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Interview with Anurag Agrawal and Kamlesh Nagware

Dr Satya N Gupta in a series of exclusive interviews with business leaders inviting their comments on blockchain technology and its impact on business.

Having been an early starter in Blockchain technology, how do you see development of Blockchain ecosystem in India?

I have been working in Blockchain technology since 2016. Having understood the revolutionary potential of this technology, with its key features of decentralization, provenance, security, and immutability, I decided to start my own company in Blockchain space in 2018. Of course, having an experience of more than 2 decades in the industry at that time helped me in initial stages of this journey.

In the last 5 years, there has been a substantial interest in Blockchain and allied areas like Web 3, metaverse, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the country. The industry, the public sector, as well as the academia have come to better appreciate the power of Blockchain technology, and how it can be used in their digital transformation journey. Recently, we conducted a three-day training program on Blockchain at the National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR), Vadodra, for top railway officials, and the response was overwhelming.
Blockchain is still in an early stage, as compared to other new-age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, cyber security, etc. Adoption of Blockchain is on an exponential path in India, and there is no doubt its adoption will catch up even more as we see real benefits coming out.

My Blockchain journey started when I was a part of IBM India during 2016–2018, and currently as the CTO of a Blockchain startup Snapper Future Tech. The Blockchain community is rapidly growing in India, with an increasing number of people interested in the potential of decentralized technologies and the internet of value. Polygon is an India-homegrown Web3 infrastructure company, focusing on a Layer-2 scaling solution for Ethereum that aims to provide faster and cheaper transactions with a higher degree of scalability. Every Blockchain protocol is looking at India to set up a Blockchain community. In recent times, Algorand, Polkadot, and Layer1X have started India-centric approach.

In India, state governments are piloting various e-governance use cases; for one of the state governments (Telangana), we did a pilot in 2018 with land registry department and a similar trial has been done in other states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. As per the government statistics, more than 20+ state governments are trying e-governance implantations. There are many initiatives by the Indian government. NITI Aayog, which is the Indian government’s Planning Commission, NISG (National Institute of Smart Governance) and recently the Indian government issued their national Blockchain strategy and Center of Excellence for Blockchain (Apiary by Meity & STPI) startups to help startups and government to adopt Blockchain technology for smart governance. We are also a part of Apiary to work with e-governance projects. E-rupee CBDC by RBI, NIC building national Blockchain infrastrcure, Tamil Nadu e-Governance Blockchain infrastructure, CBSE issuing certificates on Blockchain, NPCI and other FinTech having Blockchain practice and building innovative solutions for country.

Whenever there is any discussion on Blockchain, the topics of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies invariably come in. How do we get around this noise and set the wheat apart from the chaff?

This is a question which I’m frequently asked and I’m glad you brought it up. We need to understand that Blockchain is the underlying technology and bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are applications built on top of it. Apart from cryptocurrencies, Blockchain has hundreds of other use cases in all industries – from retail to healthcare and supply chain to the public sector. Blockchain is being used to store patient medical records, tracking and tracing of products through the entire supply chains, creation and administration of carbon credits to tackle climate change – to name just a few. Somehow, bitcoin is in the news because people think of it as an easy and fast way to make money without understanding the underlying Blockchain technology.

Government of India (GoI) has come up with regulations to safeguard the interest of investors, but more needs to be done at a global level because bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are decentralized peer-to-peer payment networks without any central authority issuing or managing them. India’s G20 Presidency is the right opportunity to work on this with all stakeholders worldwide. I would also like to add here, regulations should be made in a way that it doesn’t hinder the development and adoption of technology and it’s important to have industry experts on board for this.

It’s true that when discussing Blockchain technology, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies often become part of the conversation due to their historical significance and their role in popularizing Blockchain. However, it is essential to separate the underlying technology of Blockchain from its applications, such as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. To distinguish the core principles and potential of Blockchain technology from the noise surrounding cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, it’s important to adopt a balanced and informed approach with education, awareness, and identifying right use cases solving the real-world problems. Having a balanced and informed regulatory framework is important, which is very important for mass adoption. Also, Blockchain influencers, leaders, and authorities should talk about Blockchain beyond bitcoin. You can listen to my Ted Talk on the same subject –“Cutting through the noise around Blockchain” –

How do you think the Blockchain industry is going to impact IT and the telecom industry?

The impact of Blockchain technology on telecommunications industry is extensive and far reaching. We know Blockchain technology is being used in the telecom industry to automate processes, such as billing, roaming, and supply chain management. Also, due to its unique properties of transparency and data immutability, it is being used by communication service providers (CSPs) for fraud prevention and identity and data management.

