Digital Gold in India – Pros, Cons, Regulations

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Digital gold and Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs) are gaining attention as popular investment options in India, especially during the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya. While digital gold offers flexibility and can be bought in minimal amounts anytime online, SGBs, issued by the RBI, provide a secure investment with a lock-in period and an annual interest rate. Both forms cater to different investment needs and horizons, emphasizing the importance of aligning choices with individual financial goals.

Digital Gold in India upsc mindmap

This topic of “Digital Gold in India – Pros, Cons, Regulations” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

The Concept of Digital Gold

  • Explanation of what digital gold is and how it works
    • Digital gold represents an electronic form of gold investment where investors can buy, hold, and trade gold without the need to physically possess it.
    • Investors purchase digital gold through various online platforms, and the equivalent amount of physical gold is secured and stored by the provider in insured vaults.
    • This form of gold investment allows for transactions and ownership tracking via digital certificates linked to the physical gold.
  • Comparison with physical gold in terms of investment
AspectDigital GoldPhysical Gold
Accessibility & ConvenienceCan be bought and sold online through various platforms, offering ease of transactions.Requires physical purchase from jewelers, banks, or other dealers, with the added hassle of storage and security.
Investment GoalsSuitable for short-term investments due to higher liquidity.Preferred for long-term wealth preservation as a tangible asset.
Time HorizonBetter for investors with a short-term horizon, offering quick buy-sell options.Ideal for long-term investment due to its enduring value.
Risk ToleranceMay involve counterparty risk as the gold is held by a custodian.Considered safer with no counterparty risk, as the investor holds the physical asset.
CostLower transaction costs and the ability to buy in smaller denominations.Higher transaction costs, including making charges for jewelry and storage costs.
LiquidityHigh liquidity, allowing investors to sell at any time without physical verification.Selling can be cumbersome and may require verification of purity and weight.
Security & PurityPurity guaranteed by the provider, with gold stored in secure vaults.Risk of theft and purity concerns unless purchased from reputable sources.
Minimum InvestmentAllows investment with as low as ₹1, making it accessible to a wider audience.Higher minimum investment, usually the price of a small gold coin or jewelry piece.
Returns & CostsDependent on market value; may have platform fees but no physical handling costs.Actual return affected by making charges and resale value; involves storage and insurance costs.
Physical Delivery OptionOffers the option to redeem investment for physical gold in some cases.Investor already possesses the gold physically.
Tax ImplicationsTax treatment similar to physical gold, but easier to track for taxation purposes due to digital transaction records.Requires keeping bills and receipts for tax purposes; capital gains tax applicable based on holding period.

Key Features of Digital Gold

  • Purity and Security
    • Digital gold is traded in 24-carat form, which is the highest purity for gold, ensuring that investors receive the finest quality.
    • The digital form of gold is stored in demat accounts or secure vaults, which are often insured, providing a high level of security against theft or loss.
    • The use of blockchain technology in some platforms enhances the security and transparency of transactions, ensuring that ownership details are immutable and verifiable.
  • Storage and Insurance of Digital Gold
    • Investors do not need to worry about the physical storage of gold, as digital gold is stored electronically.
    • The storage of digital gold is typically free for the first few years on many platforms. After this period, a nominal storage fee may be charged.
    • The stored gold is fully insured, protecting the investor’s assets against potential risks such as theft or loss.
  • Accessibility and Minimum Investment Requirements
    • Digital gold can be purchased through various online platforms and mobile apps, making it accessible to investors anytime and anywhere.
    • There is no minimum investment limit on many platforms, allowing investors to start buying digital gold with as little as one rupee, making it accessible to a broader audience.
    • The flexibility of buying in small denominations or fractional units further lowers the entry barrier for new investors and facilitates easy portfolio diversification.

