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Bitcoin Takes on Gold for Diwali, Helped by Top Bollywood Stars

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(Bloomberg) -- Ahead of Diwali, two of Bollywood’s leading men are pitching another option during India’s annual gold shopping spree: cryptocurrencies.

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India’s top two crypto platforms have each tapped stars -- one, Amitabh Bachchan, may be the most famous Indian actor of all time -- to promote cryptocurrencies as a superior and easy investment ahead of Dhanteras, the most auspicious day in the Hindu calendar to buy gold or start new ventures. Indians have expanded their Diwali investments to include stocks, real estate, diamonds and other assets.

Cryptocurrency exchanges like Bangalore-based CoinSwitch Kuber and CoinDCX are touting Bitcoin as another option. In an advertisement for CoinSwitch, Ranveer Singh, star of some of the country’s biggest blockbusters, delivers a rap in Hindi about just how simple crypto trading can be.

Ease, though, may not be the central concern. The Reserve Bank of India effectively banned cryptocurrency trading until the courts lifted the prohibitions in March 2020. Since then, the government has flirted with crypto governance legislation that could change the landscape for investors.

Tapping celebrity pitchmen helps push crypto into the mainstream and, particularly in Bachchan’s case, adds a measure of respectability. In addition to a voice-of-god baritone, Bachchan has been the celebrity face of the RBI’s campaign against banking fraud, online and otherwise.

India’s plans for a virtual rupee aside, the RBI remains critical of cryptocurrencies, advocating that the government ban them. Over the weekend, officials met with Bachchan to reiterate its concerns, according to a person familiar with the development. The star said he’d reconsider his relationship with CoinDCX, the person said, asking not to be identified as the details are private.

Representatives for the central bank and CoinDCX did not respond to messages or to questions sent by email. Calls and text messages to Bachchan and his representative weren’t answered.

Singh, the star of blockbusters like Padmaavat and Gully Boy, has a fan base that skews toward YOLO millennials as well as small-town Indians. The CoinSwitch tie-up is recent; the platform is the country’s largest crypto portal, with 10 million users so far.

Other Indian exchanges have attempted to demystify crypto for first-time investors, making it possible to buy or sell with two or three clicks.

A slew of global celebrities have made the case for digital coins. In the U.S., football star Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen have a stake in FTX and costar in its ad campaign. Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Snoop Dog have also endorsed various crypto plays.

According to at least one measurement, the pitches work: some 45% of crypto investors said they’d invest based on a celebrity’s endorsement, according to a survey by Morning Consult. Of investors more broadly, 20% said they could be swayed by A-listers.

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