Coinbase taps former Snap India head in emerging markets push

Coinbase has hired Durgesh Kaushik, the former head of Snap India, as the global cryptocurrency exchange looks to expand its reach in emerging markets including India, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed.

Kaushik is joining Coinbase as Senior Director for Market Expansion and is tasked with helping the company with its launch in India and several other markets in the Asia Pacific region, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

Reached for comment over the weekend, the company confirmed the development and said Kaushik will be joining the firm on May 9.

“We’re excited to confirm that Durgesh Kaushik will be joining Coinbase on May 9 as our Senior Director for Market Expansion,” said Nana Murugesan, VP of International, Business Development and Partnerships at Coinbase, in a statement provided to TechCrunch by a company spokesperson.

Murugesan added: “[Kaushik’s] appointment to this global leadership role is an important step toward our entry in India, as well as our mission to increase economic freedom around the world. Beyond his initial focus on our India launch, Durgesh will draw from his extensive experience to also support our entry into other markets in APAC, EMEA, and the Americas as laid out in our recent blog post on our global expansion strategy.”

Kaushik — who has previously worked at firms including Facebook and hyperlocal delivery service Dunzo and also co-founded a social-video platform — is widely credited in helping Snap turn around its position in India. Under his leadership, the company grew its India’s monthly active user base to about 130 million, according to mobile insight firm (formerly known as App Annie), up from about 30 million when Kaushik joined the firm in April of 2019.

He was tasked to help the social media platform grow to 100 million users by Q1 or Q2 2021, according to an executive who has engaged with Snap officials. Kaushik announced his departure from Snap last month.

The appointment of Kaushik comes at a time when Coinbase is scrambling to, and in many ways feeling a tad helpless in, making its eponymous cryptocurrency exchange service operational in India. The publicly listed firm announced the launch of Coinbase in India to much fanfare last month.

Coinbase last month launched in India with support for UPI, a payments railroad built by a coalition of retail banks that has become the most popular way Indians transact online today. But the same day the National Payments Corporation of India, the payments body that oversees UPI, threw a curveball at the firm by asserting that it was not aware of any crypto exchange using UPI. Three days later, Coinbase suspended the support for UPI from the app and currently its users in the country have no means to top their fiat currency.

The NPCI, which is a special unit of India’s central bank (the Reserve Bank of India), and the RBI continue to informally put pressure on banks into creating friction with crypto-related transactions despite India’s Supreme Court lifting the RBI-imposed ban on cryptocurrency trading three years ago, according to an executive at a cryptocurrency exchange.

Indian newspaper the Economic Times reported late last month that several banks have approached and questioned the NPCI on its “shadow banning” of cryptocurrency-related transactions and are seeking a formal directive. Reacting to the news piece, Brian Armstrong, co-founder and chief executive, said: “Tough questions, and good questions, for NPCI and RBI in India. Is their “shadow ban” a violation of the supreme court ruling?”

Murugesan said the company is also looking to hire a new regional managing director for India and South Asia.