India Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

© Anadolu Agency / Getty Images India Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Crypto-related activity in the fast-growing economies across the Asia-Pacific region soared in the 12 months to June this year, fueled by booming interest in decentralized finance (DeFi), according to a new study by Chainalysis.

The Central and Southern Asia and Oceania (CSAO) crypto market is the fourth largest in the world, and transaction activity there increased 706% between July last year and June this year, the data analytics company noted in a report released Monday.

In dollar terms, that translates into $572.5 billion in value received, or 14% of total global transaction value, it said.

The region is home to the top three countries in Chainalysis’ Global Crypto Adoption Index, with Vietnam at number one, India at two, and Pakistan at three. In those top three, ether has proven to be the most popular crypto, largely because of its close ties to DeFi applications and platforms. Stablecoins and bitcoin vie for second place, while altcoins come next.

“Centralized exchanges are becoming more stringent and harder to use for people in certain jurisdictions. DeFi doesn’t discern where you’re from, or care if it has a relationship with your bank,” Krishna Sriram, managing director at blockchain security platform Quantstamp told Chainalysis.

Part of the attraction of a DeFi platform, particularly in regions where market regulators are tough, is its independent nature. They operate free from central players such as governments, central banks, brokers or commercial banks. DeFi platforms attracted more than $60 billion in cryptocurrency value in April and May this year, when bitcoin hit record highs.

Ether peaked in May at around $4,000 and has since fallen by 14%, while bitcoin reached a top of around $65,000 in April and has since lost around 23%, but broke back through $50,000 on Tuesday. Bitcoin is the leading crypto with a market capitalization of $936 billion, while ether is in second place with a market cap of $400 billion.

It’s not just DeFi that has fed crypto activity in the CSAO region. The report showed non-fungible tokens – a form of digital collector’s item – have found huge popularity, thanks to the endorsement of celebrities such as Bollywood star Kunal Kapoor, Quantstamp’s Sriram said.

Other celebrities, such as Akshay BD and Tanmay Bhat, as well as social media influencers have created a crypto education YouTube channel called Superpumped.

“These people aren’t just shouting ‘Buy bitcoin!’ Influencers are discussing the merits of different projects in a nuanced way,” Sriram said.