The journey started 6 months back when I finally decided to find out more on bitcoin. I kept dilly dallying for next many days not finding time to do my research. But then I invented my little trick. I started playing YouTube videos on bitcoin on my daily drive to office. Key is to apply a long duration filter, set the video quality to 144px and let YouTube to do the rest. As you keep listening to videos (I have about 20 mins of commute), it surely does pique your curiosity on the topic, if not make you decipher every details. This curiosity was enough for me to purchase and devour a book on bitcoin. Next I wanted to possess some bitcoins. I knew mining bitcoin was out of question and I could own bitcoins only by paying for it in regular currency. However, searching on Google didn’t help. Luckily, Bangalore has a culture of meetups and I decided to attend one on bitcoins. Meetup was hosted by one of the founders of a bitcoin exchange. It was small gathering of 15–20 people but felt great to listen and talk to folks on bitcoin. Some were curious to know more about the technology, some were skeptical bunch and some were interested to see how could they apply the technology into their own business domains. I was more interested in first buying and then really making some transactions using bitcoin. As the group discussed esoteric topics on bitcoin, I naively interjected, asking for a show of hand on who all own bitcoins? To my surprise, apart from the host, only one person had ever bought bitcoins before. Nevertheless, held in the open bar at the top of Shangri-La Hotel in Bangalore, it was a fun meeting. I came back informed about bitcoins and bitcoin exchanges from where I could buy bitcoins.
I would have straight away bought bitcoins from the exchange that our host ran. But the website was down for couple of days. I tried to Google other exchanges and landed on indacoin. Users rate indacoin for reliability and speed but it charges an exorbitant exchange rate. It also accepts only Visa and Mastercard and not American Express. I do have a Mastercard, but knowing what a pain it had been to get a duplicate charge of mere Rs. 1500 waived off my card, I was in no position to share my card details with a third international party who I barely knew. My focus then shifted to finding best bitcoin exchange from India. I signed up on BTCXIndia but they have currently disabled KYC document upload and wouldn’t let me transact without the same. I then landed up on ZebPay. ZebPay really understands the psyche of first time bitcoiners. The site had a link to RBI guidelines on bitcoin and a whitepaper from legal experts which assured me that I wasn’t doing anything illegal in buying bitcoins. KYC upload process on the app was smooth. Buying bitcoin this way felt more legal than swiping a card on an international site. ZebPay also only accept payment through bank accounts. Luckily, I had a bank account from my college days which I now rarely use. I registered this account with ZebPay. Now I was all set. I transferred money to ZebPay from my bank account and once I had money in ZebPay wallet, I used it to buy my first ever bitcoins!
Off course once you buy bitcoin, you want to test if bitcoins are for real! There are many sites which now accept bitcoins as a payment method. But before you start using bitcoins online, you should know a thing or two about bitcoin security. Once you buy bitcoins from ZebPay (or any other exchange), you get a unique address for your account which withholds your bitcoins. You can then use this account number to send or receive payments. Since bitcoin transactions reside on a distributed ledger, anybody can look into the transaction history of a given account. That’s why the norm is to keep changing your account address after each transaction (your bitcoin wallet will automatically change the address for you).
Just to test all this out I transferred some of my bitcoins from ZebPay to a different wallet called “Bitcoin Wallet”. Whoala! The bitcoins got transferred and I was excited to leave my mark on the blockchain! While your account address is a public key that you can share with others to send/receive bitcoins, there is an absolute key or a private key which should never be shared with anyone and rather should be kept securely. ZebPay stores private key on their server but Bitcoin Wallet app lets you download the private key for your wallet.
There is a whole lot to learn about bitcoin. The most amazing aspect of bitcoin or crypto currency is that it is a peer to peer transaction and doesn’t require any third party (such as banks or credit card company) to verify transaction. Ethereum is another kind of crypto currency that has taken this concept to next level by eliminating the need of government (or any third party) to verify a ‘contract’ between two parties. Only time can tell if crypto currency will really become mainstream but it is fascinating to know about the promises that crypto currency hold to the world!