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Shivam Thakral, chief executive officer, BuyUcoin, lives his life by Steve Jobs’ motto, “If you don’t love it, you are going to fail". In India, he considers Zerodha’s Nitin Kamath as his idol because of his simple approach to business and ability to think like a customer for creating products.

He spoke to Mint on what inspired him to enter the world of crypto, launch one of India’s earliest crypto exchanges and the company’s expansion plans. Edited excerpts:

Q. Tell us about your background.

I was born and brought up in Hapur (Delhi/NCR). I belong to a family of engineers which compelled me to pursue engineering. I went to Harcourt Butler Technical University Kanpur to study chemical engineering in 2014 and during my college, I did website development for some clients, which helped me sharpen my coding skills. My ability to code enabled me to create numerous digital properties and helped me to think beyond what already exists in the world.

Q. How did you get interested in crypto?

I started my summer internship during college break, and I was paid a stipend in Bitcoin in 2016. Through Bitcoin, I got the payment in my bank account instantly through a local exchange. The same payment used to take 5-7 days to get credited to my account. The instant payment through Bitcoin sparked my interest in the crypto ecosystem.

I spent the next 15 days researching crypto online and gathered vital information on the functioning of the crypto economy around the world.

Q. What inspired you to start BuyUcoin?

Bitcoin amazed me more than anything else, and I wanted to buy to buy the crypto asset online with my savings. I searched online but there was no platform in India to buy such crypto assets. I decided to change this by building a cryptocurrency exchange for the Indian market so that Indians can also benefit from the power of crypto.

I shared my idea with Atulya Bhat and Devesh Agarwal (co-founders) and they liked it. I was glad to find like-minded people at such an early stage. I built the BuyUcoin platform in just nine days and on the 10th day, we executed our first trade, which was done by a friend to test the platform in July 2016.

There were no blockchain developers in India and we learned the technology and used it to develop the exchange backend and user interface.

Q. What was it like setting up a crypto exchange in 2016?

BuyUcoin was started with an initial investment of 40,000. The initial funds came from our personal savings, which were earned through freelancing work. This money did not last, as we spent most of it on travel and company registration, among others. The entire setup, including server, emails, SMS were arranged through free trials of service providers. As the trading gained traction on our platform, our cash flow started growing.

Most of the exchanges were following a fixed pattern created by foreign exchanges but we designed our platform keeping in mind the psyche of Indian investors. We made buying cryptocurrencies simply by enabling purchase in the INR option. We also enabled the purchase of bitcoin through debit and credit cards, which generated a lot of traction on BuyUcoin.

Q. Tell us about BuyUcoin’s initial days

BuyUcoin went from 0 to one lakh users in just six months, which was the biggest inspiration for us to work even harder. The support from the users gave us a sense of validation and we knew that we are on the right path. There has never been a dull moment in our life since we launched BuyUcoin.

We aggressively worked toward simplification of buying and selling crypto. We removed the order book from our user interface, which would confuse a lot of new investors. Multiple payment options, simplified user interface, easy payout option through wallet are some of the features still liked by investors.

Q. What are your plans for expansion?

We plan to expand our footprint to Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines in the current financial year. We strongly believe that South Asia offers lucrative opportunities for the crypto industry and is capable of becoming one of the growth engines for the global crypto economy.

Currently, we are a bootstrapped, profitable startup and we will continue our growth trajectory. We are looking at a mix of organic and inorganic growth and will raise funds for global expansion in the future.

Q. Why do we need crypto in India?

Crypto assets are global and traded globally on a 24x7x365 basis. The stocks as an asset class were only made available in the modern world, and it was a result of evolution in the financial world. Crypto assets are similar. They are the biggest disruption in the financial world and offer tremendous potential for wealth creation.

Crypto and blockchain are inseparable so if the world is ready to embrace blockchain tech then crypto assets will be a part of the deal. India needs to join the major economies in the world in welcoming blockchain technology and be at the center of the biggest financial revolution in human history.

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