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Major Providers of Digital Gold in India

  • MMTC-PAMP India Pvt. Ltd.
    • MMTC-PAMP is a prominent player in the digital gold market, recognized as India’s only London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) Good Delivery accredited refinery.
    • They offer 24K, 999.9 purity gold, ensuring the highest quality for investors.
    • MMTC-PAMP provides a secure platform for buying, selling, and storing digital gold, with gold stored in fully insured, bank-grade vaults.
    • They also offer flexible investment options, allowing purchases in small amounts and providing easy liquidity through their buyback and redemption services.
  • Digital Gold India Pvt. Ltd. (SafeGold)
    • SafeGold is a leading digital gold provider offering 24K gold with a purity of 99.99%.
    • The company ensures the safety of the stored gold through secure vaults managed by Brink’s and overseen by Vistra Corporate Services as an independent Security Trustee.
    • SafeGold allows customers to buy gold in small quantities, starting from as low as ₹1, making it accessible to a wide range of investors.
    • They provide flexible redemption options, including the ability to convert digital holdings into physical gold or jewelry.
  • Augmont GoldTech Pvt. Ltd.
    • Augmont offers 24K digital gold with 999 purity, catering to investors looking for high-quality gold investments.
    • They provide a secure investment environment with gold stored digitally in vaults, ensuring safety and transparency.
    • Augmont also features investment flexibility, allowing purchases starting from Re.1, which makes it highly accessible.
    • The company supports various services including Gold SIPs (Systematic Investment Plans), gold loans, and an option to convert digital gold into physical forms or jewelry.

How to Buy Digital Gold

  • Platforms for Purchasing Digital Gold
    • Paytm: A leading platform that offers digital gold in partnership with MMTC-PAMP, allowing users to buy, sell, and manage gold online.
    • Google Pay: Collaborates with MMTC-PAMP to provide digital gold transactions, ensuring secure and convenient purchases.
    • PhonePe: Partners with MMTC-PAMP and SafeGold, offering a platform for users to invest in digital gold, with features like real-time price updates and secure vault storage.
  • Step-by-Step Process of Buying Digital Gold Online
    • Step 1: Choose a Platform: Select a trusted digital gold platform like Paytm, Google Pay, or PhonePe. Download the app and complete the registration process.
    • Step 2: Navigate to the Gold Section: Once logged in, navigate to the gold or investment section of the app. This section typically displays the current price of gold and various buying options.
    • Step 3: Enter Purchase Details: Decide the amount of gold you want to buy. You can enter the amount either in grams or in monetary value. The platform will calculate the equivalent amount of gold based on the latest market rates.
    • Step 4: Payment: Proceed to payment. You can pay using various methods such as UPI, debit card, credit card, or net banking. Ensure that the transaction is secure and that you receive a confirmation receipt.
    • Step 5: Confirmation and Storage: After the purchase, the digital gold is added to your account. The gold is stored in secure, insured vaults managed by the platform’s partners like MMTC-PAMP or SafeGold. You can view your gold balance anytime in the app’s gold locker section.

Benefits of Investing in Digital Gold

  • Secure Storage
    • Digital gold provides a secure storage solution where the physical gold corresponding to the digital purchase is kept in highly secured vaults.
    • These vaults are insured, ensuring that the investor’s asset is protected against potential losses due to theft or other risks.
  • No Lower Limit on Investment
    • Investors can start with very small amounts, making digital gold accessible to a broader audience. The minimum purchase can be as low as one rupee, allowing for micro-investments.
    • This feature democratizes gold investment, making it feasible for individuals with limited capital to participate in the gold market.
  • Use as Collateral
    • Digital gold can be used as collateral for loans, providing financial flexibility to the investor.
    • This is possible because the gold is 24K and stored securely, which gives financial institutions the confidence to accept it as collateral.
  • Ease of Exchange
    • Investors can easily convert their digital gold into physical gold, coins, or bullion at their convenience.
    • This flexibility is beneficial for those who might want to liquidate their digital assets quickly or prefer physical possession at a later stage.
  • Genuineness and Purity
    • Digital gold is assured to be of 24K purity, which is the highest standard, ensuring that investors get the most value for their money.
    • The purity and genuineness are guaranteed, reducing the risk of fraud commonly associated with physical gold transactions.
  • Accessibility and Convenience
    • Digital gold can be bought and sold through various online platforms like Paytm, Google Pay, and PhonePe, providing a convenient and straightforward way to invest.
    • These platforms offer real-time market prices, allowing investors to make informed decisions based on the latest market data.
  • Taxation
    • The taxation for digital gold is the same as that for physical gold in India. Both are subject to the same capital gains tax, which is influenced by the holding period.
    • This uniformity in taxation simplifies the investment process for those familiar with gold investments.

