Forget artificial intelligence it is Blockchain which is going to be the next disruptive technology. As per industry forecast, it has been noted that blockchain technology has the capability to cut costs by up to $20 billion annually by 2022. In India context, the recent demonetisation process and the consequent push for digital economy Blockchain technology has a huge role to play to make payment transactions seamless and secure from cyber threats.
Blockchain is a public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions recorded chronologically which provides a transparent and secure means of tracking the ownership and transfer of assets. This technology has gained considerable traction in the recent times as it enables enterprises to verify transactions without the need for a central authority.
“Blockchain is the new protocol for “trust”, something absolutely essential in the tech domain.”
“Blockchain is the new protocol for “trust”, something absolutely essential in the tech domain. Since it’s not controlled by any single entity, but rather distributed across multiple, observable entities, it can form the backbone of trust-centric operations, basic communication being one such interaction. It’s the new buzz word because it has the ability to disrupt technology at a basic level,” says Rohan Angrish, CTO of Capital Float.
How ready is India for Blockchain tech?
Blockchain technology has emerged as a disruptive technology and has the potential to serve as an alternative to traditional banking and payment systems. In addition, the recent demonetisation process and India government’s push towards cashless transaction has led to leveraging this technology.
In the recent months, we have witnessed few banks having started integrating the blockchain technology into their systems. For example, recently, Yes Bank announced its implementation of a multi-nodal blockchain transaction in order to fully digitize vendor financing for one of its clients. Axis Bank became the third lender in India to announce usage of blockchain solutions for its operations. Last year, ICICI bank executed India’s first transaction in international trade finance and remittance on the blockchain, in partnership with Middle east based banking group Emirates NBD. Even Reserve Bank of India is eyeing this tech and announced the setting up of a committee to study the usage of blockchain technology to reduce the use of paper currency.
Following these events, the Institute for Development & Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT) released a report saying that the time is ripe for blockchain technology in India and that it has tested the technology for core banking processes in the country.
“According to me, this is the right time for the fintech ecosystem to integrate blockchain technology into their solutions.”
“I believe that Blockchain truly has the potential to become the new disruptive tech. It has the potential to address and offer rectification on certain limitations of the current financial services processes by modernizing, streamlining and simplifying the traditional hierarchical design of the financial industry infrastructure,” adds Jaya Vaidhyanathan, President, Bahwan CyberTek.
Blockchain Technology has also proved to be immune to hacking crimes hence ensuring seamless transactions. Banking institutions can leverage Blockchain technology to create a secure and reliable platform for users as the information is distributed across the network, with every entry authenticated and data confirmed across the network so it can never be altered or corrupted.
“These days when hacking is raising its ugly head and big corporates are pushed into a corner by a few hackers for huge ransom amounts, fintech ecosystem needs a technology that is as strong as blockchain to protect the transaction and at the same time maintain the transparency of it,” says Vaidhyanathan, “according to me, this is the right time for the fintech ecosystem to integrate blockchain technology into their solutions.”
It is also said that if blockchain technology can also cut down the transaction time drastically. And can also do away with the need for any central independent party as banks to play a mediator in payment transactions.
“At this stage lack of regulations will lead to increasing doubts on security concerns and how one can deal with pre and post cyber crime attacks.”
Angrish has a different take and feels there is “no crying need to move to blockchain.” “Banks that execute transactions on blockchain have definitely upped their street-cred and full respect to them for doing it. But there’s nothing they’ve done with blockchain that they couldn’t also have done without blockchain. For now, it’s a wait and watch game on blockchain; a wait for the exemplary use-case to surface. One that would not have been possible without blockchain,” he adds.
Pros and cons of adopting blockchain tech
Blockchain is still in its nascent stages, hence there is a lack of understanding of the technology. In addition, there is a need to satisfy different regulations before it gets implemented, and it also requires substantial capital in the initial stages for implementation as the Blockchain applications offer solutions that require changes or complete replacement to existing systems.
Vishal Barapatre, Group CTO, In2IT Technologies, says, “At this stage lack of regulations will lead to increasing doubts on security concerns and how one can deal with pre and post-cybercrime attacks.”
What makes blockchain so endearing to most is the security it claims to provide as two parties can make or exchange without the intervention of third parties, records and validates each and every transaction made, and allows users to be more empowered as they are in control in transactions.
This technology also lead to faster transactions and lower costs as it will eliminate any third-party intermediaries and overhead costs associated with them. It also reduces the clutter and complications of multiple ledgers as it adds all the transactions to a single public ledger.
“Any need for trusted third parties are also removed as users can trust that transactions will be executed exactly as the protocols will command and as any changes to public blockchain will be publicly viewable, thus creating a transparent system. Lastly, it will result in faster transactions and lower costs as it will eliminate any third-party intermediaries and overhead costs associated with them,” informs Barapatre.
The mindset behind blockchain is clear, and it is sound says Angrish but he feels that the perfect use-case for blockchain is still unclear. “By this, again, I mean that use case which wasn’t possible, or was at the very least extremely hard, before blockchain came around. The more we do with blockchain, the more we’ll realize what we can do with blockchain, pushing our boundaries of exploration further and further, until we inevitably stumble upon the perfect use-case,” he clarifies.
We are still a long way from becoming a cashless economy. Today, 95% of the transaction takes place in cash. And if we look at the unorganised sector most people prefer cash-based transaction. In truth, majority of the people in India lack the required digital literacy necessary for a cashless economy. The percentage of people preferring cashless transaction is still miniscule mostly concentrated in urban and semi-urban areas.
“In developing economy like India, lack of digital transactions means a very small portion of economy is using the digital way of doing business,” says Barapatre. He further adds that the lack of effective cybercrime policing, regulations, effective remediation, not so effective judiciary are other challenges which will make the process of blockchain adoption somehow slow and difficult.
The novelty of the technology also makes it sure that there is not much knowledge about the technology and how it can benefit certain sectors the most. While certain sectors have started using blockchain on a pilot basis its results are still awaited.
Vaidhyanathan emphasizes that this technology is quite new to most of the banks. And they are yet to understand the implications of this technology in sectors that are specific to Indian environment. Besides, there is not any blockchain technology related success so far based on the Indian context. Therefore, both the government and the banks have to do a lot of hard work not only to implement this technology her in India but also to convince the banks regarding this technology’s benefits and other associated factors.
While the technology is expected to not only reduce expenses in terms of transaction cost but also secures transactions from hacking, however, initially, it requires major investment to implement it.
Angrish has a point when he says that at present, it’s not easy to convince investors and management to divert resources and money for building blockchain tech in existing, large companies. This will happen only when the use-cases are compelling from a cost-benefit point of view.
But is India ready for Blockchain tech? Yes, says Angrish. “At an implementation level, India is as ready as any other country for blockchain. In terms of mindset though, it might take a little while for people to shift their way of thinking about trust and authority.”