Wedding gift scene disrupted as bitcoin joins the party

Illustration: Binay Sinha
When Prashant Sharma and Niti Shree met at a gathering four years ago in Bengaluru, they bonded over their love for start-ups and new technologies. Those shared interests have followed them to their wedding venue. Their floral-themed blue-and-white wedding invites, which went out last month, had an unusual request: they wanted their guests to help them “disrupt the gifting scene”.

Ditching the routine of handling envelopes loaded with cash and other gifts that come wrapped in fancy papers, Shree and Sharma have requested their guests to ride the cryptocurrency wave. On December 9, as the young couple greet family and friends as newly-weds, a ‘bitcoin booth’ will help their guests gift the cryptocurrency to them. 

At 28, both of them are co-founders of city-based Offrd, a specialised hiring platform, and both are cryptocurrency enthusiasts. “We attended some six weddings last year and we were very confused about what to gift them,” says Shree. “When we decided to get married, we decided we wanted to promote the technology we liked. And since not everyone is familiar with bitcoins, we had the details of how to go about it on our wedding invites,” she says.

Cryptocurrency is the new craze for enthusiasts globally, and bitcoin’s value has overtaken all other digital instruments. On Saturday, the price of each bitcoin stood at around $15,000, lower than the $17,000 price it reached a day ago. In contrast, each bitcoin was valued at around $1,000 when 2017 began. The dizzying increase in value has prompted many high networth individuals to put their money in this cryptocurrency.

“This was a good opportunity for us to show how bitcoins are going mainstream after being backed by institutional investors and high networth individuals,” says a spokesperson for Zepbay, an Ahmedabad-based bitcoin exchange. “Despite fluctuations, we’re seeing more and more people wanting to become part of the bitcoin trend. No one wants to lose out,” she adds.  

The Bengaluru couple has partnered Zebpay for the wedding. Guests could either use their existing accounts, or create new ones, to enable them to “pass on” what they wanted when they reached the wedding venue. “The bitcoin booth has my QR code and my Zepbay account details. There will also be someone at the booth to assist our guests with bitcoins,” explains Sharma.

Bitcoin continues to be notoriously volatile across the globe, but this doesn’t concern Sharma either. “There’s a lot of speculation about bitcoins, but I’m a big believer in the blockchain technology that powers these currencies. This technology has the potential to overcome hype and truly disrupt things,” says Sharma. “Cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Ripple don’t have as much appeal as bitcoins in India so we’ve stuck to bitcoins,” he adds.

Keeping true to promoting cryptocurrencies, the drinks at the venue have been named after the others: Ripple, for instance, will be a spicy guava mocktail. A blue curacao and litchi drink will be called Litecoin. Bitcoin gift vouchers have been around for sometime now, but this is probably the first instance of a special request for bitcoins as a wedding gift in India. 

Earlier this year, US-based Honeyfund, a wedding and honeymoon gift registry, announced that dozens of its customers had opted to give newly-wedded couples bitcoins. If they’d have had this wedding in their hometowns of Patna or Jamshedpur, they may not have gone ahead with bitcoins, says Sharma. “But this is after all the tech capital,” says Shree.

Bitcoin’s popularity in Bengaluru has remained steady in the face of market uncertainties: bitcoin miners continue to source monster machines from SP Road to mine the cryptocurrency, and Suryawanshi, a tiny restaurant in Indiranagar, continues to accept bitcoins as payment for its Maharashtrian cuisine.

Bitcoin tumbles 20% in 10 hours

 
Bitcoin lost almost a fifth of its value in 10 hours on Friday, having surged over 40 per cent in the preceding 48 hours. On Thursday, bitcoin leapt from below $16,000 to $19,500 on GDAX in less than an hour, while it was still changing hands at about $15,900 on Bitstamp. Having then climbed to $16,666 on Bitstamp at 0200 GMT on Friday, it tumbled to $13,482 by 1200 GMT — a slide of over 19 per cent. It was last down 9.3 per cent at $15,091.97 on BitStamp. Reuters 

Bengaluru-based couple Prashant Sharma and Niti Shree