India needs a more positive ecosystem to become the global center for blockchain innovation: Rajarshi Mitra

In an exclusive interview with CPO Innovation Media, Rajarshi Mitra, Blockchain Researcher at Blockgeeks shares his views on Blockchain and it’s future in India.

Rajarshi Mitra is a blockchain researcher and writer. He writes for Blockgeeks, a crypto education platform founded by Ameer Rosic and Dmitry Buterin, the father of Ethereum Co-Founder Vitalik Buterin. He is also a crypto news reporter/editor for FX Street, a leading source for reliable news and real-time Forex and cryptocurrency analysis. Previously, he was the head of crypto research for CoinLive, a crypto news portal, and has interviewed some of the biggest names in the space and has written for SpringRole, a Bangalore based blockchain project. He believes that the blockchain technology will play a critical role in our future.

Apart from the banking sector, how blockchain will affect other industries? How this disruptive technology is going to transform supply chain & procurement industry?

Blockchain is a decentralized, non-tamperable storage system that can mitigate the shortcomings of the traditional centralized mechanism. Several industries like Supply Chain Management, Healthcare, Real Estate have started finding ways to incorporate the blockchain technology in their daily operations. Then there are companies like Noia Network and Pledgecamp that are working on decentralizing CDNs and Crowdfunding respectively by integrating the blockchain.

Several companies have already started working on decentralizing their supply chain systems. Case in point, the partnership between IBM’s food chain and Walmart. I can only see this relationship (supply chain and blockchain) getting stronger over the next couple of years. More than anything, the level of transparency that the blockchain is going to bring in here is invaluable.

Why do companies need to pay attention to blockchain technology especially in supply chain domain?

As I said, the lack of transparency is something that is greatly hurting the supply chain domain. The individual checkpoints in a traditional supply chain have become their own silos. By integrating the blockchain, the amount of money that these companies can save up is truly massive. Sure there is a learning curve that the company will initially need to go through. But I feel that this is a small price to pay. Thankfully, the companies (at least in the supply chain space) have started to realize the importance of blockchain technology.

People usually associate crypto, especially bitcoin when it was all the rage, a thing that is only used for illegal purposes. Is there a way we can somehow regulate its uses only for the right purpose?

It will be wrong to say that crypto is only being used for illegal purposes. Sure there were a lot of ICO scams that we had to endure, but the fact remains that cryptocurrencies still remain the greatest application of the blockchain. One only needs to look at recession-hit countries like Venezuela, where people have started looking at crypto as a viable alternative to their fiat – which has become practically worthless.

I do feel that the regulatory steps taken by the SEC and CFTC, mainly the distinction between tokens and securities are a step in the right direction. However, the way the whole thing has been handled leaves a lot to be desired. Speaking of India, the future of crypto usage and its regulation is still up in the air. It will be interesting to see how Ambani’s blockchain plan is going to be executed and how it impacts the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Do you think cryptos should entirely replace our regular currencies, or should a small part of our transactions still rely on fiat? Is there a downside to 100% crypto?

Well, for now, there is a definite downside to “100% crypto”. The reason being that there are very few concrete use-cases that justify the use of cryptocurrency. The value of crypto is still largely dictated by speculation, which will make “100% crypto” a very bad idea.  I won’t be able to pay my taxes and rent with crypto. Even if I were to do so, I will still have to convert the crypto into fiat before paying for my basic needs. 

Now, do I think that living completely on crypto is a possibility in the future? Maybe. 

However, for now, just make sure to keep some fiat around!

Is there any case example you can point to that underscores the practical value of blockchain?

Back in October 6, 2006, the US suffered from a major E-Coli outbreak in the Spinach industry. Around 199 people were affected of whom 22 were children under 5 years old. 31 of the 199 developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic-uremic syndrome and 3 people, unfortunately, died. As a result, the FDA had to shut down the Spinach industry for 2 weeks. When they did manage to find the source, it was one supplier. One farm. One lot.

Imagine how much money the innocent spinach farmers lost out on during that 2 week period. If the blockchain was used back then, the time taken to find the source would have been much shorter.

Do you believe India can become the global center for blockchain innovation, and why?

Of course! When it comes to raw talent, we are always up there. However, we need more use-cases and real-world PoCs to stake our claim at the top. We have some interesting projects like SpringRole who are doing wonders in the profile-verification sector. Currently, we do need a more positive ecosystem to work in and that will come only if the Government co-operates with us.

What problems has blockchain solved in India, and what additional problems do you think it could solve and how?

The Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments had started storing land records in the blockchain. This is a superb use-case for two reasons. Firstly, “benaami” is a massive problem in India. Secondly, this perfectly leverages the three most crucial properties of blockchain technology – decentralization, transparency, and immutability. Once stored inside the blockchain, it will be impossible for someone to tamper with the records.

We need to follow their lead and look for various other sectors that we can solve with blockchain integration. Title search in real estate and storing healthcare records are other areas worth looking into.

As we are close to this interview, could you tell us where do you see the confluence of IoT, AI and blockchain over the next five years in India?

It truly is an exciting time to be alive, isn’t it? Like many others, I believe that the IoT, AI, and Blockchain will lay the foundations of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Over the next five years, I expect AI to grow the fastest since there are already several industry-wide use cases of the technology. Both IoT and Blockchain will need to improve their interoperability which I expect them to resolve to some degree in the next few years.

In India, it will be really interesting to see how Jio adapts and uses the blockchain. At the end of the day, the game is all about adoption and as Jio has already shown, they are the masters of mass-adoption.

What do you find challenging about being a blockchain researcher?

Well, back in 2017 the main challenge was to just keep up with all the projects that were having an ICO every other day! 

However, currently, the main challenge is to observe how the world treats the blockchain technology as the hype is starting to slow down. I feel that the honeymoon phase that the world had with blockchain and crypto is over, and now it is time to work on some real use-cases which have actual utility. 

Plus, it is also intriguing and challenging to see how a public blockchain system can be expanded to be adopted by a mainstream audience. We still have scalability and interoperability problems which need to be convincingly solved.

Finally, even if we solve all that, how do we convince large enterprises to actually integrate and use decentralized applications? As I said, a learning curve has to be there. So how do we go about it in an efficient manner? 

We are still early in this space so we must learn how to walk properly before we can run.

Any piece of advice you want to give to fellow blockchain start-ups?

Simple. If you are not sure whether your idea/project needs to be decentralized then drop it. Don’t integrate a blockchain just for the sake of doing it. More often than not, you can replicate what the blockchain is doing (at least for your company) with simple databases. If your company is using a token and you can’t clearly define what that token is, then you don’t need it. Decentralization just for decentralization’s sake is not the correct way of going about things.