In briefA crypto fundraiser for India’s latest COVID wave has raised millions. Over 200,000 people have died from the coronavirus in India.
Sandeep Nailwal, co-founder of Indian blockchain network Polygon, spent Saturday morning arranging ICU beds for eleven people in Delhi—friends of friends—who’d contracted coronavirus. By 2pm, six of them had died.
“Can’t take this sitting down anymore,” he tweeted a few hours later, thoroughly exhausted by India’s second wave, which has left at least 200,000 dead and rammed some hospitals so full that they’ve begun to turn away patients. “I am going to run a Covid relief campaign,” he decided.
Nailwal turned to the world he knows best: crypto. He told Decrypt his company’s strong reputation and global reach would attract large sums, and that he alone had the fortitude to power through India’s tough crypto regulations. “Everyone in crypto is simply chickening out,” he said.
So far, his campaign has raised $3.3 million in crypto, helped by a $600,000 gift from Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin, plus sizable donations from crypto venture capitalist Balaji Srinivasan and Dharmesh Shah, founder of Hubspot.
Volunteers also set up a website and helped Nailwal to start a shell company in Dubai, through which Nailwal will soon convert donations to US dollars. He’ll then wire the dollar to charities to spend on oxygen, food and medical equipment.
The campaign has inspired others. Indian largest crypto exchange, WazirX, for instance, will donate $1.1 million, and plans to invite customers to donate crypto through its site.
WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty told Decrypt the campaign, picked up by Indian media, has boosted the public’s perception of cryptocurrencies in the country. Cryptocurrencies have struggled to disrupt the country’s all-encompassing payments network, the Universal Payments Interface, and the technology has been belittled by the ongoing threat of an outright ban.
“People keep asking: ‘What are the use cases of crypto, where is it being used?’ And now you have a solid use case for the best of the causes, which is to help people,” he said.
While people can, obviously, still donate fiat currencies through a number of registered charities, tapping the cryptocurrency market attracts fortunes made entirely through blockchain.
News from abroad, such as Tesla’s Bitcoin buying spree and Coinbase’s public listing has also helped crypto’s cause in India, he said. “That brings in more legitimacy. And it also shows the potential that India can have in the sector.”