WazirX is an incredibly easy to use cryptocurrency trading platform, with a rapid onboarding process with integrated AI. Since its launch in 2018, WazirX has grown quickly to become India’s largest trading platform. When it comes to distributed ledger technologies, NFTs are all the rage right now, as regular readers of our magazine will know. The exchange has now announced a platform for NFT artists, where local creators will be able to sell their art in the digital marketplace. We spoke to Nischal Shetty, Founder, WazirX to understand more about the platform and the launch.
“We are a crypto exchange, where we provide the technology platform for anyone to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. In 2017, the Bitcoin prices were going up and I tried to use some of the existing exchanges back then in India. It took me about three or five days to buy my first Bitcoin, by which time the prices had shot up. Then I realised that the products are also not up to the mark in comparison to global products, in terms of ease of use, user experience, the liquidity was less in the Indian market and people were also paying more than the international prices. All of this led to me deciding that a crypto exchange that will be idea for India because there are a lot of gaps in the market. The biggest I saw was that, back then, I could just google and go for whatever exchange came up, I wouldn’t know the background of the founders, or who it was, so it was very difficult to trust what exchange to go for. In an unregulated market, trust is very important because there are no licenses in an unregulated market. That is one of the reasons I took charge of the whole trust building in the market, and as a founder I am very and involved with the community. We announced that we were launching in 2018, and we saw forty thousand people signing up even before we launched. The market showed that there is a demand for an exchange that is simple to use, and where the founders are publicly communicating with the users.”
Transparency is built into the product as a feature. WazirX publishes regular blogs on the crypto industry, has a newsletter for updates, and all the details about how the platform works is available easily to the users in a format that is easy to understand. Since launch, the platform has been evolving rapidly, rolling out features as quickly as there is a demand for it. Since NFTs are a hot thing now, WazirX rolled out an NFT marketplace for local artists. “We have been growing really fast and today we are the largest (exchange) in the Industry. We have been listening to what the users want since the early days. Based on the number of people who are interested we take decisions on what to build for, we go about it that way. NFT is yet another example of that where we saw a lot of our users asking for a way to buy NFTs through an Indian platform. If you see globally, the NFT sector is heating up, where a lot of large artists are launching their own tokens. Now the New York Stock Exchange is launching its token of listed companies. So there is a lot of demand which is what led us to announce the launch (of the NFT marketplace).
NFT tokens are “minted” as a transaction on the underlying blockchain, where a permanent record of it is saved. The unique token on the blockchain is mapped to a file, which subsequently cannot be altered or tampered. The artist has to pay a price for interacting with the blockchain, for example, there is a gas cost for minting an NFT on the ethereum blockchain. WazirX has indicated that it plans to reduce the cost associated with minting an NFT for the artist, and if possible get rid of it altogether.
Shetty tells us, “the thing with NFT is that you could attach any media to it, which could be an image file, can be an audio file, or a video file. The way artists can really get involved is by minting originals of their work, as an NFT token. Let’s say you are a musician, you could then sell an original rendition of your music to anyone who wants to buy it. This is just an example the fan bases of influencers, youtubers, instagrammers and creators can get involved by buying the NFTs. This is a great way for fans to support the work of these artists, and at the same time if the artists grow bigger in the future then the prices of these NFTs will appreciate, thus helping these early backers benefit from the growth of the artist. So it is a sort of a win win for both the artists and the buyers of the NFT tokens. The good thing about this is that you can prove originality.”
The ingenuity of WazirX lies in the flexible P2P model, that allows users to trade cryptocurrencies between themselves. Throughout the stringent regulation regime on cryptocurrency, WazirX provided buyers in India an easy way to invest in cryptocurrencies. As a P2P mediator, WazirX managed to provide one of the easiest options for Indians to buy and sell cryptocurrencies, even though the restrictive regulations were in place. Still, WazirX is one of the companies leading the charge when it comes to asking for the government to implement regulations.
“We are building up the community also, pushing for positive crypto regulations so that it is easier for the users and customers to choose the right platform, and also making sure that the Indian crypto ecosystem does not have bad actors. We have been doing a lot of work around educating everyone in pushing for positive regulations,” says Shetty.
The launch of local marketplaces is great news for local NFT artists, who use international platforms such as SuperRare or OpenSea. Harshit Agrawal, who sells AI artwork as NFTs, tells us how NFTs benefits the artist, “NFTs have been great for digital artists- it's offered a ready marketplace for digital art- something that didn't exist before NFTs, because everyone was worried about duplication and authenticity of digital art. Now with storing tokens on the tamper proof, transparent, blockchains, its made digital art associated with the NFT a collectible, and the art market is responding to this. As India's first AI artist, i'm excited by this new space and have been actively involved with making and selling NFTs, primarily through the premium, one of the only curation only NFT platforms- Superrare. Being the first and only Indian artist on Superrare, i'm excited to bring my unique art- AI art inspired by traditional Indian art like mask cultures and rituals of India, bright Thangka (Buddhist) paintings. These have been much appreciated by collectors at Superrare where i've sold all my works of this style on the platform.”
Siraj, who makes illustrated NFT art, tells us “NFTs opens up a new platform for digital artists to show their work to the global audience. When a user buys NFTs, the users can make sure that they are buying the artwork from the original artists with a seal of authenticity. Also the artists gets royalty for the artworks when they get sold in the secondary market.”
Commenting on the launch of the NFT marketplace by WazirX, Agrawal tells us that he is “very excited to see an Indian NFT platform! I'd love WazirX to get actively involved with the Indian art community that is already active in the NFT space. It's a small bunch of artists currently, but we're constantly looking to expand and bring more artists in. I'd love to see WazirX truly bring in more Indian art to the NFT scene, and encourage Indian collectors to get involved too.” Siraj tells us, “I am eager to see the response of WazirX’s NFT platform from the Indian audience. I also hope this new platform brings out many other local physical artists to the digital medium.”
Zebpay, another leading crypto exchange in India had launched its own NFTs, the Zebra token back in December 2020. The company is now planning to launch an NFT marketplace, which is not just meant for artwork, but digital collectibles of many varieties. The soon to be launched marketplace is called Dazzle. Vikram Rangala, COO of ZebPay told us, “ZebPay will soon launch Dazzle, India’s first full-service NFT marketplace. Anyone can use this platform to create, buy, and sell NFTs. It is not limited to artists. Digital collectables and intellectual property of all sorts can be turned into an NFT on Dazzle. We announced India’s first NFT, the ZEBRA token, back in December 2020, with a limited release unfolding in 2021. At first, ZEBRA tokens will give owners rewards on ZebPay, then later unlock other special features, just like players unlock powers in video games.” Committing on the launch of the NFT marketplace by WazirX, Rangala said, “we are happy to see WazirX joining the NFT party. As we have said before, we see other exchanges and marketplaces as collaborators. The Dazzle marketplace, which we announced in December 2020 and which has been in development for some time, will be a larger NFT marketplace with more than just digital art.”