Risks and Considerations in Digital Gold

  • Regulatory Risks
    • Digital gold investments are not regulated by any specific authority like SEBI or RBI, which traditionally oversee other financial investments in India.
    • The absence of a regulatory body means there is no official oversight to monitor the operations and practices of digital gold providers, potentially increasing the risk of malpractice or fraud.
  • Cybersecurity Threats
    • Being an online asset, digital gold is susceptible to hacking and cyber-attacks. These risks can lead to the theft of digital gold holdings if security measures are not robust.
    • Investors should be aware of the potential for data breaches which can compromise personal and transactional information.
  • Market Volatility
    • Like any commodity, the value of digital gold is subject to market fluctuations. Prices can vary based on economic factors, demand, and geopolitical events.
    • Investors need to be prepared for possible short-term volatility and price fluctuations which can affect the value of their investment.
  • GST and Additional Charges
    • Purchasing digital gold attracts a GST of 3%, similar to physical gold, which adds to the cost of investment.
    • There may be additional charges such as making charges if the digital gold is converted to physical form, and storage fees after the initial free period.
  • Limited Investment Period
    • Digital gold cannot be held indefinitely in vaults; there is often a maximum period (e.g., ten years) after which the gold needs to be sold or taken physical delivery of.
    • This limitation can affect long-term investment strategies and requires investors to make decisions within a specific timeframe.
  • Redemption and Selling Limitations
    • Some platforms may impose restrictions on when and how much digital gold can be sold, potentially limiting liquidity.
    • Investors might face constraints such as selling only through the platform they originally purchased from, and during specific ‘selling windows’.
  • Lack of Physical Possession
    • Investors in digital gold do not receive physical gold upon purchase; instead, they hold a digital representation, which might not satisfy all investment objectives.
    • The absence of a tangible asset can be a drawback for those who prefer the physical possession of their investments for personal or cultural reasons.

Regulatory Environment

  • Current Regulations by SEBI and Other Authorities
    • The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) does not directly regulate digital gold but oversees the broader securities and commodities markets, which can indirectly impact digital gold transactions.
    • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines affect the operational aspects of financial institutions that may engage in digital gold transactions, such as banks and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs).
    • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) on gold, including digital gold, is set at 3%, which is a significant regulatory aspect that affects both investors and providers.
  • Recent Changes and Their Implications for Investors and Providers
    • In September 2022, the RBI introduced comprehensive digital lending guidelines which, while primarily targeting digital loans, also affect platforms offering digital gold due to their financial nature. These guidelines emphasize enhanced transparency, data privacy, and fair lending practices.
    • The introduction of mandatory hallmarking by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as of June 2021 ensures the purity of gold, impacting both physical and digital gold markets. This move aims to boost consumer confidence in the quality of gold purchased.
    • Changes in the GST framework and customs duties on gold imports have financial implications for the cost structure of digital gold products. For instance, the customs duty on gold was adjusted in the Union Budget 2021, affecting the pricing and profitability of gold imports and thereby influencing the digital gold market.

