India’s cryptocurrency exchanges have been hit by taxes, a drop in trading volumes and a slump in prices, but they say one bright sign is the number of women seeking financial independence and turning to digital assets.

While the number of women in India investing in cryptocurrencies remains small, the percentages are rising, according to figures from several exchanges. 

Nisha Mutneja is one of them. The 30-year-old runs her own educational metaverse for kids called talentedHippo and first started investing minor amounts in crypto in 2019. Today, as much as 25% of her investments are in crypto, with the bulk of the remainder in mutual funds and stocks. 

“I do my own research and then invest in cryptos that appear to have real usage – which means they are more likely to be stable – they may go down sometimes – but because they have a real usage, people will tend to buy them,” Mumbai-based Mutneja told Forkast in a phone interview.  

nisha mutneja resized2
Nisha Mutneja

CoinDCX, India’s first crypto unicorn with a valuation of US$2.15 billion, said women are on track to make up 20% of its users by August next year from around the current 14%. The company says it has 13 million users on its platform. 

“Crypto is a democratized asset class and promotes financial inclusion, and the increasing participation of women is a positive and encouraging development,” Rajagopal Menon, vice-president of WazirX, India’s largest exchange by trading volume, told Forkast in an email response to questions. 

Menon said WazirX has 10 million users and 15% of them are women, adding the number grew in 2021 and the exchange expects more growth this year as education and awareness about crypto in India expands.

Bear Market

The exchanges need all the help they can get. The government slapped a flat 30% tax on all crypto income from April 1. This was followed by a 1% tax deducted at source on all crypto transactions above 10,000 Indian rupees (US$125) from July 1.

Macroeconomic factors have pushed cryptocurrency prices into a global slump this year. The factors include inflation and higher interest rates in the U.S., while the war in Ukraine and China’s Covid-19 lockdowns has disrupted supply chains and economies around the world. 

Menon said women members of WazirX are not only investors, but creators, builders and influencers, adding that most are from urban centers like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi. They typically take a longer-term view and invest in established tokens like Bitcoin and Ethereum, he said. 

Many of the women investing in crypto work in the industry or in Internet related jobs, though from these groups the message on crypto is getting out through family and friend connections, according to several women interviewed for this story. 

“Bitcoin is revolutionizing the entire financial system, and I want to be a part of it,” Chahal Verma, 20, a crypto researcher and consultant, told Forkast in a phone interview, adding she started investing in cryptocurrencies in October 2020. 

chahal verma resized2
Chahal Verma

“After researching Bitcoin, I understood this is a completely new monetary system,” she said. About 20% of Verma’s investment in 2020 was in Bitcoin and 80% in stocks, but those ratios have now reversed, she said.

A bear market is not the time for making money, but it is the time to execute revolutionary ideas, she said. “It is good to diversify, but I think crypto has the potential to give the best returns in future compared to any other asset class.”

Digital savvy

Minal Thukral, executive vice president of growth and strategy at CoinDCX, said many women investing in crypto are professionally involved in the industry, but the growth of personal finance is also fueling the trend.

“I would expect the women user base share to go as high as 20% by the next year, from about 14% as of August 2022,” he said in a Forkast interview in reference to CoinDCX numbers.

Ashish Singhal, co-founder and chief executive officer at the CoinSwitch exchange, said those who are digitally savvy, whether men or women, are willing to experiment with this new technology. He said the exchange had more than 18 million registered users as of August 2022. 

He said Bitcoin is the most popular coin among women investors on CoinSwitch. 

Ishita Pandey, 20, handles social media management and marketing for crypto and Web3.0 projects and invests mostly in stablecoins and altcoins like Tether USDT, Matic, Polkadot, among others.

“Cryptocurrency industry today is what the internet was in the 1990s,” Pandey told Forkast in a phone interview.

ishita resized
Ishita Pandey

“People who believed in that industry came up with their startups and today we cannot imagine life without the internet. Same thing is with Web3 and crypto – it is in the initial stage now – and may be after 10 or 15 years, mass adoption is possible for this asset class,” she said. 

Mutneja who runs talentedHippo agrees.

“I believe cryptocurrencies are here to stay. It has to go through its own cycles of acceptances and rejections and lows and highs, but I really believe it is going to stay.”