The Indian cryptocurrency market is incredibly mercurial. Major financial services are bent on steering the uninitiated away and the conspicuous absence of regulation keeps the risk averse on the fence. Nevertheless, Indian cryptocurrency players in the country continue to enjoy a steady rise in trade and new users. In fact, blockchain platform Solana counts India as “the fastest growing country in the world by open-source contribution”. Global Ecosystem Lead at Solana Labs, Tamar Menteshashvili adds that “[India] has the incredible potential to become the hub for developing crypto native platforms.”
While Bitcoin and Ethereum remain the most notable global platforms for anyone who has remotely heard of cryptocurrencies and blockchains, there are several important players worth acknowledging. Solana is one of these; a blockchain platform that offers cryptocurrency/tokens called S◎L (SOL). The more essential detail here is that Solana claims to be the ‘world’s fastest blockchain’, processing 50,000 transactions per second at $0.00025 per transaction. This is faster than any of its competition, including Ethereum, plus cheaper for applications and users.
It’s led to Solana finding a spot among the ten largest cryptocurrencies in the world, powered not just by the apps which are scaling up using the blockchain, but also the artistes and communities who have taken to minting, selling and buying NFTs on Solana.
The platform is among those which have done a substantial amount of catching up on the field. On October 3rd, Solana Monkey Business – the platform’s NFT marketplace – sold its most expensive artwork yet. The NFT titled Solana Monkey #1355 was sold for 13027.00 S◎L, which was estimated to be $2 million. Closer home, in August 2021, they hosted their first-ever India-focused Building Out Loud hackathon, receiving over 3,000 applications and more than a hundred final project submissions from developers. Menteshashvili says, “We saw developers from different parts of India, including but not restricted to major cities, such as Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi and several other smaller cities as well such as Salem from Tamil Nadu.”
So what’s been attracting the crypto world towards Solana? Menteshashvili says the platform has a “unique perspective on solving the blockchain trilemma”, referring to focus scalability, decentralisation and security. She adds, “Our chain scales on one layer – keeping all apps composable with each other and liquidity unfragmented. In our last global hackathon, we had over 13,000 developers participate – a testament to the demand for a fast and cheap blockchain.”
She points to the development of Web3 – a more decentralised iteration of the Internet, as aided by blockchain – and increasing interest from Indian developers. “One big advantage with Web3 is that anyone with the internet connection all across India can become a founder. All they need is a good idea and some coding skills – we help them with the rest. Similarly, for artistes, NFTs allow them to focus on the art and outsource the distribution and monetisation. It is magical that anyone, from anywhere in the country can download a phantom wallet and become a part of the crypto economy. You don’t need to move to Mumbai to start a career in films anymore,” explains Menteshashvili.
Those advantages have been tested a few times over at Solana – they notably had a six-hour outage back in December and more recently, a 17-hour blackout due to “resource exhaustion”. Menteshashvili elaborates, “This is the industry that ships in production. As with any start-up, there are growth pains and hiccups along the way. But the open-source nature of the industry makes it antifragile over time.”
On the music front, the focus remains different and carries plenty of potential to disrupt. Music streaming platform Audius has been scaling up using Solana blockchain, as has the Metaplex NFT marketplace and Phantom crypto wallet. Menteshashvili believes that the rise of platforms such as Audius points to decentralised music distribution and consumption as well. It could potentially throw a curveball at existing streaming and music industry infrastructure. “Imagine the world where artists are in full control of their content, can directly distribute and monetise their work without a fear of being censored or deprived of fair pay and engage their audiences based on the real time feedback from the community. It’s a whole new level of creative freedom, inclusivity and audience engagement,” she says.
In this context of music on the blockchain, NFTs are one out of many tools that can create a different kind of audience engagement and provide what Solana terms as “long-term utility”. This could be exclusive access to performances or livestream interviews and limited-edition records. Menteshashvili notes that the thriving of major record labels like T-Series’ YouTube channel means that there is likely a “global demand for Indian art, culture and music”. She adds, “Until now, all of that upside has been captured by a few companies. If artists take control of their own destiny and distribute and monetise their work with the help of crypto, reducing the role of middlemen, I would consider that profoundly impactful in India.”
The risks, of course, persist but that’s par for the course in the world of NFTs and crypto. Solana and other blockchain platforms may have their share of instability in terms of operating every once in a while, but the company that is rivalling Ethereum will likely stay grounded in the long run. As for investing or creating NFTs on the Solana blockchain, Menteshashvili offers sound but familiar advice about anything related to the world of decentralised finance: “I would encourage everyone to do their own research before making any investment decisions.”
Words: Anurag Tagat