Comparison with Other Forms of Gold Investment

ParameterSovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs)Gold ETFsPhysical GoldDigital Gold
IssuerIssued by the Government of India, backed by RBI.Offered by various Asset Management Companies (AMCs), backed by physical gold.No specific issuer; can be purchased from jewelers, banks, or other dealers.Issued by private companies, not backed by a government authority.
PurityThe value is linked to the price of 24K gold, but no physical gold is involved.Typically tracks the price of 99.5% pure gold.Varies, but investment-grade gold is usually 99.5% or higher.Guaranteed 24K purity, stored in secure vaults.
Investment MinimumMinimum investment equivalent to 1 gram of gold.Minimum investment is 1 unit, which is typically equivalent to 1 gram of gold.Can vary widely; smaller coins can be less than 1 gram, larger bars more.Can start from as low as Re. 1, allowing for micro-investments.
CostsNo storage costs; a nominal issuing cost may apply.Expense ratios cover management fees; brokerage may apply on buying/selling.Includes making charges, potential storage, and insurance costs.Lower transaction costs, no making charges, minimal storage fees after initial free period.
LiquidityTradable on stock exchanges; redeemable from the 5th year onwards.Highly liquid, traded on stock exchanges during market hours.Less liquid, requires physical verification and a buyer.High liquidity, can be sold at any time through online platforms.
Interest/ReturnsOffers a fixed interest rate of 2.5% per annum, paid semi-annually.No interest; returns depend on gold price movements and fund performance.No interest; returns depend on gold price movements.No interest; returns based on the current market price of gold.
Tax BenefitsCapital gains tax exempt if held till maturity; interest is taxable.Subject to capital gains tax; no special tax benefits.Capital gains tax applies; no special benefits unless part of certain schemes.Similar tax treatment to physical gold, subject to capital gains tax.
RegulationHighly regulated by RBI.Regulated by SEBI.Not specifically regulated, but subject to standard commercial laws.Not regulated by SEBI or RBI, which may pose risks.
Physical PossessionNo physical gold involved; purely a financial investment.No direct physical possession; investors own shares in the fund.Direct ownership of physical gold.No immediate physical possession; option for physical redemption exists.

Tax Treatment of Digital Gold Investments

  • Digital Gold is taxed similarly to physical gold, with the tax rate depending on the duration the gold is held.
    • Short-term Capital Gains (STCG): If digital gold is held for less than 36 months, the gains are added to the individual’s income and taxed according to their income tax slab.
    • Long-term Capital Gains (LTCG): For holdings over 36 months, the gains are taxed at 20% plus a 4% cess, totaling 20.8%.

Comparison of Tax Implications of Digital Gold with Physical Gold and Gold ETFs

Type of Gold InvestmentSTCG Tax RateLTCG Tax RateAdditional Notes
Digital GoldIncome tax slab rate20% + 4% cess (20.8%)Taxed similarly to physical gold; no special tax benefits.
Physical GoldIncome tax slab rate20% + 4% cess (20.8%)Includes additional costs like GST on purchases and customs duties on imports.
Gold ETFsIncome tax slab rate20% + 4% cess (20.8%)Traded on stock exchanges; can incur brokerage fees.

Future of Digital Gold in India

  • Trends and Predictions for Digital Gold Market Growth
    • The popularity of digital gold is on the rise in India, driven by the increasing use of digital platforms for financial transactions and investments.
    • Accessibility and convenience are key factors contributing to its growth, as digital gold can be purchased in small denominations, making it accessible to a wider audience.
    • The integration of digital gold into popular payment platforms like Paytm, Google Pay, and PhonePe has significantly boosted its visibility and attractiveness as an investment option.
    • Market analysts predict a continued increase in demand for digital gold, especially among younger investors who prefer quick and hassle-free transactions.
  • Potential Regulatory Changes and Their Impact
    • There is an urgent need for a regulatory framework specific to digital gold products to ensure investor protection and market stability.
    • Discussions and panels, such as those at the IGJS 2024, have highlighted the necessity for regulations that could help integrate digital gold more firmly into India’s formal economy.
    • Potential regulations might mandate clearer disclosures and audit requirements for digital gold providers, enhancing transparency and investor confidence.
    • Regulatory changes could also aim at better aligning digital gold investments with other financial products, potentially making digital gold a more mainstream asset class.


The narrative of digital gold in India is marked by its rapid ascent within the financial sector, driven by the convenience and modernity it offers to investors. However, this rise has been tempered by significant regulatory challenges, particularly from SEBI, which has led to restrictions and a reevaluation of digital gold’s role in the financial landscape. Despite these hurdles, digital gold continues to represent a dynamic component of India’s evolving market, reflecting the complex interplay between innovation and regulation.

Practice Question

Evaluate the potential impact of introducing a regulatory framework for digital gold on the investment landscape in India. Discuss both the benefits and challenges. (250 words)

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