View from India: Movers and shakers of blockchain technology

The Indian economy is riding on the wave of digitisation. Blockchain technology with its disruptive nature is hailed to be a game-changer across a spectrum of industries. It will disrupt services, solutions and payment settlements.

Industry analysts indicate that from being technology-driven, blockchain will move on to being business-driven. New services are forecast on Blockchain that will bring a paradigm shift in the way businesses function. “Currency is a legal tender which is recognised by sovereign nations. When Blockchain moves to cryptocurrency, the virtual product is to be used as currency, which has notional value. It can be used as a payment towards services,” said Ms NS Nappinai, Advocate, Nappinai & Co, addressing the gathering at the ASSOCHAM 2nd Global Summit Blockchain Technology.

Cost reduction, transparency in supply chains, fraud reduction and efficiency in terms of operations will be some of its tangible benefits. Multi-nodal blockchain transactions can be used to place orders and make payments, and all this happens without paperwork. From the technology point of view, blockchain is low on hardware requirement and can even run on the desktop.

However what remains a challenge is that a legal framework is yet to happen. Though there’s not much regulatory clarity for bitcoin trading in India, yet it has managed to attract a cross-section of organisations and start-ups that have come forward with offerings to create a market of bitcoin users in the crypto space. “Banks can come forward and create a consortium to glean information about shared KYC (know your customer) data and curb money laundering,” added Rohas Nagpal, chief blockchain architect at Primechain Technologies. In 2016, insurance firms have come together to form an informal consortium on blockchain.

Primechain Technologies is a young Indian start-up founded with the mission of building blockchains for a better world. Primechain Technologies maintains YobiChain, which is designed to be one’s own private blockchain ecosystem preloaded with development tools, database, web and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) servers and a simple blockchain application.

“Blockchain technology will disrupt the digital and financial services. In the last three years, 20 new banks have come up. Blockchain will be a value-add in terms of financial services. It will create its own demand,” felt Monish Shah, senior director, Deloitte.  

In October 2016, ICICI Bank, India’s largest private-sector bank by consolidated assets, announced a pilot blockchain-based network for international remittances and trade finance with Emirates NBD, a banking group in the Middle East, and EdgeVerve Systems, a subsidiary of Infosys. Finacle is the industry-leading universal banking solution from EdgeVerve Systems. “Indian corporates are among the early adopters of blockchain technology. When we look at cross-country transactions, it includes hidden costs like tax. This can be avoided through blockchain. Also in places like the Middle East, offices are closed on Friday, whereas in India we don’t work on Sunday and this slows trade transactions. Blockchain offers speed, it is efficient and allows 24/7 real-time transactions,” explained Rajashekara V Maiya, associate vice president and head of product strategy, Infosys Finacle.

Unocoin, a bitcoin company, has been established to enable Indians to buy, sell, store, use and accept bitcoins. As a verified user, you will be able to trade, transact with, accept and store bitcoins. You can send bitcoin to your friend’s email address (who may not have an Unocoin wallet), request bitcoin from a friend (who may not have an Unocoin wallet), and address book option lets you store multiple wallet addresses, even generate paper wallets to keep your bitcoin safe and then easily import those addresses to your address book. Users can also top-up your mobile/DTH directly from your Unocoin account by paying through bitcoin.

Another company in this field is Coinsecure, which was set up by bitcoin enthusiasts to build products to facilitate the use of bitcoins in India. “Around 1,50,000 customers have signed up with us, and already 35,000 have submitted documents,” said CTO and founder Benson Samuel. In its effort to bring awareness, Coinsecure conducts outreach programmes across India to enable schools, colleges and IT/ ITES departments understand bitcoin technology.

Adoption of blockchain technology is still at a nascent stage, but once regulations are in place it won’t take long for banks and fintech companies to fully integrate it into their ecosystem and create a cashless, safe and secure platform for transactions.

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