Home / Technology / News /  NFTs, the new craze in cricket and Bollywood

NEW DELHI : The surge in popularity of NFTs, essentially blockchain-certified copies of digital art, has Indian celebrities, including Bollywood stars and cricketers, among those joining in to create and sell non-fungible tokens.

On 30 August, Amitabh Bachchan became one of the first Bollywood stars to join the craze for NFTs, short for non-fungible tokens.

His NFTs, which include an autographed poster of Sholay and poems narrated by him, will be hosted on a platform called BeyondLife.Club in November this year. In July, TV host and actor Vishaal Malhotra also had also released his NFT in collaboration with artist Ishita Banerjee, on global platform Foundation. Malhotra has since released at least two more NFTs.

He is not alone. Interest from Bollywood has been growing ever since Bachchan’s involvement, according to Toshendra Sharma, founder of NFTically, a software-as-a-service (SAAS) service for NFT marketplaces.

While he did not name the people he has been in conversation with, Sharma said he is seeing interest from musicians, scriptwriters, directors, actors and others involved in the Indian film industry.

Cricketers, too, have shown interest. In the past two months, two NFT platforms dedicated to cricket have been announced in India. Last month, homegrown digital collectibles platform Rario announced that it had partnered with cricketers Zaheer Khan and South African Faf du Plessis for the platform.

Singapore-based blockchain platform Cricket Foundation, too, announced an NFT platform dedicated to cricket earlier this month. It is backed by cricketers V.V.S. Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Wasim Akram, R.P. Singh, Piyush Chawla, Deep Dasgupta, Pragyan Ojha, Lance Klusener and others. The platform uses homegrown blockchain firm Zebi’s platform to run its marketplace.

NFTs are digital tokens akin to cryptocurrencies, except that they are non-fungible, which means that one NFT cannot replace another in a blockchain. As a result, a person buying an NFT can sell it to someone else or exchange it for another NFT, but the blockchain platform will always reveal the creator’s name and subsequent owners.

This process helps artists sell a digital item once and earn commissions for subsequent sales. For example, one can simply ‘copy paste’ digital art, but they won’t replace its fingerprint on the blockchain, thereby clearly showing that it isn’t the original.

While the technology has mostly been used for selling digital art, music and videos via auctions, Sharma noted that celebrities’ involvement would open up newer avenues. Most celebrities want to use NFTs for fan engagement around one of their works, he said. For instance, a celebrity could make a single ticket for his film an NFT and reward the highest bidder not only with the ticket but an in-person meeting or a poster. The bidding process alone helps create fan engagement.

Vishakha Singh, vice-president of the NFT marketplace hosted by India’s top crypto exchange, WazirX, corroborated that the platform is working with renowned musicians like Ritviz and Nucleya. “In our experience, so far, community engagement is key to driving sales. Bollywood and sports celebrities rely heavily on their social media managers and teams to engage within their community. We are working with known Bollywood entities but not celebrities in the traditional sense," she added.

“Entry from celebrities creates mass awareness. Social media influencers have been interested in the NFT space purely from a public relations point of view," said WazirX’s Singh, adding that few understand the possibilities that this technology offers right now. “The growing crypto community and usage of crypto shall help policymakers in designing regulations around crypto. Celebrities’ involvement may not necessarily ‘help’ in future regulations but perhaps emphasize the importance of expediting the regulations process," he added.

Sharma’s NFTically, which announced an NFT with Zee Studios, said the fact that a publicly traded company is taking an interest in the space is helping convince celebrities.

Crypto experts agree that celebrities entering the space won’t necessarily drive up sales. It will, however, help the market mature and bring in bigger ticket investors. For instance, the most expensive NFT sold in WazirX’s marketplace was around 5.3 lakh, whereas global NFT sales have skyrocketed to millions of dollars.

According to an 18 August report from blockchain data platform Chainalysis, India ranks second in terms of crypto adoption worldwide, behind Vietnam.

(An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Amitabh Bachchan was the first to join the NFT trend. The same has been rectified to include actor Vishaal Malhotra's NFT release in July.)


Prasid Banerjee

An engineering dropout, Prasid Banerjee has reported on technology in India for various publications. He reports on technology through text and audio, focusing on its core aspects, like consumer impact, policy and the future.
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