Deepakshi Aggarwal, a 23-year-old Chandigarh-based illustrator, graphic designer, 2D artist and visualiser, was struggling to get fair credit for her artwork. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) changed the canvas for her. “NFTs are the cherry on the top. I started my journey in the NFT world about seven months back, and I am overwhelmed by the support and the experience,” says Deepakshi, whose biggest NFT collection has 313 renditions of the character Nom Nom.
Apart from finding a much wider market for her art, Deepakshi has been able to earn around $7,000 (about Rs 5.36 lakh) through the sales of her NFTs, most of which she has donated to animal welfare NGOs. The most she has earned is 0.12 Ether (ETH), about $3,040.92. “Not only my art style is starting to get recognised, I am also able to fulfil my childhood dream of doing something for animals through NFTs,” says Deepakshi, who started making NFTs in October 2021 on the marketplace of Indian crypto exchange, WazirX and OpenSea, which is among the largest NFT marketplaces.
(L-R) Fly; L’amour de ma vie. Artwork by Samarth Saxena
She is among the many artists in India who have found a vast audience, as well as faster response and competitive remuneration through NFTs. The digital assets include images, videos, music and collectables.
The pandemic-related closures tied off physical art venues. At a time when artists had lost that source of revenue, NFTs emerged as an alternative. “For Indian artists, NFTs represent a new horizon of possibilities and the opportunity to showcase their work on a global scale. Some of the NFT collectors have made major profits within a short span of time. Creators can capitalise on unique assets, engage with fans, and generate revenue along the way,” says Sandesh Suvarna, vice-president, WazirX, an NFT marketplace.
The Indian NFT market is too new to peg a value to, but the global market is estimated to have generated over $23 billion in trading volume in 2021, according to crypto data analysis platform, DappRadar. According to Coinmarketcap.com, the market capitalisation of NFTs globally was $10,410 million till April 25, 2022.
(L-R) Her Last Romantic Hour; Stranded; Nom Nom. Artwork by Deepakshi Aggarwal
The NFT Appeal
NFTs in India have gained a lot of traction recently thanks to celebrities— from actors such as Amitabh Bachchan, Rajinikanth, Salman Khan and Kamal Haasan to sportspersons, such as cricketers Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, boxer Lovlina Borgohain and hockey captain Manpreet Singh—joining the medium.
Another reason behind their popularity is the possibility they offer of connecting with other creators in the community.
Mukul Kapoor, 22, a writer and photographer from Mumbai, initially wanted to learn more about the world of digital art, cryptocurrencies and metaverse. During his research, he saw great potential in the NFT space for individuals like him.
His first-ever mint, a photograph titled Trivikrama, The Conqueror got sold for 0.09 Binance Coin (BNB) within the first six hours of being listed. “It felt like my art and expression was appreciated. It was beautiful to connect with many creators from all over the world, who, like me, are open to this technology and all that it has to offer,” says Mukul, who is only a month old in the NFT universe. He now has two other creations up for bids—The Divine Feminine and The Goddess Within priced at 0.09 BNB each.
Mukul Kapoor, 22
“It felt like my art and expression was appreciated. It was beautiful to connect with many creators from all over the world, who, like me, are open to this technology and all that it has to offer”
The Mumbai-based writer and photographer sold his first-ever photograph, Trivikrama, The Conqueror, for 0.09 Binance Coin within the first six hours of listing. He now has two other creations up for bids, priced at 0.09 BNB each
Samarth Saxena, a 22-year-old musician from Mumbai, joined the NFT medium to showcase his music. His best-seller NFT on Foundation, an NFT marketplace, was a song based on mental health and wellbeing, titled Tunes of Yore, which was sold for 0.15 ETH. Samarth has also sold a few creations priced at around 50 WRX, a cryptocurrency token of WazirX.
“I am in touch with a global community of talented and supportive artists, which has pushed up the quality of my art,” says Samarth.
Industry experts say NFTs are bridging the gap between art creation and consumption on a commercial level, and giving a platform to young and unknown artists. “There was a time when only featured and famous artists’ works would be picked up by art galleries. Today, NFTs have given a new avenue to even budding artists to monetise their work,” says Ramkumar Subramaniam, co-founder and CEO, GuardianLink, an NFT platform that has launched collectibles of Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan.
Deepakshi Aggarwal, 23
“Not only is my art style starting to get recognised, I am also able to fulfil my childhood dream of doing something for animals through non-fungible tokens (NFTs)”
The Chandigarh-based illustrator, graphic designer, 2D artist and visualiser found a new means to connect her digital art with a marketplace that also ensured some revenue for her
How To Get On To The NFT Stream
To start with, you need to choose an appropriate marketplace based on multiple factors, such as the community of creators and collectors on the platform, the kind of NFTs you want to put up (collection or a single piece), the crypto wallets accepted on the platform, and the pricing. Some platforms such as Foundation and Rarible vet the creators’ applications and work before putting up the pieces. Some are invitation-only.
