Blockchain technology was one of the biggest buzzwords of late 2017 and most of 2018, as companies began expanding their capabilities and investments into firms and utilise Blockchain technology to provide cutting-edge solutions. Indian companies were not behind to capitalise on this emerging technology, with both the central and state governments providing a conducive regulatory atmosphere for innovation in the blockchain space.
The year 2018 also saw the decoupling of blockchain technology from cryptocurrencies, the controversial new asset class that claim to be the new money. The cryptocurrency market saw a huge boom and bust over the course of the year, thus shifting the focus of companies and VCs from the crypto market to the blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) spaces.
Blockchain technology provides a more transparent and decentralised way of sharing data with a large number of individuals.
Use of Blockchain Goes Beyond Cryptocurrencies
The blockchain is a distributed collection of data, usually transactions, which can be used to provide efficiency improvements over existing database solutions. It is said to be disruptive to the banking and financial services industry and the shipping industry, to name a few.
There are a number of companies utilising blockchain and blockchain-based technologies to expand their capabilities. Some of these companies include giants such as Tech Mahindra, IBM, Reliance, and even the Indian government themselves. Such involvement has seen blockchain technology enter the mainstream in India.
Tech Mahindra is all in the blockchain space and has even set up a Blockchain center in its research and development lab known as Maker’s Lab. This center aims to upskill up to 3000 workers by the end of 2019. This program is known as Tech Mahindra BlockGeeks.
Building decentralised applications: Tech Mahindra has also partnered with a company known as Chromaway to bring their products to the Indian market. Chromaway provides a service for decentralised applications or dApps, which are applications based on blockchain networks.
The partnership was in order for Tech Mahindra to use their technology for land registration and real estate process orchestration. Reportedly, ChromaWay has prior experience in implementing blockchain solutions for government agencies in Sweden and Andhra Pradesh.
They have also partnered with a company known as Nucleus.Vision that is aimed at identifying customers who walk into stores using proprietary blockchain technology. This platform is known as ION, with Tech Mahindra looking to deploy it in brick-and-mortar stores.
Announcing a Blockchain protocol: In order to incentivise and expedite the process of blockchain advancement in India, Tech Mahindra has also partnered with Eleven01 Foundation to announce a blockchain protocol known as Eleven01. Announced at the International Blockchain Congress, the protocol reportedly solves various problems with existing blockchain platforms. It is meant as a base for implementing dApps and has the capability to process upwards of 10,000 transactions per second.
They also have a positive attitude towards DLT, with Vivek Agarwal, Global Head Enterprise Verticals Solutions and Portfolio Companies at Tech Mahindra, stating, “Distributed ledger technology is becoming mainstream. Public sector and governments would be amongst the largest beneficiaries.”
Bajaj is utilising blockchain technology across two of its subsidiary companies, namely Bajaj Finserv and Bajaj Electricals. In the case of the former, it leverages blockchain to make insurance claiming process easier for the consumer, whereas it is used in order to cut costs in the latter.
Optimising Insurance with Blockchain: Finserv utilises blockchain technology for services like travel insurance, where claims can be settled before they are even registered by the customer concerned. This provides for an enriching customer experience, and is indicative of the reason companies are moving towards innovation in blockchain. This is seen in the case of flight delays, where the claim amount is automatically generated and paid to the customer upon cancellation.
Reducing costs at Bajaj Electricals: Another subsidiary of Bajaj, Bajaj Electricals, utilises blockchain to eliminate the manual steps involved in the bill discounting process. This cuts down on the cost of the process.
However, Sanjiv Bajaj, the managing director of Bajaj Finserv, stated that blockchain technology and its usage were being “closely monitored” due to the general uncertainty of regulators on the use of cryptocurrencies.
The Bangalore-based giant has made a foray into the blockchain space in a large way, with the creation of multiple blockchain-based products.
Developing blockchain-based products: A subsidiary of Infosys known as Infosys Finacle provides solutions to banks based on DLT. This includes, among others, Finacle Trade Connect, that connects banks trade partners and corporates on a distributed network, and Finacle Payments Connect, which enables the real-time processing of payments on a permissioned network.
They have also created a blockchain-based document tracking system, which is being used by seven private banks in the country. Finacle has also partnered with blockchain firm R3 to use their DLT-based Corda product to expand the reach of their own blockchain-based offerings.
Times Group has also forayed into the blockchain space through investments from their subsidiary Brand Capital.
Foray into Ponder: The investment of Brand Capital was in an India-based blockchain-powered company known as Ponder. Ponder is a maker of blockchain-based game-like apps that engages in generating referrals. These referrals can be conducted by anyone, and aim to provide a more comprehensive picture of the skillsets of the referred individual.
These referrals can be made for positions at jobs, businesses or even as a romantic partner, with Ponder rewarding the referee if the recommendation is accepted. Reportedly, the investment of Brand Capital into the company will allow it to engage in growth processes for verticals such as recruitment, onboarding, and romance.
Sam Subramaniam, the CEO of Brand Capital, said in a statement that Ponder offers opportunities for ‘scalable human intervention’ on a global scale. He also added that Times Group would “constantly strive to identify innovation that will impact key vertical sectors”, leading many to believe that further moves were to be made into the blockchain space.
Indian companies undoubtedly seem interested in the disruptive power of blockchain technology, and are also being supported by governments. Goa and Telangana’s governments have also shown a keen interest in blockchain and DLT, as seen by the occurrence of the International Blockchain Congress in Hyderabad. The central Government’s think tank known as Niti Aayog has also shown interest in blockchain technologies.
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