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From Cannonballs to E-Mails… The next leap forward is Blockchain

Like a lot of tourists, Walter Raleigh brought cigarettes back from America but he came home too with a simple if quirky question: what’s the best way of stacking cannonballs in a crate, in flat sections or pyramid fashion? It puzzled the best minds of his day (and beyond), before the astronomer Johannes Kepler explained why it had to be the pyramid. And, believe it or not, we wouldn’t have e-mails today without his solution: the so-called Kepler Conjecture is the founding father of e-mail traffic and proof, if proof be needed, that science develops in odd and wonderful ways. Nobody today is surprised that radio waves are used to carry wireless Internet signals, and not just carry news read by some fellow in a dinner suit. But what did Marconi know about the Internet?

Which makes it all the odder that so many of us still treat Blockchain as synonymous with Bitcoin: true, they might have grown up together but in truth Blockchain and Bitcoin have about as much in common as cannonballs and e-mails, or WLAN and dinner suits come to that. When did you last see an IT technician in anything other than a tee shirt?

So take, by way of example, the latest Blockchain initiatives that are now being developed in India, now the technology’s spiritual and regulatory home.

The subcontinent’s Healthcare Sector has advanced plans to use Blockchain to prevent and detect counterfeit drug production, create new anti tampering capabilities during the manufacturing process as well as to introduce improved accountability and transparency in clinical testing. Market leaders in the sector are also bringing closer the very real prospect of patient generated data empowered by Blockchain: and not a Bitcoin in sight.

And in the Financial Sector YES Bank has launched the first ever Issue of Commercial Paper using a Blockchain platform (on behalf of Vendata, with a market value of $14.6 Million): as a result of technologies used on the Issue, subscribers will now benefit from reduced issuance and turnaround times, better record keeping, reduced operational risk and real time visibility of issue and redemption numbers. What’s not to like?

And again, not a Bitcoin in sight…

Blockchain’s virtually untrammelled potential is breathtaking: the co-founder of the Blockchain India Foundation, Manav Singhal, described it as the “future of technology itself” and who in the circumstances would be rash enough to disagree with him?

Certainly not the Indian Government, which has not only given the green light for a new regulatory regime designed to nurture Blockchain’s growth on the subcontinent (the so called Regulatory Sandbox which we covered on this site last month), but has also unveiled in last week’s Union Budget a vision for a $5 trillion economy built on digital technologies that have Blockchain at their heart.

The Budget puts its money where its mouth is too, with new digital payment structures, a dedicated online portal for processing (and approving) loans to medium and small enterprises and a reinvigorated focus on so-called “new age skills”, including the internet of things, big data and AI. Enigmatically, the Budget also included funding for a new electronic fundraising platform: a Social Stock Exchange that will nurture and list new “socially based” commercial enterprises.

Blockchain is a vital component in all of that, so in future let’s try to make a real distinction between the Cannonballs and the E-Mails, the bow ties and the WLAN: after all, as Kepler might nearly have said, the box is never any bigger than our collective imagination.


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North Block Capital Fund is an open ended fund which acts as a platform for investment in developing Blockchain technology ventures and ICOs: primarily in India where Red Ribbon Asset Management has more than a decade’s experience of advising on the dynamic changes in this, the fastest growing and most exciting large economy in the world.

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I firmly believe in the vast potential Blockchain has to change the way we all do business, so it was interesting to see the innovative uses Indian Healthcare is planning to make of these technologies by creating safer drug production methods and additional efficiencies within the sector. And of course, as someone who has grown up in the financial sector, I was also fascinated to hear news of the first ever Blockchain supported Issue of Commercial Paper, which I am sure will act as a further catalyst to speed up change in the future.

As an Indian national, I’m obviously proud too of the increasing role the subcontinent is taking in shepherding these new technologies forward.

These are truly exciting times, filled with opportunities for our investors and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Suchit Punnose

Suchit Punnose / About Author

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