It is also important to choose the blockchain carefully because as of now there is no tool that allows inter-operability of NFTs between blockchains. So, if you want to shift, you will have to first burn the NFT on one blockchain and then mint it again on another.
After choosing the marketplace, go to the ‘Create NFT’ or equivalent page and upload your artwork in the specified formats. Enter the title, description, royalty, and the price you want to set for the NFT and submit.
Alice in Coronaland. Artwork by Deepakshi.
The Costs To Look At
“It isn’t simple to put a number on the total cost as there are multiple heads,” says Deepakshi.
To start with, there is the transaction cost of moving funds from your bank account to the crypto wallet; this varies across exchanges and the medium of transfer. Then, one has to pay the minting/gas fee (paid to miners to include the transaction on the blockchain). On some platforms, this is free for the creator; the collector pays it at the time of buying. This fee varies—on OpenSea, it is 2.5 per cent per transaction, on some it is a minimum of $1. For instance, Foundation charges a marketplace fee of 5 per cent for all sales on its primary and secondary markets, according to its website.
As a creator you can pay a minting fee per NFT, or, take a smart contract under which you can have a larger number of NFTs. There may also be a transfer fee. A collector has to pay for bidding fee, gas fee and transfer fee.
Both the creator and collector need to have a crypto wallet. “This cryptocurrency can be taken to exchanges and converted into fiat, and then withdrawn into respective bank accounts,” says Suvarna.
Quarantine Craving. Artwork by Deepakshi.
Taxation: The Indian NFT community needs to take note of the 30 per cent tax on income earned from crypto transactions. Also, at the time of buying, they would be subject to 1 per cent tax deducted at source (TDS) from July 1, 2022.
But while tax laws may change over a period of time, “NFTs are here to stay and the industry has only grown from strength to strength,” says Abhayanand Singh, group CEO and co-founder of Vistas Media Capital and Fantico, an NFT marketplace.
NFTs As Investment
Samarth says NFTs have a high potential and have helped him achieve financial independence. He invests in the NFTs of artists who he feels have the potential to grow. “Massive NFT projects like BAYC (Bored Ape Yacht Club) and CryptoPunks provide utilities and are backed by celebrities. Early collectors can profit from them,” he says. Gaming NFTs are another hotspot for investors, he adds—as they come with characters, skins, passes, weapons, avatars, and collectibles.
The cryptocurrency used to buy/sell the NFTs are by themselves tradable. “As the value of the cryptocurrency rises, so does the fiat value of the NFT. So even if I sell it at the same price in crypto that I had collected it at, I would make a profit in the crypto-fiat conversion,” says Samarth.
That said, NFTs are highly riskly as financial investments.
Stretch. Artwork by Deepakshi.
Red Flags in NFT
Like all things crypto, NFTs come with a fair share of risks. While Deepakshi is happy with her NFT journey so far, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for her. Her initial earnings got stolen. “Not everything is unicorns and rainbows. My crypto wallet got hacked; I lost all my money; and my collection got copied. I had to reinvest on all the platforms,” she says.
Global research firm PrivacyHQ said in a report that half of NFT owners have lost access to at least one of their digital collectibles. In February 2022, OpenSea lost NFTs worth $1.7 million.
Experts say that platforms that filter creator applications are safer, as are those that charge gas fee, as free NFTs could be fake. “There have been cases of collectors being scammed by fake artists. So, proper research about the artist, the collection, the utilities, if any, must be done prior to collecting the NFT. Check the social presence of the artist(s),” says Samarth.
Sales can also be irregular, and there is always the risk of not finding a buyer.
Moreover, cryptocurrencies are highly volatile, and sustained returns outlook can’t be based on them. Fall in the floor prices or trading volume of a collection or project is another risk.
“Wallets could get compromised, but that can be avoided with research and proper safety measures in place,” says Samarth.
Deepakshi now avoids talking to strangers over social media and checks the authenticity of minting sites on Twitter and Discord. She has also limited the number of smart contract approvals she applies for and keeps valuable assets on a hardware wallet.
Notwithstanding the long list of risks, the exciting medium of NFTs continues to attract creators as well as collectors. If you choose to walk in this new world, tread with caution.
How To Mint Your NFTs
Here is a step-by-step guide to mint your NFT in the world of digital art, music, and video.
1. Choose the right market-place on basis of creator/ collaborator community
2. Choose an NFT you want to put up for sale (single or collection)
3. Some platforms vet creators’ work before putting them up for sale
4. After choosing marketplace, go to ‘Create NFT’ and upload artwork in specified format
5. Enter title, description, royalty, and price for your NFT, and then submit
Things To Keep In Mind
1. Multiple costs are involved, such as transaction cost, minting fee, transfer fee
2. You need a crypto wallet
3. 30% tax on income; 1% TDS from July 1, 2022
4. Look at the creator and/or collaborator community
5. Choose your blockchain carefully as no inter-operability of NFTs between blockchains is available now
6. High risk involved
With inputs from Kaveri Nandan