Decoding Indian crypto investors’ love for meme coins

Indian crypto exchange WazirX recently released their Proof of Reserves (PoR), which shows its customers’ cryptocurrency holdings and their respective storage locations. The exposure revealed that the company, which serves more than 15 million customers, had listed meme-inspired crypto as its primary token.

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WazirX’s main crypto wallet, according to its PoR post, was Shiba Inu [SHIB], a fancy dog-themed token that was the fifteenth-largest crypto by market capitalization as of January 17. While the exact values ​​change daily, WazirX’s SHIB holdings on behalf of clients made up just over 19% of its total, and came in at around $63,804,084 on the same day. Meanwhile, the exchange’s Bitcoin holdings totaled less than half that, at around $28,366,065.

Excerpt from WazirX's Proof of Reserves on the Coin Gabbar platform on January 18

Excerpt from WazirX Proof of Reserves on the Coin Gabbar platform on January 18 | Photo credit: Coin Gabbar

In proportion, WazirX’s top crypto holdings for its clients were Shiba Inu [SHIB]Bitcoin [BTC]etherum [ETH]Dogecoin [DOGE]and Polygon [MATIC]. Two of these crypto assets – Shiba Inu and Dogecoin – are meme coins based on the fluffy-tailed Shiba Inu dog that is popular in Japan (and internet memes).

While the thought of investing real money in such playful assets might horrify most people, crypto investors have their own reasoning.

“Shibu Inu and Dogecoin are quite close to the hearts of many Indians, which is proven in our reserves,” Rajagopal Menon, VP of WazirX, told The Hindu about the exchange’s PoR.

Mr. Menon also pointed out that unlike Bitcoin (with 1 BTC worth more than $21,000 on January 17), cryptocurrencies like Shiba Inu have a smaller “ticket size”. In other words, customers get more whole tokens in exchange for their investments. (1 SHIB was trading at around $0.00001049 on January 17.)

“Shiba Inu has a relatively small ticket size, so customers prefer this to get into crypto, so they get a feel for crypto and get a feel for their first crypto possession, which is not a very substantial investment,” he explained.

Meme-based cryptocurrencies came to the fore in 2013 with Dogecoin [DOGE]. While many crypto founders attribute specific use cases or lofty ideals to their creations, Dogecoin had only one job: to be a joke.

File photo of tokens representing Bitcoin, Ether and Dogecoin cryptocurrencies [from left to right]

File photo of tokens representing Bitcoin, Ether and Dogecoin cryptocurrencies [from left to right]
| Photo credit: REUTERS

Yet its popularity exploded when celebrities like billionaire Elon Musk played along on social media. Tesla began accepting Dogecoin for certain purchases a year ago, and Mr. Musk publicly supported Dogecoin users when they encountered issues withdrawing their assets from the Binance exchange. When Mr. Musk took over Twitter in a $44 billion deal in late 2022, DOGE’s price soared more than 20%.

“In the world of meme coins, anything Mr. Musk says has a lot of effect on the prices of Doge and Shiba Inu and other meme coins,” Menon said, adding that Bitcoin was generally the “engine” and the “shaker” in the crypto sector.

Shiba Inu is a younger meme token or joke token that was meant to rival the larger cryptocurrency Dogecoin. It was launched in 2020 and quickly attracted Indian crypto investors. Mr. Menon noted that many Indian crypto investors are often looking to try something new. This is exactly what Shibu Inu offered.

Speaking about the mindset of Shiba Inu buyers, Menon said they are investing with a long-term view.

“So we [the Shiba Inu investors] buy small units, small ticket sizes of small units, and hopefully it will follow the trajectory of Bitcoin and Ethereum and work wonders in the long run,” he said.

The Indian crypto community also has an emotional connection to the Shiba Inu token. In May 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin donated approximately $1 billion worth of Shiba Inu tokens to a COVID-19 relief fund for India. Although this is a generous amount, the value of the asset fluctuates wildly even today.

Mr. Menon suggested that when people were confined to their homes at that time, the $1 billion donation attracted a lot of media attention and prompted people to learn more about Shiba Inu and the Indian crypto community.

But people’s fascination with the dog-themed meme token was more than just a hype phase. Two years later, interest in Shiba Inu is still strong, and WazirX’s PoR shows the emotional side of crypto investors in India.


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