Opinion: DeFi and Crypto Regulations in India
They are best at describing the subject’s nuances and details, blowing you away with their engaging stories and witty remarks.
There may even be something you know well about, but not from the perspective of someone who has a strong passion for it. I've been fortunate to speak with someone with this type of passion.
Meet Raghav Sawhney, a co-founder of BlockchainPRBuzz, one of the leading crypto marketing companies. A small startup that four friends founded in 2016 now offers marketing solutions to over 350 blockchain and cryptocurrency projects, including some renowned CEX giants.
Raghav’s team has worked on a broad range of projects including real estate tokenization, supply chains, and various solidity and hyperledger projects. They provide tech solutions, end-to-end marketing, call-center services, security audits, business consultation, and more.
Raghav witnessed the industry's transition from Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) to Security Token Offerings (STOs) and then to Initial Distributed Offerings (IDOs). He was out there during the dawn of play-to-earn culture and the birth of NFTs and the metaverse era.
Although only 5 years have passed since the ICO bust, for crypto it is almost a lifetime. There are now so many crypto enthusiasts entering the market thanks to mass adoption that stories of the crypto boot camp of late 2017 and the crypto winter of 2018 ring like bedtime stories today.
The First Metaverse-Like Experience with Crypto
Raghav didn’t grow up with an interest in crypto, unlike many enthusiasts who fell into the field. He discovered the crypto world by chance, when a client asked him to write content for an ICO. Digging into the matter further, he found that freelance platforms offered a lot of marketing gigs for ICOs.
“We were surprised to learn that this area was in high demand. Then we began offering content writing, graphic designing, ORM services and other SEO and SMO services. That's how I became familiar with crypto.
It was a different ball game for me. I became more aware of crypto's benefits over time. The first and most fascinating advantage of crypto is its ease of wealth transfer, and that's why I've been drawn to it so far.
Back then, if you were getting payments from foreign clients via a banking system, you had to wait for at least 3 to 4 days for those funds to reach your account. It was very easy to handle this with crypto, and you would get your payment within a few hours (yeah, back then it took a while). No matter the amount, you can get it in a single click,” Raghav continues.
Over time, he realized that crypto is a fascinating technology as he was exposed to trading, holding his assets on the spot, and watching them grow within the span of a few months.
"I received the first Bitcoin payment from a client for $600, and a year later it reached over $3,000. It was a fantastic experience for me.
Nowadays, I see people going crazy with metaverse and related stuff, but back in 2016 and 2017, entering crypto was kind of a metaverse experience. When it used to be common to hold wealth and money in the form of real estate, gold, shares, and money in a bank, we held it in crypto. Currently, people hold land and assets in the metaverse, and crypto was a bit like the metaverse back then,” Raghav explains.
Going Through Fire and Water
Being put through the mill is a good test of a project's worth. This is what happened to Raghav's crypto business during the bloodbath of 2017 and 2018, also known as the ICO bubble bust.
“The market downturn from late 2017 and late 2018 drastically reduced our wealth after two years of unprecedented boom between 2016 and 2017, when hodling and watching your assets rise in value was the trend. I know it was very uncommon to average it to dollar value, and the options for doing so were very limited. Although USDP enabled us to do that, we didn’t have much experience with the trading rules, so I missed that opportunity”, he admits regretfully.
People were very speculative about ICOs at that time, so their clients as well as marketing budgets were decreasing. People began to offer their native tokens for work at that time, but DEX had very limited functionality and there was no DeFi culture, so they could not accept tokens fully. It was also very expensive to get the work done, so this was a very big challenge back then. Today, if clients offer native tokens, you can view the total value locked and all these factors, making it worthwhile to accept them. Back then the risk to reward ratio was too high.
“Throughout those hard times, I was still able to manage a few clients. Also, I accepted the payment in crypto and did not convert it to dollars or Indian rupees. I was able to accumulate some crypto at low prices, which I then used to my advantage in 2018 to 2019 when the market began to recover," Raghav says.
