The price of bitcoin fell more than 8% to below $35,000 on Thursday after Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine. The digital asset has now lost almost half its value from an all-time high of $68,990 in November, owing to geopolitical tensions and the prospect of US interest rate hikes. Bitcoin’s fall dragged down the prices of other cryptocurrencies, too, sparking panic among some Indian investors.
Also in this letter:
■ Dream Capital in talks to lead $100M funding in NFT platform
■ Infosys sets up Metaverse Foundry for first-mover advantage
■ EV battery swapping policy in four months
Crypto markets plunge following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
The global cryptocurrency market plunged 11% on Thursday as Russia sent troops to Ukraine, in what it termed a “special military operation” but was widely condemned by Western powers as an outright invasion.
Rout: Globally, crypto saw $242 million in liquidations soon after the Russian move into Ukraine, according to CoinDesk.com.
- The most valuable crypto assets dropped between 10% and 18% of the value from Wednesday as the geopolitical conflict escalated.
- Bitcoin fell below $35,000, to its lowest level since January 24, before inching back over that mark, according to market tracker Coingecko.com.
- Ether fell by almost 14% from Wednesday evening, while Solana, Cardano and Terra shed 10-12%.
Trading volumes jump: On Indian crypto exchanges, trading volumes were up 50-100% between Wednesday and Thursday, according to Coinmarketcap.com. Indian retail investors showed mixed behaviour, with some buying the dip and others cashing out, exchange executives told ET. The buy/sell ratio largely remained unchanged on most exchanges, they said.
Tough start to 2022: Crypto markets have had a tumultuous start to the year, and prices could fall further in the coming week. “For bitcoin, prices may hit $30,000 levels before going up, because the US is expected to come out with regulations for crypto,” said Sidharth Sogani, founder of Crebaco, a cryptocurrency research firm.
Some investors panic: Many new crypto investors were in panic mode after a fourth correction in two months set off fears of a ‘crypto winter’.
“Phas gaye yaar’… that’s what I hear from most small investors these days. Most of them have invested small sums but have been bearing rising losses. They have gone through a whole range of emotions in the last few months—from euphoria in November to fear now,” said Vishal Gupta, a Noida-based trader and crypto commentator.
Dream Capital in talks to lead $100 million funding in NFT platform Rario
Dream Capital, the corporate venture capital arm of Dream Sports, is in advanced talks to lead a $100 million funding round in cricket-focused non-fungible token (NFT) startup Rario, three sources told us.
If the deal goes through, it will be one of the largest investments in the NFT sector in India and Dream Capital’s maiden bet in the Web3 space.
Rario was founded in 2021 by Sunny Bhanot and Ankit Wadhwa, amid the global boom in NFTs and cryptocurrencies. It has procured NFT rights to five international leagues and almost 600 international cricketers through its various partnerships. The rights allow Rario to create digital player cards like trump cards that could be potentially linked to games and applications.
Since inception, Rario has seen traction from buyers based in 19 countries. It has minted and sold 50,000 NFTs so far on its platform.
US-based Dream Sports, the parent company of online fantasy gaming startup Dream11, set up a venture arm in August last year with a corpus of $250 million, in a bid to become a sports technology conglomerate.
It has invested in 12 startups so far, including a $50 million investment in content and commerce platform FanCode which it had incubated. Dream Sports’ portfolio spans 140 million users across Dream11, sports accelerator DreamX, and experiential travel company DreamSetGo.
Tax concerns: In recent weeks, multiple NFT players have expressed concern over a proposed tax – 30% tax on gains and 1% TDS on all transactions – by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the budget. Industry participants said NFTs were digital goods and not currencies, and hence needed to be treated separately for taxation purposes.
Infosys says Metaverse Foundry will help establish a first-mover advantage
Infosys is aggressively building an array of solutions around the “metaverse” – the much-hyped “next phase of the internet” that will be much more immersive, with interconnected virtual experiences.
The company expects to see a “hockey stick-shaped growth” very soon in this area and the latest move is a means to sharpen its edge over rivals.
Infosys said on Thursday that it had launched a Metaverse Foundry to fast-track enterprises’ exploration of the metaverse, including virtual and augmented environments for their customers, workplace, products and operations.
Ravi Kumar S, president of Infosys, told us in an exclusive interview that while the virtual reality metaverse is largely linked to gaming and entertainment due to investments by Microsoft and Meta (previously Facebook), it could also play a huge role in areas such as education, pharma and automobiles.
