Unicas – the fragile pandemic marriage of crypto and a cooperative society

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Located a few hundred yards from the Rajasthan State Legislature in Jaipur, the offices of the United Multistate Credit Cooperative Society appear to be a forgotten relic. The thin hallway leading to the company is flanked by scooters and motorcycles on both sides. Dust and debris are everywhere, almost as if they were longtime tenants.

United, however, are not yet ready to step back down the pages of history. He has hitched his wagon to cryptocurrency in an effort to remain relevant (and creditworthy) in a rapidly changing world.

The first signs of this can be seen when walking up the stairs to the office. There, a smiling image of Bill Gates greets visitors. A quote from Gates praising bitcoin, the decentralized digital currency that has become synonymous with crypto, is splashed across the image, in garish orange text.

United’s date with cryptocurrency is of course opportunistic. Launched in 2012, it was largely focused on serving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in towns and villages, farmers, and those who needed microfinance loans to buy things like sewing machines.

The company sailed through 2019, with deposits of Rs 580 crore (US $ 77.5 million) flowing into its coffers. Major frauds in others

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, however, has eroded confidence among its depositors.

Around June 2019, said United Founder and CEO Dinesh Kukreja, the company received around Rs 3 crore (US $ 400,000) each month for loan repayments. However, with sentiment in the co-ops worsening, depositors have turned up en masse, seeking to withdraw as much as 10 crore rupees ($ 1.3 million). “We were unable to meet these requests, which created more panic,” Kukreja said. The Ken.

The Covid made matters worse. The borrowers could no longer repay their loans, which meant that no money was coming in. “So far we have around 80 crore rupees ($ 10.7 million) of loans pending in the market,” Kukreja said.

Desperately in need of a solution, Kukreja got creative. Cryptoassets such as bitcoin and ether were on a new rally after a few quiet years. Between March and October 2020, the price of bitcoin rose from around US $ 5,000 per unit to US $ 10,000. “Maybe this (crypto) will save us and help us rebuild the business,” Kukreja recalls thinking back then.

As United lacked both the technological know-how and the capital to execute a pivot to crypto, Kukreja approached Kumar Gaurav, founder of UK-based crypto firm Cashaa. Gaurav offered both the financing and the technological advantages of Cashaa in return for a 51% stake in the new company, Unicas.

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