Business

Ed Drake

Crypto platform Unocoin slashes staff as last-ditch funding talks fail

Embattled crypto trading platform Unocoin has been dealt another blow this week, with the collapse of the latest round of funding talks resulting in a further tranche of redundancies.

According to an Economic Times report, half of the company’s remaining staff have been laid off in a desperate bid to conserve cash, down from over 100 staff at its peak in February 2018. Unocoin’s team is currently made up of 14 staffers.

The Bengaluru-based crypto platform was founded in 2013 by Sathvik Viswanath, Harish BV, Abhinand Kaseti and Sunny Ray, and had at one stage been considered a promising startup. Yet against the backdrop of ongoing challenges for crypto exchanges, off the back of prolonged bear market conditions driven by the collapse of Bitcoin Core (BTC), the platform has struggled to remain viable in recent months.

To further compound its difficulties, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) prohibited Indian banks from trading in cryptocurrencies last year, resulting in a forthcoming Supreme Court verdict that could have further negative implications for the firm.

Co-founder and CEO Sathvik Vishwanath said that while the firm still had some reserves to carry on trading for the next couple of months, it was now awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court to determine its fate.

“We did ask people to leave last week, but our operations will continue for the foreseeable future. We have some amount of reserves to push through for the next couple of months and will wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict,” the executive said.

The developments around the Supreme Court hearing have seen a number of other Indian exchanges move overseas, or simply shut up shop altogether, as a direct response to the prohibition.

Zebpay, one of the country’s largest exchanges, shuttered in September, while new entrant Coindelta lasted 18 months before the prohibition forced the firm’s directors to take the decision to close down their operations.

With Unocoin’s future now in the balance, this looks to be potentially a further blow for the cryptocurrency sector in India.

The news comes a matter of months after two directors of Unocoin were arrested by police in Bengaluru for installing a bitcoin ATM in a shopping center without appropriate permission.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as SegWitCoin BTC coins. Altcoins, which value privacy, anonymity, and distance from government intervention, are referenced as dark coins.

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