Investors who bet on the beginning of the Bitcoin boom last year have raked in the moolah. The influx of institutional dollars into Bitcoin from prominent hedge fund managers such as Paul Tudor Jones — who had reportedly compared investing in Bitcoin to investing early in Apple and Google – and enterprises including Tesla, MicroStrategy, Square, etc., triggered a gradual movement for crypto into the mainstream financial world. This is one of the biggest reasons why American investors have made so much money from Bitcoin in 2020 – $4.1 billion, according to Chainalysis. This number refers to ‘realized gains’ i.e. profits from actually selling Bitcoin holdings, and not notional profits on balance sheets while the Bitcoin tokens are still being held. It is quite an astonishing number, especially when we see that the next country on the list, China, has seen its investors make realized profits of $1.1 billion – the US is thus nearly four times higher than its nearest rival in this race.
However, Indian investors will be disappointed when they see these numbers, as they made just $241 million, which is only the 18th highest in Chainalysis’ list of the top 25 countries with the biggest realised gains from Bitcoin. This is likely due to the government’s regulatory concerns over cryptocurrencies, with the central bank having restricted crypto ownership and trading back in 2018, and it took intervention from the country’s Supreme Court in March 2020 to allow Indians to trade in cryptocurrencies. Given that India has the world’s fifth-largest economy with a GDP of $2.9 trillion, this is quite a small figure, and is reflective of the government and central bank’s continued resistance to cryptocurrencies, which creates uncertainty in the market and discourages Indians from putting their money in crypto in the fear that it could become difficult or impossible to retrieve that money later if there is a blanket ban on cryptocurrencies.
According to Rameesh Kailasam, CEO of IndiaTech.org, which is an industry association representing the country’s consumer internet start-ups, unicorns, and investors, India needs to focus on long-term wealth creation. There have been several years of uncertainty and almost two years of a crypto ban, which has prevented people from making long-term decisions. According to him, if there are regulations in place that allow the crypto ecosystem to work freely, the country will reach the top three in the world for crypto investments and profits in no time, since there is a lot of interest and demand for cryptocurrencies in India. During the time that crypto was banned in India, investors in the US got the opportunity to invest, and this came during a bear market for crypto in 2018 and 2019, which has consequently increased the profits that American investors are now making since the prices at which they bought crypto tokens are far lower than their Indian counterparts.
After China, investors in Japan earned the next highest amount, with an estimated $929 million in realized bitcoin gains. After that, U.K. investors realized $829 million, Russian investors realized $632 million and German investors realized $607 million. Country-level variations are another interesting theme to watch here – for example, Vietnam, which has an extremely robust crypto ecosystem in place, saw gains of around $350 million last year, which is quite large when compared to the size of its economy, and shows how the crypto ecosystem encouraged traders and investors in the country. This again shows the impact of a regulated crypto ecosystem – Vietnam’s GDP was estimated to be around $262 billion in 2019, which is a fraction of India’s GDP, and yet it has made much more in Bitcoin profits in 2020.
To arrive at the data, the New York-based research firm Chainalysis said it could “produce a good estimate using transaction data from the services Chainalysis tracks.” It measured the on-chain flows to each cryptocurrency exchange, and approximated the total U.S. dollar gains made on Bitcoin by measuring the differences in its price at the time it was withdrawn from the platform versus when it was received. It then distributed those gains (or losses) by country based on the share of web traffic each country accounts for on each exchange’s website. This gave Chainalysis “a reasonable estimate” for the realized gains by country though it didn’t account for gains on assets that were yet to be withdrawn from an exchange.