But here I would very briefly touch upon a futuristic use case of Blockchain technology in telecom, which we are working on:
Blockchain technology can be used to ensure secure and error-free peer-to-peer connectivity for hundreds of Internet of Things (IoT) devices with cost-efficient self-managed networks. We know IoT sensors usually carry sensitive information about core assets or information pertaining to customers of the company, which makes data and network security an essential and costly pillar of IoT connectivity. In this case, Blockchain allows for highly secure peer-to-peer self-managed mesh networks using a sufficiently large number of nodes. To start with, these networks can be introduced into a private environment, based in mid-range cell-towers, which need low investment requirements. By establishing such a network in a public Blockchain (like Ethereum), further expansion or evolution into a public Blockchain enables seamless connectivity and security. CSPs could then provide private/public key security to enable such a public Blockchain network with a global reach.provide private/public key security to enable such a public Blockchain network with a global reach.

In fact, some of the well-known companies in telecom space like British Telecom, Huawei, Samsung, and Verizon have secured patents in Blockchain for telecom solutions.

The Blockchain industry is set to have a profound impact on the IT and telecom sectors. It will enhance data security and privacy, streamline supply chain management, automate processes through smart contracts, revolutionize identity management and authentication, enable decentralized communication networks, and foster new business models through tokenization. These advancements will bring increased efficiency, transparency, and cost savings to the IT and telecom industry, paving the way for innovative applications and disrupting traditional paradigms.

India has always been the pioneer in software development in the world for at least 25 years. Keeping this leadership stature in mind, what would be your advice to the young talent pool in India to look at Blockchain and decentralized ledger technologies (DLT) as a career/entrepreneur option and what is the way forward?

The real boom and mass hiring in Indian IT sector came during late 1990s when Y2K or millennium bug, as it was called, created a scenario of potential disruption in computer systems around the world. After that, India has been at the forefront of tech innovation, research, and product development. Technology has been a critical driver of India’s rapid economic growth, and it continues to transform the country’s IT landscape at an unprecedented pace. Apart from all global companies ramping up India operations, India has witnessed a burgeoning startup ecosystem with supportive government policies, increased access to venture capital funding, and a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Blockchain technology is still in its early stages of development, which means there is significant potential for growth and advancement. The demand for Blockchain talent is growing rapidly as more and more industries begin to explore the potential of the decentralized ledger technologies. Things like the decentralized Web, popularly called Web 3, are coming up to make people-powered internet a reality. The continuous growth of Blockchain as one of the revolutionary technologies in recent times has spurred a wide range of job roles like Blockchain developer, solution architect, UX designer, quality engineer – to name just a few. These roles have a very high demand in the market, offering one of the best salaries to youngsters apart from a great path of career progression.

India also has a very vibrant Blockchain startup ecosystem. It is estimated there are over 200 Blockchain startups in the country offering innovative solutions across numerous industries, including finance, healthcare, supply chain, and more.

As a leader in software development and IT services, India’s young talent pool has a tremendous opportunity to explore careers and entrepreneurial ventures in Blockchain and decentralized ledger technologies (DLT). As per the Nasscom report, India is home to 450+ Web3 startups with a USD 1.3 billion of investment in the last 2 years. Between 2021 and 2022 alone, India registered more than 170 new Web3 startups, yielding over 50-percent CAGR growth since 2015, according to the study. 11 percent of the Web3 talent is in India, making India the third biggest talent pool in the web3. This pool is growing at the fastest rate worldwide, at 120 percent likely in the next 1–2 years.

Here are some ways to encourage the growth of the Web3 community in India:

  • Education and awareness. Educating people about Web3 technologies, their benefits, and how they work is critical to the growth of the community. Companies, organizations, and individuals can offer educational resources, such as online courses, workshops, and meetups, to help people understand the potential of Web3 technology.
  • Community building. Building a strong and supportive community is essential to the growth of the Web3 community in India. This can be achieved through social media groups, online forums, and in-person meetups, where people can share ideas, collaborate, and network with like-minded individuals.
  • Supporting local projects. Supporting local Web3 projects can help showcase the potential of the technology and encourage adoption. Local projects can be anything from developing decentralized applications (dApps) to creating Blockchain-based solutions for local problems.
  • Collaboration. Collaboration is essential for the growth of the Web3 community in India. Companies, organizations, and individuals can work together to develop innovative solutions and drive adoption of Web3 technology.

Regulatory clarity. Providing clear and supportive regulatory frameworks for Web3 technologies can encourage investment in the industry and drive innovation. This can provide certainty and encourage businesses to develop and invest in Web3 projects.

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