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Leading crypto exchanges scout entry into India despite potential ban

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By Nupur Anand

MUMBAI (Reuters) – Global digital currency exchanges are exploring ways to set up in India, following in the footsteps of market leader Binance, industry sources told Reuters, while the government in New Delhi dithers over introducing a law that could ban cryptocurrencies.

Opponents of the potential ban say it would stifle the economic power of a tech-savvy, young nation of 1.35 billion people. There is no official data, but industry analysts reckon there are 15 million crypto investors in India holding over 100 billion rupees ($1.37 billion).

According to four sources, who declined to be identified as they were not authorised to comment on private discussions, U.S.-based Kraken, Hong Kong-based Bitfinex and rival KuCoin are actively scouting the market, which analysts say would only get bigger if it was given a free rein.

“These companies have already begun talks to understand the Indian market and the entry points better,” said one source directly involved with an exchange that had begun due diligence for an Indian firm it was considering acquiring.

The other two exchanges, he said, were in the initial stages of deciding whether to enter India and weighing their options, which effectively come down to a choice between setting up a subsidiary or buying an Indian firm, as Binance, the world’s biggest exchange, did two years ago.

Bitfinex declined to comment while Kraken and KuCoin did not respond to an email seeking comment.

All three exchanges are ranked in the world’s top ten by data platform CoinMarketCap, based on their traffic, liquidity and trustworthiness of their reported trading volumes.

“The Indian market is huge and it is only starting to grow, if there was more policy certainty by now Indian consumers would have been spoilt for choice in terms of exchanges, because everyone wants to be here,” said Kumar Gaurav, founder of digital bank Cashaa.

Proponents of cryptocurrencies say they would be the most cost-efficient way for Indians abroad to remit funds home.

But authorities worry that rich people and criminals could hide their wealth in the digital world, and speculative flows of funds through digital channels, ungoverned by India’s strict exchange controls, could destabilise the financial system.

BILL DELAYED, FATE UNKNOWN

Hitherto, India has had no rules specifically for cryptocurrency exchanges wishing to set up in the country. Instead they could register themselves as tech companies to obtain a relatively easy entry path.

In 2019, Binance acquired WazirX, an Indian cryptocurrency startup which has allowed users to buy and sell crypto with rupees on the Binance Fiat Gateway.

U.S. based exchange, Coinbase, has announced plans for a back office in India.

But with the regulatory environment for cryptocurrencies taking a turn for worse globally, Indian authorities are exercising greater scrutiny.

In China, authorities have forbidden banks and online payment companies from providing services related to cryptocurrency transactions.

And the Indian government was set to present a bill to parliament by March that proposed a ban on cryptocurrencies, making trading and holding them illegal. But the government has held it back, and conflicting statements since have fueled uncertainty over the bill’s fate.

Meantime, major Indian banks have begun to sever ties with cryptocurrency exchanges and traders, amid Reserve Bank of India’s concerns about the financial stability risks posed by the volatile asset.

The RBI is looking at launching its own digital currency, but Governor Shaktikanta Das in February described those plans as a “work in progress”.

For all the uncertainty over what India will end up doing, some digital currency exchanges clearly reckon it would be better to gain entry rather than miss out.

“It’s clear that the rewards outweigh the perceived risks, which is luring these global firms to the Indian market,” said Darshan Bathija, chief executive officer of Vauld, a foreign crypto exchange with a presence in India.

(Reporting by Nupur Anand; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Image Credit: Reuters

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://datafloq.com/read/leading-crypto-exchanges-scout-entry-india-despite-potential-ban/15289

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Text detection from images using EasyOCR: Hands-on guide

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EasyOCR | Text detection from images using EasyOCR: Hands-on guide





















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Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2021/06/text-detection-from-images-using-easyocr-hands-on-guide/

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Why and how to use BERT for NLP Text Classification?