Putting India's New Crypto Rules into Perspective
I wanted to hear Raghav's opinion as a crypto entrepreneur on how the Indian government plans to levy a 30% tax on any income generated from crypto transactions and a 1% tax at source on all transactions (TDS) will affect crypto firms and ordinary users.
"I can't tell whether the effect will be positive or negative because there are two sides to this. In case you are one of those people who have invested in or have explored cryptocurrency as an asset class, the recent budget has provided some clarity on how it will be taxed. Some questions remain regarding how certain provisions will be implemented, such as whether GST will be applied. Considering GST will also apply to crypto, I have no idea how crypto companies will function. Here is a list of the following dilemmas that they will have to deal with:
- Will this 30% tax apply to single inward transactions too if they are getting paid for the work they do?
- Will they have to deduct this 30% tax along with TDS which is 1%? What is the reason for users making transactions to deduct 1% of the person sending them the money? In such a case, they are obligated to file TDS on behalf of the person they have deducted this from.
- How will a foreign client report or file TDS with our government if they are not from India?
- When companies have to charge a client GST as well, will it be 18%, 28%, or what would be the standard slab for crypto if this were to be implemented?
- Lastly, and most importantly, add up the tax component. All these factors combined will fall within a 40% to 50% window, which I sincerely doubt will be a favorable working situation.
- In addition, the company's founder or CEO will also be required to pay and file his personal income tax returns.
If we talk about individuals and not about companies, these laws are still not favorable as they do not specify whether the 30% tax on transactions is on capital gains or whether it is assessed on all translations the user performs. If the user utilizes an ETH exchange, there is a gas fee as well. I hope you can see how clumsy and unclear this is.
Even though I can go on and on about the different scenarios, the crux will remain the same – we don't have a law to legislate crypto yet, but the government plans to start taxing people in a vague way.
The only saving grace for crypto users in India is that the government has finally begun to recognize crypto and there is no fear that people will go to jail if they are found using or holding crypto in India”, Raghav clarified.
DeFi Is the Game Changer
In the past two years, Raghav's team has successfully implemented more than a dozen DeFi projects due to their solid grasp of how the technology works. Their product launch pipeline includes some fairly big coin-centric crypto ecosystems that will include some DeFi protocols as well as support for some centralized exchanges and media outlets.
DeFi is an emerging financial digital infrastructure that basically eliminates the need for a centralized body like any government agency or central banks to oversee, approve or run financial transactions.
“One of the biggest draws to the whole idea of using blockchain technology to reinvent the finance space lies in how the market can become permissionless and open to anyone. A further attraction is the concept of composability, which means anyone can mix and match any existing DeFi offering to build a new one. The composability of such a network, effectively made of blocks of interlocking components, also means that newer innovations and needs in the finance space can be easily built on top of the network and plugged together, all governed by smart contracts.
The possibilities of what you can do with DeFi continue to broaden with the addition of more dApps, so I think DeFi is here to stay. Basic protocols might change from time to time but this whole concept will basically reinvent the whole financial transaction flow,” Raghav believes.
How to Tell a Worthwhile Crypto Trend from a Fad?
Every time a new trend emerges in the crypto industry, there are early adopters and believers who hope it will be the next big thing.
"To my mind, no trend is a pure fad, because people who are able to identify trends are the ones who are able to reap profits. Therefore, no matter what the trend is, having the ability to identify it in early stages is crucial. Every time a trend arises, it is based on a new ideology. There will always be people who will benefit from all the new trends.
In all my years working in this field, I have seen many trends come and go, but until now, I am unable to predict if a trend is going to pass soon or if it is here to stay. I would recommend people to take part in every new trend that is coming in at their own risk level as you never know when sentiments are going to change and when you might be able to reap huge profits. Please note this is not financial advice, I’m just sharing my thoughts on this. It is impossible to make perfect investments, trades, or investment decisions, but we should not give up on trying,” Raghav concludes.
Mike Ermolaev, the Head of Public Relations at ChangeNOW.io, conducts an expert interview series with different notable people in crypto to provide both crypto beginners and veterans with an inside perspective on the crypto market. This interview was originally published on Benzinga.