With Amitabh Bachchan, Dinesh Karthik, and Salman Khan leading the charge, the Indian digital collectibles market is one to watch
Two things in India can escalate a person to god-like status very quickly: Bollywood and cricket. NFTs give those fortunate enough to hold this status and their following the opportunity to capitalize on both fame and fandom. Last week’s announcement that Indian celebrities are spearheading an NFT movement locally had us wondering — might this be a watershed moment for digital collectibles?
Some of India’s biggest movie and sports icons have announced their intention to join the growing global NFT movement. As digital collectibles continue to revolutionize the way we interact and store valuable digital information and media, India, with a population of 1.38 billion people, could hold the keys to NFT — and crypto — adoption on a scale not seen before.
Bollywood and cricket are very important in India as they give its hugely divided population a level playing field on which to enjoy the culture of their homeland. Regardless of wealth inequality, location, religion, or politics, they are enjoyed by all. To this end, they are a powerful megaphone for delivering mass marketing messages to an entire nation, and the fifth-largest economy at that.
DappRadar has kept a close eye on emerging markets — how they interact with and leverage decentralized applications, as well as on how celebrity endorsements and various announcements impact the space in general. Our Head of Finance and Research Modesta Masoit sees both these factors come into play here: “Combine the power of Bollywood socialites delivering messages to the masses — as we’ve seen in Hollywood, with the typical quest for alternative income sources typical of developing economies — as we’ve seen, for instance, in the Philippines with the wild popularity of play-to-earn gaming, and add to this the growth of a middle class and its associated spending power in India, and you’ve got a perfect storm to foster large-scale adoption.”
Another project native to India and finding increasing success as a result of NFT hype is the Polygon blockchain. Having carved a name for itself during the summer of DeFi by offering traders super low fees and similar services to Ethereum dapps, it was slower to capitalize on the growing game and NFT movement, but in October, signs of a pick-up came as play-to-earn game Arc8 launched, incentivizing sign-ups with a mining program. Within the month, over 373,000 unique active wallets connected to this newcomer, showing a solid appetite for NFT and cryptocurrency-powered blockchain games on Polygon.
Bollycoin, an NFT marketplace for Bollywood assets founded by Bollywood socialite and actor Atul Agnihotri, is the latest installment in the “India Enters NFTs” series. The platform, which is yet to launch, targets the one billion-strong Bollywood media consumer community and is already offering future users its native governance token BollyCoin. Within days of launch, it sold 8 million of its 20 million available supply of BollyCoins at $0.10 each. It has also announced a collaboration with Salman Khan for his upcoming NFT collection.
The Bollywood Vibe
One man — arguably the most well-known Indian inside and outside of India — is getting in on the act: Amitabh Bachchan. His face is synonymous with multiple brands and products, not to mention his domination of the Indian movie scene for decades, which even led legendary French director François Truffaut to call him a one-man industry. In a nutshell, when Bachchan moves, his 46.3 million Twitter followers, and probably much of India, pay attention. For comparison’s sake, Oprah Winfrey’s Twitter following is 43.1 million.
Bachan’s NFT collection went on auction on November 2 and within hours racked up offers worth over $500,000 or around 3.8 crore rupees. Madhushala, Bachchan’s father’s poem collection, read by Amitabh was the pick of the bunch, receiving a bid of almost $420,000. One very smart move by Bachan, given the diversity within India’s population, was to offer lower-value items in the form of Loot Boxx’s for $10 each, wherein every buyer gets at least one piece of NFT art from the collection.
Salman Khan is another big-time Indian actor, film producer, singer, and television personality looking to get in on the action. His acting career spans over thirty years, earning him numerous awards and g an enormous fanbase. Not much is known about his collection as yet, other than it will feature film and static NFT collectibles from his movies. And while some don’t deem him to be quite in Bachan’s league, whatever his collection is and whenever it drops, he’s got 43 million fans (like Oprah) waiting to hear about it on Twitter.
IPL Top Shot?
It’s no surprise that one of the celebrities leading the NFT charge in India is Dinesh Karthik, a professional cricketer and the current vice-captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders. He’s auctioning a digital art reel on Ethereum platform Rarible, from a cricket match where he hit a match-winning six on the last ball — a defining moment in his career. It’s on sale at 5 ETH or around $25,000, but, at the time of writing, had yet to receive any bids.
Interestingly, Karthik said that he got the idea after seeing the success of NBA Top Shot in the US — cricket in India is as, if not bigger, than NBA in the States. And while the idea seems logical, we have yet to see if this iteration of cricket collectibles will have sufficient juice to capture the imaginations of young Indians looking to secure their financial future through NFTs.
A long-time fan and collector of sports NFTs, Modesta Masoit, believes an “IPL Top Shot” collection could be an instant hit. “NBA Top Shot capitalized on a ready-made global, but mostly US-based audience of an estimated 400 million fans. Cricket attracts 2.5 billion fans, with strongholds in Asia, Australia, and the UK. To state the obvious — combining cricket and NFTs would be a very smart move.”
The fast ascent of NFTs still baffles a majority that does not quite yet understand the point of holding digital collectibles and the benefits to the creators. But with global sales volumes hitting $10.7 billion in the past quarter — an eightfold increase from Q2 2021, global auction houses, celebrities, and mainstream financial institutions diving in, there is every indication that this loose statistic will soon reverse. With the spectacular arrival of India on the NFT scene, which, arguably, has thus far been restricted to the West, we can expect this to happen even sooner and on a scale far greater than anticipated.
“From what I’ve seen over my three years analyzing the NFT market, it’s the authentic projects that have the greatest staying power in that they resonate with their audiences at a deeper level than any gimmicky collection,” remarks Modesta. “It’s interesting to see India approaching NFTs in its own, authentic way, just like Bollywood established an entirely homegrown movie scene and culture. Now, rather than piggybacking on existing Western platforms, India brings NFTs in-house to retain control over the output, narrative, and value. This, I believe, is a recipe for long-term success.”
Indeed, if India succeeds in onboarding just 10% of its eligible population into NFT ownership, that figure of $10.7 billion is due for an exponential increase very soon.