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Why and how to use BERT for NLP Text Classification? – Analytics Vidhya





















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Source: https://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2021/06/why-and-how-to-use-bert-for-nlp-text-classification/

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As Venezuela’s economy regresses, crypto fills the gaps

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By Brian Ellsworth

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan food delivery driver Pablo Toro has no stake in cryptocurrency or blockchain, but indirectly uses digital tokens every time he sends money to his family.

Toro, who emigrated to Colombia in 2019, uses an app called Valiu to receive Colombian pesos from working on Bogota’s streets and deposit the corresponding bolivars into a Venezuelan bank account.

In Venezuela’s economy, mired by hyperinflation and hemmed in by sanctions, the operation is not so straightforward.

Valiu uses pesos to buy cryptocurrency that it then sells on LocalBitcoins, a global peer-to-peer site for trading tokens in local currencies.

For Toro, the platform is more reliable than informal money changers, the main channel for Venezuelan migrants to send money home. And he need not buy traditional money orders in person.

“When the power is out in Venezuela, when internet service is down, it has a huge impact on how long it takes to send a remittance to one’s family,” said Toro, who quit working as a university security guard because his monthly salary could not even pay for a day’s groceries.

“(Now) I don’t have to worry about whether the cell signal dropped in Venezuela, or if cell service drops here.”

As hyperinflation and U.S. sanctions disrupt Venezuela’s economy, cryptocurrency is emerging as a way to provide services handled elsewhere by the traditional banking system.

It has become a tool to send remittances, protect wages from inflation and help businesses manage cash flow in a quickly depreciating currency, according to interviews with crypto users and experts.

Cryptocurrency in Latin America got renewed attention in June after El Salvador adopted bitcoin as legal tender. It has grown in popularity in Argentina as inflation resurged.

Chainalysis, a startup that researches blockchain transactions, in a 2020 report ranked Venezuela third on its Global Crypto Adoption Index, largely due to the high volume of bolivar transactions.

Mining cryptocurrency – using high-powered computers to solve complex math problems – is an attractive way to make extra income thanks to Venezuela’s ultra-low power prices, but the average citizen cannot afford the equipment.

In Venezuela, crypto is mainly used to hedge against inflation that causes bank deposits to sharply depreciate in weeks or even days.

“Valiu buys and sells bitcoin instead of directly exchanging pesos to bolivars because of the lack of availability of that currency in regulated marketplaces,” said Alejandro Machado, Valiu’s head of pilot programs.

Bolivar transactions on LocalBitcoins are the largest by value among Latin American currencies, according to LocalBitcoins data analyzed by blockchain advisor UsefulTulips.

LocalBitcoins did not respond to a request for comment.

Cryptocurrency traders and experts say volumes on the site have slipped amid the rising popularity of Binance, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, which offers trading of a variety of tokens.

These include so-called “stablecoins” whose values remain steady against specific assets such as the U.S. dollar, avoiding the volatility of many cryptocurrencies.

Bolivar operations on Binance’s peer-to-peer platform have risen by 75% since May, making Venezuela the only Latin American country whose trading volumes have risen since bitcoin prices tumbled at the start of May, a Binance spokesperson said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in 2017 announced the creation of the state-backed petro cryptocurrency, but it has little practical application. The government used it in 2019 to make small payments to retirees, and often uses it as a unit of value to price services or fines that are ultimately paid in bolivars.

The United States in 2019 imposed broad Venezuela sanctions that block U.S. citizens from dealing with Maduro’s government. While banks can still deal with private businesses or individuals, many avoid doing so due to perceived regulatory risk.

The country’s information ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Fast food chains Pizza Hut and Church’s Chicken as well as some supermarkets are accepting tokens such as bitcoin and dash as payment, fueling excitement and filling malls and businesses with logos for well-known cryptocurrencies.

But a major part of Venezuela’s crypto operations involves businesses swapping out of bolivars to beat inflation, said economist and finance expert Aaron Olmos.

“Crypto is being used as a palliative for the economic situation, but you see it mostly among businesses,” said Olmos.

