens.
But many cryptocurrency enthusiasts are approaching their new pursuit with caution: DYOR, Do Your Own Research, is a commonly shared tip to avoid getting burned.
Embarrassment of riches
Would-be crypto investors have no shortage of choices of where to trade, with a slew of exchanges actively courting them. Platforms such as WazirX, CoinDCX, and CoinSwitch Kuber have launched social media campaigns to get more investors on board, and created apps with user-friendly interfaces. Their staff interact with customers on Twitter on a daily basis, and are quick to address glitches. Separately, these trading platforms are lobbying authorities on the benefits of blockchain technology and virtual tokens.
Cryptocurrency exchanges do not allow trading for investors younger than 18 years years old, but many Indian teens skirt the rules by using their parents’ credentials.
“I saw that the blockchain system is convenient and futuristic,” said Hussain. “It’s better to invest at an early age in new innovations.”
A key attraction for young investors is the chance to earn high profits by investing in small amounts. For instance, WazirX enables investments into bitcoin with as little as 100-500 rupees ($1.4-$6.8). That’s what lured Hussain, who has earned more than a 30% profit so far. His strategy has been to sell bitcoins at a profit and then reinvest those funds in other cryptocurrencies.
After trading for several months, he recently moved his investments to the world’s largest exchange, Binance, which he says offers him better features.
Prabh Simran, a 19-year old medical student from Punjab, said some of his trades have resulted in 1000% returns. “Bank deposits hardly give us 5% in a year,” he said. “I made sure my parents believed in cryptocurrency via small initial investments. Obviously, they’re liking the gains.”
But profit is not the only allure for Simran. He’s also excited about the prospect of shaping the market through governance tokens, which grant holders voting power on how a blockchain ecosystem is run. These tokens often allow the user to create loans and earn money by yield farming.
India’s unclear stance
While the Supreme Court’s decision to quash the restrictions on banks dealing with cryptocurrency entities has been a telling sign that authorities are not completely against digital tokens or blockchain technology, many young investors are bracing for potential restrictions. They cite the lack of proper regulations in India as a deterrent in the country’s path to adopting digital tokens for wider use.
The Indian Parliament is currently working on a cryptocurrency bill, though it’s still unclear when it will be heard or what its contents will be. Much of Indian authorities’ scepticism stems from the fact that a worldwide boom in cryptocurrency has bred the ground for fake trading platforms, often leading to fraudulent activities.
Some teenagers have already strategised how to protect their investments from a sudden ban, for example, by holding multiple trading accounts in domestic, as well as foreign exchanges. Simran plans on sending his cryptocurrency investments to relatives in foreign countries and have them cash it out for him.
“I have invested only that much which I can afford to lose,” he said. “Secondly, even if the (Indian) government bans it, they will provide a window to cash out your funds.”
This article first appeared on Quartz.