OKX, one of the 10 largest crypto exchanges by trading volume, is planning to enter India and recruit local employees to explore potential Web3 applications, the firm's chief marketing officer told CoinDesk on Wednesday.
The company, which doesn't have a global headquarters, has regional hubs in Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and the Bahamas. It plans to scale up its wallet services "exponentially" by tapping into India's much-talked-about developer community, Haider Rafique said in an interview. Currently, OKX has about 200,000 wallet users in India, which is only 5% of the nation's Web3 users, he added.
"We are not going to come in and cowboy this thing," he said. "We're going to learn about the community. We're going to work with local folks. Figure out where we can add value."
Crypto isn't banned in India, and isn't exactly legal either. The nation has not brought forward any legislation in parliament for Web3 or cryptocurrency issues, but has imposed stiff taxes on trading and implemented anti-money laundering rules. Some plans to include Web3 in India's digital story are afoot. The central bank continues to oppose legalizing cryptocurrency while promoting its central bank digital currency (CBDC). And as G20 president, the country has pushed for global rules for crypto.
The stifling regulatory environment has kept most global cryptocurrency exchanges away from India. Of the 10 most-downloaded trading apps in the country, six are from international exchanges, according to data from AppTweak. And one of those is Coinbase (COIN), whose trading operation was suspended within three days of its launch. India's politicians have been asking the Web3 industry to decouple itself from crypto.
"You have to kind of separate Web3 from CeFi [centralized finance] and I think regulators are starting to do that too," Rafique said. "They're more concerned about venues that have fiat on-ramps, which we do but we don't offer it in India. Once India comes up with a regulatory framework for crypto then we would like to be the front runners."
OKX does not have an office in the nation and has no immediate plan to open one because that's not required to offer Web3 services, said Rafique. But it is looking to hire a team to lead this effort.
"We're trying to identify who's who in the zoo and what is their contribution. There's a large developer community. How do we help them, build a relationship with them," he said. "How do we first let them know what we're about. And then work with these communities to figure out what is the right way in. Is it for us to sponsor Web3 conferences or developer conferences or host an OKX Blockchain Week? This is what we are exploring."
Recently OKX partnered with blockchain platform Neo for its APAC Hackathon in the southern city of Bengaluru, which Haider said is a test to validate their assumptions, understand the culture and support the ecosystem.
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