As demand for bitcoin surges in India, especially in urban tech hubs, smart-contract platforms like Ethereum and others are also gaining momentum.
Cosmos, promoted by the Switzerland-based Interchain Foundation, is especially finding traction with students like Aditya Nalini at the Vellore Institute of Technology in southern India. He’s one of four “ambassadors” trained by the community organization Cosmos India, founded in November 2019. The Cosmos India community grew from a handful people in 2019 to more than 1,000 participants in less than nine months, local organizers say, despite the pandemic.
Nalini now holds the majority of his modest wealth in cryptocurrency, he said via email, after initially discovering the collectibles game CryptoKitties in 2017. Although bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, Nalini says he has never owned bitcoin and says there are many students like him.
Meanwhile, there’s a bull market raging across Indian crypto exchanges. Global exchanges have also seen an increase in demand for altcoins like ATOMs. None of this is to say Cosmos is the leading cryptocurrency project of 2020. Yet, as a much younger project than Ethereum or Bitcoin, it is quickly gaining brand recognition.
“OKEx … saw record high numbers when alt season was at its height in August,” said OKEx press manager Vivien Choi, speaking to markets that include India but aren’t limited to it. “OKEx has seen a rise in demand for ATOM especially last month throughout the globe.”
Trade volume of ATOM at OKEx since April 2019(CoinDesk Research)
Unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum, which both already have strong brand identities, Cosmos is still relatively new to Indian crypto fans. This gives the project the feel of being the “next big thing.” Nalini described the Cosmos ecosystem as the “father” network, because the Cosmos interoperability project allows all the different altcoin projects to “talk and take help from one another instead of fighting for dominance.”
Instead of holding bitcoin, Nalini holds ether (ETH) and Matic tokens, in addition to ATOM.
“My portfolio currently has 60% atoms, 30% matic and 10% ether, where ETH is more to interact with dapps and play than from an investment standpoint,” Nalini said. “Being a student, it was extremely difficult building a portfolio. … I built mine by winning competitions, participating in bounties and winning giveaways.”
Read more: Matic Launches Mainnet Aiming to Bring More ‘Firepower’ to Ethereum
Local hackathons and meetups have been the engine fueling India’s crypto boom. According to Cosmos India co-founder Abhitej Singh – who is also the communications lead at the organization’s sponsor startup, Persistence One – roughly 1,000 Indian people participated in Cosmos programs so far in 2020. This work is largely funded by a grant from the Interchain Foundation, which manages nearly $104 million generated since the ATOMs token sale in 2017.
“One of the key goals for Persistence One is interoperability, hence there is a lot of alignment with Cosmos’ vision,” Singh said in an email.
Beyond meetups and ambassador training, Cosmos India also operates outreach programs at the Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology (NMIT) in Bangalore and the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad.
For example, after working with Cosmos India, NMIT professor Sanjay H.A. said he will add a Cosmos case study to his blockchain engineering course next semester.
“What I liked about Cosmos is interoperability,” he said. “Usually the sixth semester starts during January. But, due to pandemic, it may start during March 2021 for this academic year.”
Beyond university courses, meetups appear to attract a few dozen participants each, even up to 75 people at an event co-hosted with the startup Inblox Network during Bangalore Blockchain Week in February 2020.
Read more: India May Be Starting Its Biggest Bitcoin Bull Run Yet
“Students play a significant role in driving the narrative for any new technology in India,” Singh added, speaking to academic collaborations already in process. “We aim to connect with around 50,000 students over the next year through the webinars, hackathons, tutorials and student chapters. Our goal is also to have Cosmos in the curriculum as an optional course in at least five universities.”
Bitcoin is still undeniably king in the Indian crypto market. But targeted student programs may determine which rupee-altcoin pairs become mainstays on locally accessible exchange platforms.
“Our initial volume was huge and ATOM-INR volume was among the highest ATOM pairs worldwide for a couple of days,” said Vikram Rangala, CMO at the Indian exchange ZebPay. “Interest from that group tends to shift between tokens depending on which one is active at the moment. But Cosmos also has a lot of support from long-term investors and developers here.”
However, Rangala added this may merely be a broader bull-market effect.
“We launched other tokens since then which may have gotten more attention,” he said.
Read more: Cosmos’ Founding Team Broke Up Early This Year. The Project Didn’t
For comparison, Ethereum’s greatest strength has arguably been its community-building strategy, including educational initiatives by Ethereum advocate Natalia Ameline. As for the Cosmos community, Nalini said more than 300 people registered in less than a week for the next Cosmos hackathon, HackAtom India.
“The Cosmos community is rapidly growing in India,” Nalini said, especially among students.
“Ethereum and Bitcoin communities are still very large, compared to Cosmos,” he said. “But it’s also because of the first movers advantage. … At Cosmos India, something that is very unique is the inclusion of colleges and universities in the outreach program. No other blockchain community has done it so far.”