EXCLUSIVE: Two of India’s most successful cryptocurrency pioneers are ready to go global. Nischal Shetty, CEO and co-founder of crypto exchange WazirX, and Siddharth Menon, his co-founder, have shifted base from Singapore to a new office in Dubai. In an exclusive interview with CryptoNews, the duo said the move closer to their clients was to ensure greater focus on developing a product that caters to their needs.

EXCLUSIVE: WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty, co-founder Siddharth Menon shift base to Dubai

MUMBAI: An Indian cryptocurrency exchange has shifted its headquarters to Dubai, joining a host of execs who has moved out of India over the past few months as the country’s regulatory environment has become harsh for the crypto industry.

WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and cofounder Siddharth Menon are now based in Dubai, while the company’s other two co-founders Sameer Hanuman Mhatre and Mohammed Rishad are operating from Mumbai, according to sources. ET was the first to report on Friday that WazirX was looking at relocating its base to Dubai.

“We’ve been working closely with regulators globally and we see that several countries are embracing cryptocurrency including UAE,” said WazirX in a statement sent to ET. “While our team is in India and serving Indian customers, it makes sense for us to work with regulators across different jurisdictions. We’ve already launched WazirX in multiple countries and have been expanding.”

The move came after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) barred financial institutions from providing services to firms dealing with virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. The central bank also cautioned users, holders and traders of cryptocurrencies about potential risks involving them.

WazirX shifted its CEO and co-founder to the Dubai office soon after it was acquired by the global crypto exchange Binance.

In an interview with Cointelegraph, Nischal Shetty said that he will continue to manage the Indian operations from Dubai. He said: “I have moved to Dubai for now. I am managing all WazirX operations from here itself. So, nothing changes for WazirX and our Indian users.”

Shetty has also been appointed as the head of Binance’s India division along with his role at WazirX. He added: “I will be visiting India from time to time to meet our users, attend events, and further strengthen the crypto industry in India.”

As reported earlier this month, Binance had acquired the Indian exchange to support fiat deposits and withdrawals in the country.

Moneycontrol reached out to Binance to confirm the development but did not receive any responses till the time of filing this story.

Cryptocurrency exchange Binance is planning to set up a subsidiary in India, according to sources cited by The Economic Times.

The exchange may also be considering the acquisition of an Indian crypto startup to enter the country and comply with local regulations, the report said.

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao had earlier tweeted about the company’s plans for India, noting that it was looking for fiat-to-crypto partners in the country.

“We are very confident and bullish on India,” he said at the time.

Moneycontrol reached out to Binance to confirm the development but did not receive any responses till the time of filing this story.

India’s Supreme Court had quashed a ban imposed by the Reserve Bank of India on banks providing services to cryptocurrency exchanges in March this year. Since then, several exchanges have either been looking to launch or relaunch their operations in India.

WazirX was acquired by Binance in an all-cash deal earlier in November 2022.

According to sources in the know on condition of anonymity, Shetty and Menon have shifted base days after WazirX was acquired by Binance in an all-cash deal earlier in November 2022. The deal was valued at $5 million.

Shetty and Menon are expected to be working on the new entity, which will be a product company, for the next three months during which they will also decide on the name and other details of the startup. The duo is currently hunting for talent to build a team from scratch.

The sources, however, did not divulge if any investors have come on board so far or how much funding they are looking at.

With the shift in focus and business model, Shetty and Menon aim to leverage their learnings from building WazirX and “take it to the next level” with an ambitious roadmap that includes building a global product in the crypto space.

A move that has led to a significant drop in trading volumes in crypto exchanges

India’s cryptocurrency exchanges are preparing to launch a legal battle against the government’s decision to impose a nationwide ban on private digital currencies.

The move comes after India imposed a 30 percent tax on virtual digital assets in addition to a 1 percent tax deductible at source, a move that has led to a significant drop in trading volumes in crypto exchanges.

The exchanges’ view is that the tax rules will make it difficult for them to operate and have threatened an industry-wide shutdown from 1 July.

A senior executive of one of the exchanges said that the industry will seek legal advice after the ban is formally announced by the finance ministry.

Nischal Shetty and Siddharth Menon are reportedly moving from India’s headquarters to Dubai. Shetty and his family are moving out to Dubai, though WazirX has offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru. Sameer Mhatre, co-founder and Head of Technology for WazirX, has been operating from India. In fact, WazirX has almost everyone working from a remote location.

Grey zone policy decisions, a 30% tax bracket, TDS, ambiguity in all aspects are driving startups, crypto exchanges to Dubai

Kunal Barchha, the co-founder of CoinDCX — a large cryptocurrency exchange in India, says it’s tough to acknowledge that the Indian government is treating cryptocurrencies as a legitimate asset class.

Barca said the government doesn’t consider crypto to be a currency, security, or commodity and has not provided clarity on how it will treat cryptocurrencies in the future.

The lack of clarity on the part of regulators, such as the central bank and tax authorities, has affected several businesses operating in the space.

Grey zone policy decisions, a 30% tax bracket, TDS (tax deducted at source), and ambiguity in all aspects are driving startups and crypto exchanges to Dubai, Barchha said. He also added that by 2021, if the Indian government does not provide any regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies, then many more companies will move their operations out of India to other countries.

Notably, Sameer Mhatre a cofounder and chief technology officer at WazirX continue to operate from India. Currently, all employees of the cryptocurrency exchange, which is backed by Binance, work remotely.

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