“Nobody is going to tell you ‘every night when we do the books, we convert bolivars into bitcoin,’ but yes, this is happening.”

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Richard Chang)

Image Credit: Reuters

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://datafloq.com/read/as-venezuelas-economy-regresses-crypto-fills-gaps/15682

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Messaging app helps take off blinders at top-down South Korean chaebol culture

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By Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) – An anonymous messaging app called Blind used by South Korean employees to air their grievances is helping change management attitudes towards workers in some of the nation’s biggest companies.

The bosses have take note as the app’s popularity among employees surges.

In several instances in recent weeks, companies have changed course on salary decisions and other issues after criticism by employees expressed on the app. It was a marked departure from the previously unassailable top-down management culture that symbolised the country’s “chaebol” conglomerates and its rapid industrial development.

Blind is based in the United States, and also has a following there mainly among employees of U.S. tech companies. It was founded by four South Koreans and has captured a sweet spot at home, with about 70% of users coming from Korean firms, the company said.

Kyum Kim, co-founder of Blind, told Reuters the decision to be based outside Korea was deliberate.

“When starting our service, we thought our service would have more value when our HQ is in the United States – where the concept of freedom of speech is well established and valued,” Kim said.

Blind requires users to sign up using company email as proof of employment at large firms, but the connection between the company email and Blind account is then permanently destroyed to ensure secrecy.

The app, launched in 2013, reached a new level of influence after the coronavirus pandemic prompted employees to seek online routes to remain in the loop and corporate executives began paying closer attention.

Monthly active users on the app grew to 3.7 million this month from 1.3 million in June 2019, and the number of daily posts has more than doubled, according to the company.

Now, in between office gossip, the app is also serving as an outlet in the wider societal backlash of rank-and-file workers against perceived injustice in Korea Inc.

“Blind has played a part in the trend in South Korean society toward greater demand for ‘fairness’ in corporate-employee dynamics, especially among the tech-savvy younger generations,” said Yu Gyu-chang, Dean of the Graduate School of Business at Hanyang University.

Global No. 2 memory chip maker SK Hynix gave its staff the highest salary increase since 2012 this month, after the app helped stoke a backlash by employees against a pay increase decision by the management earlier this year.

At the time, in an unprecedented conciliatory gesture, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won had offered to return his entire 2020 salary from the company – about 3 billion won ($2.64 million).

Although employees had openly challenged the pay decision within SK Hynix, the move was buoyed by the anonymous outpouring of employee disgruntlement in Blind. Yu said younger employees were accustomed to the anonymity of the Web and joining forces with others for immediate results.

SK Hynix declined comment on the pay increase, but said the chip industry’s overall wage competitiveness is rising.

“When it comes to office workers, we don’t have a union and I feel that office workers get together on Blind and ‘unite’ to raise our voices together,” said an employee at one of South Korea’s four biggest conglomerates, declining to be identified.

“Monitoring Blind has become a bigger part of our job than we thought,” a PR executive at a different conglomerate said, declining to be identified as the matter was confidential.

“Grievances and rumours posted there can get a lot of eyeballs, often get leaked to the press, can end up setting agendas. Criticisms can snowball a lot quicker unless steps are taken.”

Workers at U.S. companies such as Google and Amazon also use Blind, and many others in the United States such as job review site Glassdoor also provide platforms for anonymous company criticism. And speaking out, even without anonymity, is tolerated at many companies.

In South Korea, by contrast, anonymous posts on Blind have shaken companies beyond just salary negotiations. Labour ministry supervision has begun this month at Naver, the dominant web portal, after chatter on Blind claimed an employee who committed suicide had been bullied.

Naver declined comment as an investigation is ongoing.

($1 = 1,134.9400 won)

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Image Credit: Reuters

Coinsmart. Beste Bitcoin-Börse in Europa
Source: https://datafloq.com/read/messaging-app-helps-take-blinders-top-down-south-korean-chaebol-culture/15681

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