WazirX was launched by three young tech entrepreneurs Nischal Shetty, Sameer Mhatre and Siddharth Menon in March 2018. Within three weeks of its inception came news that RBI had asked banks to stop dealing with cryptocurrency exchanges, effectively banning cryptocurrencies in India. It was a rude shock for the entrepreneurs but instead of calling it quits, they got into innovation mode, and launched a novel peer-to-peer cryptocurrency trading platform that kept the exchange going.
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On November 1, 2018, WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty began a campaign on Twitter called #IndiaWantsCrypto. Under this campaign, Nischal began posting one tweet every day, ranging from interesting facts to unique insights about cryptocurrencies. The idea: create awareness about the industry and impress upon policymakers to regulate the industry, which generates thousands of jobs, not to mention vast amounts of monetary value.
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Day 1: Shetty tagged then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the Prime Minister’s Office on Twitter, urging the government to bring about positive regulation for cryptocurrency. “The youth of India have found a new way to make wealth & this is especially important when there are not enough jobs for everyone”. Shetty also urged his followers to tag ministers, media persons, crypto investors and anyone else who would be able to help. “We need to tweet till we get a response”, he wrote.
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Day 100: The hashtag #IndiaWantsCrypto had recorded 1.5 million impressions. “This is day 100. We need to tweet to our minister every day till we get a reply. The more we tweet, the more chances of our voice being heard & crypto getting a positive regulation in India,” Shetty wrote.
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Day 200: Even as the campaign continued to garner strength, there was no word from the government on whether it was planning to outline its policy stance. “We are yet to hear from our ministers,” Shetty wrote on Day 200 on May 20, 2019, around the time the NDA government was voted back into power. Soon it was Day 300 and there were yet no responses from any lawmaker.
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Day 303: Rajeev Chandrashekhar, who was later appointed Union Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, and Electronics and Information Technology, asked Shetty to reach out to him through direct message.
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Day 365: November 1, 2019, the campaign had garnered over 1 lakh retweets and likes. “We have met a few entrepreneurs but we’re yet to hear from our PM and FM,” Shetty tweeted. At the same time, the Supreme Court was hearing a case on the legality of the RBI’s effective banning of cryptocurrencies in India.
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Day 489: On March 4, 2020, the Supreme Court (SC) of India set aside the RBI circular of 2018, allowing cryptocurrency transactions in India. The SC ruling was underpinned by the fact that there was no law on cryptocurrencies in India. The Supreme Court also urged the government to bring a law on cryptocurrencies, which would help stakeholders more clarity on how to deal with the space. A crypto investor, Shrikar Parashar, posed in front of the RBI office with a poster that had the hashtag #IndiaWantsCrypto and the text ‘We Won’.
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Day 822: Feb 1, 2021 – the day of the Budget. The government tabled a bill named ‘The Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2021’, which sought to introduce a central bank digital currency and “prohibit all private cryptocurrencies in India” barring certain exceptions “to promote the underlying technology of cryptocurrency and its uses”. The announcement led to some panic in the crypto space even as supporters trended the hashtag #IndiaWantsCrypto.
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Day 856, March 5, 2021: The campaign, which was started with am of getting a positive response from lawmakers, meets with its biggest success. At the CNBC-TV18 India Business Leader Awards, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will take a very “calibrated position” on cryptocurrencies. “The world is moving fast with technology, we cannot pretend that we don't want it. We want to make sure that there is a window available for all kinds of experimentstaking place in the crypto world,” the FM said.
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Day 995: RBI Deputy Governor T Rabi Shankar announced the central bank’s plans to launch Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in a phased manner, beginning with wholesale and retail segments. The RBI move recognizes the benefits of digital currency but falls short of according a legitimate space to “private cryptocurrencies.” Nonetheless, Shetty, who has always tweeted in favour of a CBDC, tweeted the decision would help spread awareness and understanding of cryptocurrencies in India.