View from India: Blockchain, poster child of innovation

Blockchain technology is a revolution that has applications in almost all verticals in India. It is a database of digital records and each transaction happens with the mutual consent of the giver and receiver. Blockchain is the underlying technology of the global Bitcoin trade. Being electronic and cashless, it has several applications in India.

India is one the world’s largest remittance countries. “In 2015, India’s remittance was around 70 billion and 4 per cent of the GDP is attributed to remittance. Since 90 per cent of India’s transactions happen in cash, a large part of it can become Digital Fiat Currency (DFC),” said Nitin Narkhede, vice president and head of service innovation and Blockchain Lab, Mphasis, speaking at the ASSOCHAM 2nd Global Summit Blockchain Technology held in Bangalore.

Seen here, DFC is Bitcoin trade whose backbone is blockchain technology, which has ample scope in India. When we look at Blockchain technology in the Indian context, it brings to mind the population demographics of the country. India’s population is 1.3 billion and 68 per cent of these people live in rural areas. Blockchain technology is paperless and has potential to become a means of reaching out to the far-flung rural belts. It is imperative to open out channels for digital readiness of blockchain technology in the country.

“Blockchain is the latest on the stack of new technologies which is the poster child of innovation. In the case of all new technologies, be it robotics or artificial intelligence, they were already in existence several years ago, though they took off much later. And when it happened, the cycle time between the actual take-off and mass adoption was small. One expects a similar take-off with blockchain,” explained KR Sanjiv, chief technology officer at Wipro.

Blockchain itself has potential to take a quantum leap in innovation. “When blockchain combines with artificial intelligence (AI) or Internet of Things (IoT) its value proposition gets higher and this will lead to open innovation, generate multiple technology stacks and create new frontiers in R&D. The global scenario indicates that venture capitalists are investing over $1 billion into it and over 350 companies are already implementing Blockchain into their transactions,” added Sanjiv.  

There will be new solutions and newer applications in mobiles and tablets for Blockchain transactions. Prototypes will be created and enterprises will spring up. Blockchain will be the online encrypted platform to bring databases together and validate information. Its stakeholders will be customers, stakeholders and regulators.

Sathvik Vishwanath, co-founder and CEO, Unocoin Technologies, explained: “In the case of blockchain technology, everything is decentralised. Power gets decentralised. Once you do the transaction, it cannot be repeated.” He added, “Technically the blockchain transaction is written into the blockchain itself, quite like the traditional bank ledger. Interestingly, once you transact, it gets appended to the particular ledger and cannot be erased.”

Blockchain is tamper-proof, irreversible and is an open-source network. It facilitates peer-to-peer transactions without the involvement of banks or any central network. Through hashing or the digital signature everything is programmatically connected. There is transparency in the transaction, which leads to trust between both parties. “The complete adoption of Blockchain technology in India is still in its infancy. For blockchain technology to fully become a reality in India, various aspects need to be worked out. Ethical, legal and a regulatory framework should be in place,” said R Shivakumar, chairman, ASSOCHAM Karnataka Regional Council.

As per the Deloitte-ASSOCHAM Knowledge Report titled Blockchain Technology in India, Opportunities and Challenges, (released during the event), many companies from a plethora of non-financial services and industries like telecom, healthcare and life sciences, travel, hospitality and energy are also keeping a close watch on the potential blockchain use cases to positively disrupt their traditional business models. As a technology, blockchain has the potential to transform multiple industries and make processes more democratic, secure, transparent and efficient.

“Blockchain can redefine processes in various spheres and can find applications in government procedures as well. Our state government is willing to encourage and support start-ups that plan to work in the blockchain space provided they present a workable idea with proof-of-concept,” explained Priyank Kharge, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Department of IT, Government of Karnataka.

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