Located a few hundred metres from the Rajasthan State Legislative Assembly in Jaipur, the offices of United Multistate Credit Cooperative Society appear to be a relic forgotten by time. The slim corridor leading to the society is flanked by scooters and motorcycles on both sides. Dust and debris are everywhere, almost as if they were long-time tenants.

United, however, isn’t ready to recede into the pages of history just yet. It has hitched its wagon to cryptocurrency in a bid to stay relevant (and solvent) in a fast-changing world.

The first signs of this can be seen as one walks up the stairs to the office. There, a grinning image of Bill Gates greets visitors. Splashed across the picture, in garish orange text, is a quote from Gates praising bitcoin—the decentralised digital currency that has become synonymous with crypto.

United’s tryst with cryptocurrency is opportunistic, to be sure. Started in 2012, it was largely focussed on serving small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in towns and villages, farmers, and those in need of microfinance loans to buy things like sewing machines. 

The society was cruising along till 2019, with deposits of Rs 580 crore (US$77.5 million) flowing through its coffers. Major frauds at other cooperative societies cooperative societies Hindustan Times Adarsh co-op scam: 11 arrested for siphoning ₹1400 cr Read more , however, eroded faith among its depositors. 

Around June 2019, said United founder and CEO Dinesh Kukreja, the society received around Rs 3 crore (US$400,000) each month towards repayment of loans. With sentiment in cooperative societies souring, though, depositors turned up in droves, seeking to withdraw as much as Rs 10 crore (US$1.3 million). “We couldn’t service those requests, which created more panic,” Kukreja told The Ken.

Covid made things worse. Borrowers could no longer repay their loans, meaning no money was coming in. “Till date, we have about Rs 80 crore (US$10.7 million) worth of loans pending repayment in the market,” said Kukreja.

In desperate need of a solution, Kukreja got creative. Crypto-assets such as bitcoin and ether were on a renewed rally after a quiet couple of years. Between March and October 2020, bitcoin’s price shot up from around US$5,000 a unit to US$10,000. “Maybe this (crypto) will save us, and help us build back the business,” Kukreja recalled thinking at the time.

Since United lacked both the tech know-how and capital to execute a pivot to crypto, Kukreja approached Kumar Gaurav, founder of UK-based crypto firm Cashaa. Gaurav offered both Cashaa’s financing and tech chops in exchange for a 51% stake in the new venture, Unicas.

AUTHOR

Jaspreet Kalra

Jaspreet covers banking, financial technology and digital assets. He is a graduate of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Jaspreet has previously worked with CoinDesk and Bank Automation News. When unoccupied with work, he can be found pretending to read hardbacks while listening to stand-up specials.

View Full Profile

Read this story. Subscribe Now

This story is available across both editions. Subscribe to the one that’s most relevant for you. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at support@the-ken.com with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at info@the-ken.com or follow us on Twitter.