Influencers, crypto enthusiasts, and now celebrities including Bollywood stars and cricketers in India appear to be lining up to create non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and sell them.
On 30 August, Amitabh Bachchan became one of the first Bollywood stars to join the NFT craze. His NFTs, which include an autographed poster of Sholay and poems narrated by him, will be hosted on a platform called BeyondLife.Club in November this year.
TV Host and Actor Vishaal Malhotra had collaborated with artist Ishita Banerjee in July to release an NFT on global platform Foundation.
They are not alone, though. Interest from Bollywood has been growing ever since Bachchan’s involvement, according to Toshendra Sharma, founder of NFTically, a software-as-a-service (SAAS) service for NFT marketplaces.
While Sharma did not reveal names of the people he has been in conversation with, he said he is getting requests from musicians, scriptwriters, directors, actors and others involved in the Indian film industry.
Cricketers too have shown interest. In the last two months, two NFT platforms have been announced in India which are dedicated to cricket. Homegrown digital collectibles platform Rario announced last month it had partnered with cricketers Zaheer Khan and South African Faf Du Plesis for the platform.
Singapore-based blockchain platform Cricket Foundation, too, announced an NFT platform dedicated to cricket earlier this month. It is backed by cricketers like VVS Laxman, Parthiv Patel, Wasim Akram, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Deep Dasgupta, Pragyan Ojha, Lance Klusener and more. The platform uses homegrown blockchain firm Zebi’s platform to run its marketplace.
NFTs are digital tokens akin to cryptocurrencies, except that they are 'non-fungible', which means that one NFT cannot replace another in a blockchain. As a result, a person buying an NFT can sell it to someone else, or exchange it for another NFT, but the blockchain platform will always reveal the name of the the creator and subsequent owners.
This process helps artists sell a digital item once, and earn commissions for subsequent sales. For example, one can simply ‘copy paste’ digital art, but they won’t be able to replace its fingerprint on the blockchain, thereby clearly showing that it isn’t the original.
While the technology has mostly been used for selling digital art, music and videos via auctions, Sharma noted that celebrities’ involvement will open up newer avenues. Most celebs want to use NFTs for fan engagement, perhaps around one of their films, he pointed out. For instance, a celebrity could make a single ticket for his film an NFT and reward the highest bidder not only with the ticket, but an in-person meeting or a physical poster, etc. The bidding process alone helps create fan engagement.
Vishakha Singh, vice-president of the NFT marketplace hosted by India’s top crypto exchange, WazirX, corroborated that the platform is working with renowned musicians like Ritviz and Nucleya. “In our experience, so far community engagement is key to driving sales. Bollywood and sports celebrities rely heavily on their social media managers and teams to engage within their community due to lack of time. We are working with Bollywood known entities but not celebrities in the traditional sense,” she added.
“Entry from celebrities creates mass awareness. Social media influencers have been interested in the NFT space purely from a PR point of view so far,” said WazirX's Singh, adding that few understand the possibilities that this technology offers right now. “The growing crypto community and usage of crypto shall help policymakers in designing regulations around crypto. Celebrities' involvement may not necessarily ‘help’ in future regulations but perhaps emphasise the importance of expediting the regulations process,” he added.
Sharma’s NFTically had announced an NFT with Zee Studios, and the executive said the fact that a publicly-listed company is taking interest in the space is also helping convince celebs.
Crypto experts, including WazirX’s Singh, though agree that celebrities entering the space won’t necessarily drive-up sales volumes. It will, however, help the market mature and bring in bigger ticket investors. For instance, the most expensive NFT sold in WazirX’s marketplace so far was priced at around Rs. 5.3 lakh, whereas global NFT sales have skyrocketed to millions of dollars.
According to an August 18 report from blockchain data platform Chainalysis, India ranks second in terms of crypto adoption worldwide, ahead of countries like the US, UK and China and behind Vietnam. The company surveyed 47000 users worldwide and 30% of those surveyed from India said they owned cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin, Ripple, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash were the most popular cryptocurrencies in the country.
(An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Amitabh Bachchan was the first to join the NFT trend. The same has been rectified to include actor Vishaal Malhotra's NFT release in July.)