After losing his fortune to crypto crash, Bengaluru tea-seller accepts payment in Bitcoin


With its mysterious origins attributed to an unknown entity behind the pseudonym Satoshi, crypto continues to attract young investors, while authorities remain cautious. When the Indian government decided to impose a 30 per cent tax on profits made by investing in cryptocurrencies, it didn’t specify whether they would be considered legal. But that hasn’t stopped innovative individuals such as a tea-seller in Bengaluru from accepting payments in Bitcoin, and gaining popularity at the same time.

Riches to rags and back

The 22-year-old Shubham Saini’s tale is both a warning and inspiration for young entrepreneurs who have been swept away by the blockchain boom. He first started trading cryptocurrencies while looking for a job in Bengaluru and then dropped out of his final semester of BCA to become a full time crypto trader. After investing Rs 1.5 lakh in the virtual asset, a 1000 per cent jump increased the value of Saini’s portfolio to Rs 30 lakh, and he started thinking of himself as ‘Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’ of the crypto universe.

But in the unpredictable world of the unregulated currency, a 90 per cent crash in 2021, dragged the value of his wallet down to Rs 1 lakh. Back to where he had started from, Saini had to sell his iPhone to get by, and finally opened a tea stall on a sidewalk in the city. But crypto came back to his life when some customers tried paying for tea via Bitcoin, and accepting it has made his shop popular among crypto enthusiasts. Saini even updates INR to US dollar conversion rates on a placard, and people can scan a UPI code, convert Rupees to dollars and pay using crypto.

Tax burden for Indian exchanges?

His popularity comes at a time when no authority is regulating cryptocurrencies in India, and while no action has been taken against crypto trading, the government hasn’t commented on its legality. But a 1% tax on crypto transactions has driven traders away from Indian exchanges, causing a 90 per cent drop in their volumes, while they went to Cayman Islands-based Binance which doesn’t charge the levy.

The policy has also created new business opportunities for apps such as Binocs, which help crypto investors by simplifying taxation and ensuring compliance. It has received $4 million as seed capital, after being launched in July.

As for Saini, he started off as a student star-struck by crypto traders that became billionaires overnight. But looked for inspiration in entrepreneurs who thrived on innovation, after his fall.

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