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Will Bitcoin take off in Asia?

Bitcoin has reached Asian shores with the cryptocurrency’s debut in Singapore.

Touted as the digital currency set to power up electronic payments globally, Bitcoin has received its fair share of good and bad press when it comes to convincing financial institutions of its legitimacy.

That a Bitcoin vendor such as Coinbase chooses to set up shop in Singapore may come as a surprise to some given the tight regulations in the market. Yet, the emergence and growing utility of Bitcoin since its launch six years ago is a testament to its potential as a game-changer in financial technology.

Still in its nascent stages, Bitcoin’s eventual take-off in Asia is hard to predict. The newly introduced cryptocurrency may need some form of marketing in order to alleviate consumer perceptions of its risk and volatility.

According to Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner of Happy Marketer, the unregulated nature of the cryptocurrency makes it prone to dismissal by consumers who are more risk-averse.

Sean Burke-Gaffney, director of technology at SapientNitro, echoes this view, citing the lack of regulation on Bitcoin invites speculation, making fraudulent transactions a more serious concern for those who are hesitant to adopt the digital currency.

Moreover, Bitcoin’s volatility in the market may cause a slow rate of adoption, if any, in the Asian markets, Mazumdar said.

“I don’t think the introduction of Bitcoins will adversely impact any of the other pre-existing modes of payment in the near future,” he said.

“As with everything new, brands can choose to experiment with it to see if their customer base is ready to adopt it and maybe even offer incentives to urge them to try Bitcoins as a payment mode.”

He predicted brands in the gaming, electronics and e-commerce industries in particular will pave the way for this new mode of payment given their customers tend to be more tech-savvy and are early adopters of technology.

Meanwhile, Burke-Gaffney posits global adoption by money markets will take a long time.

“Remember that it took PayPal seven years to become legitimate and even now it is not used in so many places. For Bitcoin, global adoption is likely 10 years away, if at all.”

Mazumdar pointed out the lack of awareness and education about the benefits of the Bitcoin system may impede its uptake in the region making brands reluctant to adopt the cryptocurrency.

To market Bitcoins to the masses, he said there needs to be massive amounts of investments in educating the public about what Bitcoins are and how the system works. One of the ways to boost the digital currency’s popularity is by highlighting Bitcoin’s benefits as compared to the current cash system.

“Since the currency is not backed by the central bank, these companies in the Bitcoin ecosystem may want to leverage local and global academics to endorse and support the new currency,” he said.

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