As the founder of India’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Nischal Shetty has his finger on the pulse of new trends.
In 2017, after taking more than a week to buy his first bitcoin, he spotted a gap in the market to simplify trades of the then-booming digital currency.
By 2018, he had launched WazirX as a localized cryptocurrency trading platform for his native country India — a business that was later acquired by Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange.
Now, he has his eye on the next phase of growth for cryptocurrencies.
“The last three to four years (have) been the time for building crypto exchanges, layer one blockchain products,” Shetty told CNBC Make It.
Blockchain refers to a decentralized, digital ledger, which can be used to record data and transactions. One of its primary uses is the storage and management of digital currencies, such as bitcoin and ethereum — forms of virtual cash operated independently of state governments.
Choosing the right idea at the right time is going to be the key to building the next large crypto company, he added.
Pinpointing that trend is not easy, but 36-year-old Shetty, a software developer, said he expects the next wave to be in consumer products that make digital currencies more accessible in day-to-day life.
Today, there are around 50 million blockchain wallet users globally, according to Deutsche Bank estimates. By 2030, the bank expects that figure to rise to 200 million as digital currencies become more widely used.
“The next several years, I think, would be about building consumer-facing crypto products. Right now, it’s still not really into the hands of the people,” said Shetty. “Then, crypto education will also emerge as another large area for people to explore.”
Key for would-be entrepreneurs is getting that timing right, said Shetty, noting that the mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology is currently some way off.
“The challenge is to understand what is the right time for the idea, because crypto is still early,” said Shetty. “Quite a few of these ideas can’t be realized given the current technological state of crypto.”
The crypto industry has been facing increasing pressure internationally as authorities weigh concerns that it could be aiding tax evasion and criminal activity.
For its part, WazirX has been caught in the midst of a continuing crypto debate among Indian authorities, leading Shetty to team up with other exchanges to jointly engage the country’s top financial decision-makers.
“It’s not going to be a smooth ride, because there will be mistakes made, and in this, we’ll see a lot of hardships that will come from a regulatory point of view,” he said.
Shetty likened the situation to the early days of the internet. Initially, poor technology and slow internet speeds made it difficult to send emails. Now, video calls are commonplace and a critical part of working society.
Still, regulators are trying to get a handle on the fast-evolving tech industry.