By Navanwita Bora Sachdev
Even as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has banned any blockchain-backed cryptocurrency transactions, it is still making strides into the Indian ecosystem. However, blockchain’s advent in India is not as obvious as other technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning. Nabyl Charania, chairman and CEO of Rokk3r, a publicly traded, global idea-to-exit ecosystem, reveals India’s position in the global blockchain ecosystem.
“Since India’s blockchain ecosystem doesn’t capture major headlines, it is often overlooked in the global blockchain conversation. However, it would be unwise to ignore the potential that’s being generated in the nation. Also, another characteristic that is so often glazed over is just how many different states exist in India, each with their own sub ecosystems,” he says.
With 80 per cent of the Indian population working more on interpersonal trust than formal contracts, blockchain could indeed help across industries. Although Charania sees government regulations as one of many major hurdles faced by the blockchain ecosystem in India, he doesn’t think they would hinder progress. “Although this is a familiar drawback when it comes to widespread blockchain adoption and innovation in many countries, India’s own political and social nuances mean that a particular policy that worked in one geography won’t necessarily work as a carbon copy in India,” he says.
Recognising the government’s initiatives in the area of blockchain ensures that India understands that blockchain is not limited to cryptocurrencies.
“On the one hand, we have seen actions such as the Supreme Court vote that created additional stumbling blocks for crypto exchanges and financial institutions to work together. On the other hand, Telangana has been leveraging blockchain technology to enhance its land registry platform. Not only that, Telangana’s State IT, Electronics, and Communications department, and Tech Mahindra signed an MoU to launch India’s first Blockchain district to create blockchain infrastructure capacity via incubators, accelerators, and more. Additionally, various events are helping to enable blockchain advances, such as the International Blockchain Congress in Hyderabad, the Chennai Blockchain Conference, the upcoming Blockchain Week India to be held in Mumbai in October, and so many more,” Charania explains.
While many experts are touting that a government’s disfavour of blockchain may see a talent drain, Charania says there are those who are taking a more long-term approach of working outside the defined lines to continue building innovation and the blockchain ecosystem in India. “This direction, something more and more blockchain entrepreneurs across the globe are heralding, aims to pave the path for government regulators and societal powers, rather than the other way around,” he says.
While he agrees that at times, environments become too volatile for bright talent to remain stagnant, he does not foresee India reaching that point. “We’ve seen the world’s biggest brands, like VISA and IBM, secure blockchain infrastructures in India, and some of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs initiate blockchain projects in the country. An exodus doesn’t seem likely. Local movements are working hard to ensure the ecosystem continues to strengthen and remain fertile. However, one thing to note in India and across the world, as of late, is that you must always be prepared for the unexpected,” he explains.
Growth Across Sectors
According to Charania, the sectors in India where the greatest potential for blockchain rests, are healthcare, education, and entertainment. In healthcare, he foresees a need for secure solutions for effective deployment of government programmes and drug distribution.
“Earlier this year, India’s government announced a health insurance program to cover roughly 500 million people. It would seem evident that a distributed-ledger solution should be considered as a future-forward, secure, and scalable idea. In pharmaceuticals, where India sits in the global top 5, limiting the spread of highly-dangerous counterfeit drugs becomes vital. As such, blockchain-based solutions that enhance speed of data and secure the supply chain become critical,” he says.
In edtech, he sees blockchain as valuable in keeping records unviolated as well as in entertainment and music. “In education, storing educational records seems to be an area where improvements can have multiple downstream benefits. Startups like Zebi have been demonstrating how blockchain tech can be a workable solution. In entertainment, areas, such as rights management and revenue loss across distribution, remain at the forefront in a country that is host to the world’s largest movie industry by volume, and a related music scene,” he says.
Blockchain might not be an instant solution to all of India’s issues, but, it can bring speed and efficiency to the various sectors. Charania says, “When we look at any sector in India, as with anywhere in the world, we must not look to blockchain technologies as a ‘magical cure’ or as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to an industry’s woes. It can however be utilised in a meaningful way to correct issues that have plagued sectors for decades and also move industries forward into new realms.” He also sees the potential in weaving blockchain with other advanced technologies like AI. “It’s really exciting to see how innovators are mapping other exponential technologies such as AI with blockchain technologies to further accelerate industries in India,” he says.
Future of Blockchain in India
Currently, Rokk3r’s focus is in the LatAm region. However, in the future, the company has its own plans to enter the Indian market. “We will sustain efforts to build relationships and evaluate opportunities across the world, including Asia as a whole, and India as an emerging economy. As we strengthen these partnerships and relationships, we hope to be able to not only enter the Indian market in the near future, but also reciprocate opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs and investors in India to participate in the LatAm region and across the world through Rokk3r’s platform and infrastructure,” Charania says.
India’s blockchain future may not be burning bright, but steadily, its usage might bring about change. Charania foresees a favourable future, “As these components fall into place, and as innovation continues to be empowered, successful blockchain implementations, global partnerships, and companies will proliferate, thus raising India’s prominence as a globally-recognized blockchain ecosystem and destination,” he says.
Navanwita Bora Sachdev is a freelance contributor and a senior writer for The Tech Panda