Virtual currencies circulation valued at over `80,000 crore
The total value of these 67 digital currencies in circulation over internet has reached nearly $13 billion (over Rs 80,000 crore), out of which bitcoin alone accounts for over $9 billion, according to market estimates.
However, total value of bitcoin and other such virtual currency trades in India is estimated to be worth only a few crores as of now, although NRIs living abroad are expected to be dealing with bitcoins in a big way.
According to those dealing in bitcoins and other such currencies, RBI's caution notice and action initiated by enforcement agencies in the country has been a major dampener and could come in way of launch of Indian versions of such currencies and that of exchanges providing trading platforms.
A number of bitcoin operators in India have begun suspending their business following RBI's warning against use of such virtual currencies due to potential money laundering and cyber security risks.
Bitcoin is a virtual currency that can be generated through complex computer software systems with solutions shared on a network, although the process is complex and such 'mining' can be done only on very powerful servers. Within four years of coming into existence, bitcoin has become the world's most expensive currency and its per unit value soared past $1,200 level or about Rs 63,000 recently, although the prices have now slipped below Rs 50,000 level.
There was a phenomenal surge in the exchange rate for bitcoin from little over $200 to well past $1,000 during November, but there has been an extreme volatility since then and the RBI's warning has further added to its woes in India.
According to experts and regulatory officials, different virtual currencies continue to pop up almost everyday exposing users to unintended risks and also losses arising out of scams perpetrated by cyber criminals looking to make a quick buck. While four-year old bitcoin shot to prominence with its per unit value soaring past $1,200 level recently, the heavy interest in such cryptocurrencies has led emergence of namesakes like Ripple, Litecoin, Mastercoin, Nxt, Dogecoin etc. There is laxmicoin, which its promoters term as India's very own digital currency and claim it would be launched soon.
The proliferation of new currencies is being linked to the complexities involved in the way bitcoin is 'mined'. The newer avataars are comparatively much easier to create, word-of-mouth publicity and a rush of speculators has ensured they are catching up much faster, traders said.