March 19, 2019 By Sudhir Khatwani 5 min read

India is known for its demographic dividend which can propel it to become the next China-like story or even better. For those of you who don’t know, demographic dividend as defined by the United Nations Population Fund means, “the economic growth potential that can result from shifts in a population’s age structure, mainly when the share of the working-age population is larger than the non-working-age share of the population.”

India sits at the helm of this demographic dividend because half of India’s current population of over 1.2 billion is under the age of 26 and the median age in India by 2020 is projected to be 29, making it the youngest country in the world. But with huge populations comes huge problems.

To mention a few, in India, problems like redundant bureaucracy, mismanaged public distribution system, non-existent social security, poor healthcare, low penetration of financial services, malnutrition, corruption, and unemployment running unabated.

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India is facing these problems and will continue to face them until something is done to fix them.

I think blockchain technology can do wonders if implemented properly here in India because blockchain brings the ethos of transparency, security, digitization, governance, and automation with it.

Indian IT engineers, unemployment and blockchain technology

Let’s start with the problem of unemployment in India. Every year 12 million people are ready for the workforce in India. Out of this 12 million, India produces 1.2 million engineers every year, and most of these engineers go to work for IT multi-national corporate (MNC) giants or other service sectors of India. A significant part of this workforce can be reskilled in blockchain technology to make many frictionless products for other Indian industries like public distribution sector, efficient bureaucracy, the supply chain for agricultural products, and others.

I think this is the most natural step given the fact India is the home of blockchain developers already who can support in reskilling its already techno-competent human resources. In this, the Indian IT MNCs can also play a vital role in the materialization of this goal by running various blockchain education programs.

Lastly, the Skill India initiative can also be leveraged to achieve a higher level of penetration in training and developing blockchain ready talent across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent.

The Indian government and blockchain technology

Another initiative can come from the government and regulators itself where it can strive to be open-minded about blockchain technology and experiment with various uses cases. This segment, if explored thoroughly can save millions of rupees for the Indian government and bureaucracy by removing the middlemen at various stages across many sectors of government endeavors.

However, the Indian government has been quite hostile to cryptocurrencies which are based on blockchain technology. This was demonstrated when the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directed all the banks to sever their relationship with Indian cryptocurrency exchanges.

But government is actively looking into other blockchain proof of concepts (POCs) such as:

  • Land and education records
  • Supply chain management
  • Identity management
  • Direct transfer benefits
  • Public distribution system
  • Cross-border finance

It gets better from here because by leveraging these use cases, India can very well propel itself in making many smart cities and smart states across India.

Indian digitization and the blockchain revolution can go hand in hand

After 70 years of independence and 20 years after liberalization, India remains largely undigitized and for the first time, this is an advantage.

That’s because India can leapfrog other nations by building its digital infrastructure directly on blockchain while other countries continue to break their heads to either integrate blockchain with their legacy systems or make it from scratch.

Hence, I feel there is a tremendous opportunity for India to lead the blockchain revolution with its given pool of IT-skilled human resources as well as digitize India with the help of blockchain.

India, Indian start-ups and the rest of Asia 

By now, it should be clear that blockchain is the new infrastructure over which efficient systems can be built for various use cases both for the governments and private corporations. When you combine this fact with India’s demographic dividend and the potential of Indian start-ups, you will be able to see a lot of business opportunities for them.

By 2020, it is believed that 20 percent of the world’s working age population will live in India. When you look at the statistics of Asian nations, you get to know that while most of the Asian countries are aging, India is seeing an increase in its working population. This signals a huge business opportunity for Indian entrepreneurs who can service aging countries that will naturally require, homes for the aged, goods and services for the aged, social infrastructure, asset management, insurance, healthcare, nursing, mental care, and much more.

So therein lies a tremendous business opportunity for educated Indian entrepreneurs to capitalize on the dwindling demographic dividends of other nations. Needless to say, if all these types of businesses adopt blockchain from day one, they will be very well positioned and future-ready to gobble up a huge market share, just like the sharing economies of today.

India needs to take care of its demographic dividend 

India’s demographic dividend will only bear fruit when the young population is well nurtured.

The infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, and malnutrition are still high in India. These kinds of problems can wipe-out a good chunk of the young population of India before it is put to use. That’s why these kinds of problems can be fixed by adopting blockchain for food safety, blockchain for healthcare and blockchain for supply chain in India.

Of course, adopting blockchain is not the only solution to end these many problems, but at least its adoption can be a productive start towards building a healthy and young India that is capable of utilizing its demographic dividend.

What’s happening in India and the future

As a blockchain believer, I have spent almost the last two years in researching, writing and teaching about more than 60 blockchain and cryptocurrency projects. Also, having interacted with quite a few industry leaders and after consulting small retail businesses in India I think there is no better moment for India then this because this holds promising future for both India and blockchain. Here are some of the initiatives and POCs India is experimenting with, using blockchain technology:

  • Niti Ayog of India has conceptualized IndiaChain, studying the POC in land records, agriculture, healthcare, and fake drugs.
  • Indian banks and regulators are developing a POC on financial lending.
  • Kerala Blockchain Academy is the first Indian academy to get Hyperledger membership.
  • A couple of Indian IT MNCs are working together to revolutionizing supply chain financing.
  • Telangana state government in India is to use blockchain tech for securing land records.

With the above initiatives and with the knowledge of other facts, I believe the Indian government should fully leverage its Skill India program in training the young workforce on blockchain. For training, India doesn’t need any special infrastructure because the National Programming on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) is already in place. NPTEL is an Indian government-funded free online courses that can also help in training many engineers on blockchain technology. This training can have a ripple effect on India’s IT infrastructure which is already a legacy system.

India’s Niti Ayog — the policy think tank of the government of India — should also spearhead exploration and research of this technology by increasing its involvement in learning from blockchain experts through workshops and conferences.

Lastly, businesses and start-ups should push the government in the right direction for efficient regulation of this technology thereby laying the groundwork for trailblazing their blockchain businesses in India and abroad.

From time to time, we invite industry thought leaders, academic experts and partners, to share their opinions and insights on current trends in blockchain to the Blockchain Pulse blog. While the opinions in these blog posts are their own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of IBM, this blog strives to welcome all points of view to the conversation.

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