The foundry has created a template of more than 100 use cases, a virtual reality platform, investments in skillsets like Unity, Unreal, CAD, an NFT platform for creators and partnerships with various companies as part of the experience, he said.
Apart from Infosys, Indian IT leaders like Tata Consultancy Services, HCL Technologies, Wipro, Persistent Systems and Mphasis have also big plans in this area, we reported last month.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Niti Aayog to roll out EV battery swapping policy in four months
India’s public policy think tank Niti Aayog plans to roll out a battery swapping policy in the next 3-4 months.
The proposed policy will introduce disruptive business models such as battery as a service (BaaS) and leasing so that electric two-wheeler and three-wheeler customers need not own the battery, which is about 50% of the total cost of such vehicles.
The policy will also provide EV owners flexibility to swap batteries at swap stations within minutes, and charge them at home, people aware of the matter said.
Quote: “This policy will take care of the upfront cost and the ‘range anxiety’ (fear that battery charge will run out before reaching the destination or a charging point), initially targeting shared mobility and delivery vehicles,” said Chetan Maini, cofounder and chairman of Sun Mobility, a company engaged in developing and operating energy infrastructure for electric mobility.
Niti Aayog held the first pre-draft stakeholder discussion for the proposed policy earlier this month. Participants included vehicle manufacturers, battery makers, financiers, think tanks, multimodal agencies, and independent experts and consultants.
ETtech Done Deals
■ Prime Venture Partners, an India-focused venture capital fund, has raised $120 million (Rs 900 crore) towards the final close of its fourth fund, the firm said in a release. With this, the firm joins a long list of venture capital investors that have recently raised larger pools of funds to invest in early stage Indian companies.
■ Neobanking platform Niyo said that it has raised $100 million as a part of its new funding round, led by Accel and Lightrock India. The round also saw participation from Beams Fintech Fund and existing investors Prime Venture Partners and JS Capital.
■ Value retailer 1-India Family Mart has raised Rs 50 crore in funding from Dubai-based Gulf Islamic Investments (GII). The Carpediem Capital-funded retailer, which operates about 100 outlets in tier 2, 3 and 4 cities, said it would use the fund to expand outlets and to push its ecommerce and omni-channel strategies.
■ Subscription management platform Chargebee said it has acquired collections management platform Numbers and launched Chargebee Receivables.
■ Curefoods, a cloud kitchen company that houses brands such as EatFit, CakeZone and Great Indian Khichdi, announced the acquisition of the South India franchise rights for US-based pizza chain Sbarro. Curefoods plans to open around 50 Sbarro outlets in the next three years, starting with Karnataka.
■ Edtech startup Bhanzu has raised $2 million as a part of its seed funding round led by Lighspeed, the company said in a prepared statement on Thursday. The round also saw participation from angel investors and founders of Indian startups including Nitin Gupta, Uni chief executive, Kunal Shah, Cred founder, Ashish Gupta, former Helion managing director and Unacademy founder Gaurav Munjal, among others.
Other Top Stories By Our Reporters
Twitter head of policy Samiran Gupta
Twitter’s new public policy head in India: Samiran Gupta has been named the new head of policy for the microblogging platform in India. He will lead the company’s public policy and philanthropy efforts in India and South Asia. In February 2021, Mahima Kaul, who handled public policy for Twitter in India announced that she was stepping down from her role citing personal reasons.
JCP report on data bill will hurt India’s tech ambitions, says IAMAI: The Joint Committee of the Parliament’s (JCP) report on the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 is out of sync with India’s ambitions for the current decade in the field of technology, industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said on Thursday.
Gupshup, Truecaller partner on business solutions: Conversational engagement firm Gupshup said it is partnering with contact verification firm Truecaller to create advanced business identity solutions for businesses. This will create a secure voice communication ecosystem for brands to better engage with consumers and improve their overall calling experience.
Global Picks We Are Reading
■ Fed up with Google, conspiracy theorists turn to DuckDuckGo (NYT)
■ US and Russia still tethered by International Space Station during Ukraine conflict (The Verge)
■ Decoding Razzlekhan, the rapping bitcoin fraudster (The Guardian)
Today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch was curated by Zaheer Merchant in Mumbai and Judy Franko in New Delhi. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.