Transcription Episode 53

Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of Living on Blockchain. Today we are speaking to Raj. Raj is the founder of the Indian Blockchain Alliance and he has a vast experience of consulting companies as well as startups on their web3 arm and this was a very very exciting conversation because both Raj and I have been around in this space I think approximately since 2011-2012 and we had a lot of common notions and suggestions on how the industry should progress.

So this was one interesting conversation. I can’t really wait for you to hear it. So let’s deep dive right in.

Hi Raj, thank you so much for taking out the time to speak to us today. How are you doing? I’m doing well as always. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

Likewise, the pleasure is all mine. So just for our listeners, can you tell us a little about yourself and you have vast experience in this space. So if you could give us a little bit of an insight, that would be great.

Sure, not a problem at all. I mean, I’ve said it many times. I’ll repeat it once again.

It’s always nice to have an introduction. I agree. Well, I’ve been in the blockchain space since a very long time.

Don Quijero’s 2010 to be precise. 2010 is just a little after the first Bitcoin white paper was published. About two years after that I joined into the band.

Actually by accident, never by design at that point of time, it was in the United States. So it is okay to mine and everything was cool and everybody didn’t. It was into Bitcoin, etc.

A lot of talk was there. I also dived into it without knowing what I’m getting into. But what’s important is I learned the technology because of Bitcoin.

I went into for what you can say the speculation aspect of it, but I stayed back because of the revolution. That’s the technology behind it. So that’s how it started off.

Long story short, I did a lot of work with Ethereum. I did a lot with Hyperledger. Then I did a lot of work with MIT labs in the USA, Massachusetts.

I was doing a lot of work. Then I said, hey, why not India? What’s wrong with it? Why doesn’t India wake up? Because we got the talent, we got the best resources. So why don’t we do something in India? In 2018, I set up my organization called the India Blockchain Alliance.

Long story short, we’re doing really, really good. We now work with more than 200 plus universities spreading their knowledge of education, which includes DAOs, DApps, NFTs, metaverse, blockchain, fintech, anything around this distributed ledger technologies. That’s one.

Work with a lot of corporates. We work with governments. Today, I actually made it to the cover page of a magazine as well.

So that’s been the crowning glory. That’s been today’s 4th of July. It’s my independence day, I guess.

I’m celebrating. That’s in a nutshell. Lots more, but yeah, everything else can be found on my profile anyways.

Awesome. So you’re the founder of the India Blockchain Alliance and you’re also the advisory board member with numerous companies. Yes.

What is your vision for perhaps the inflection point that will come when there will be mass adoption to blockchain technology in India as well as globally? Yeah, first of all, mass adoption of blockchain technology is already started a little, it’s already underway. However, the fact that it is linked with crypto, the word crypto, and crypto is nothing wrong with the word by itself per se. But in India, for example, it’s not perceived, oh, crypto, it’s not really perceived as something really very nice.

Everybody thinks crypto is some sort of a scam or a speculative instrument or something to make quick, rich, you get rich, quick schemes, quick money, whatever. It’s not. It’s just a good by-product or a good use case of the blockchain technology.

Now, so the first thing which needs to be removed is this linkage that crypto and blockchain are the same. So the awareness needs to be, that’s awareness. If you need mainstream adoption, you need to have awareness.

And that’s exactly one of the things we are doing, creating awareness across the globe. Second thing, and I think we need is more blockchain projects underway, which is happening. Now, if you see the government sector per se, we’ve got 90 plus projects happening at the government level.

So that’s a good start. That’s a good start. And the private sector, plenty of them.

Let’s put it this way, about three years back, I was doing about 12 to 13 projects in the blockchain space. Today, I’m doing over 100. That’s been, that’s mainstream.

That’s almost, you can say it’s now mainstream. We may not look at it mainstream right now because of the word crypto in India. And the final thing is everybody says there should be rules, regulation frameworks.

Yes, I agree, but that should not be with blockchain. Blockchain is a technology. The rules apply to virtual digital assets like crypto tokens, NFTs, et cetera.

Yes, they should have it. Definitely. There should be some form of regulation.

Otherwise they can have disastrous consequences as well. Keeping in mind that, you know, hackers and scammers are always one step ahead of us. So that’s there, but the technology itself, just acknowledge that.

And that’s where the beauty lies. The technology is completely agnostic to what is happening in the crypto space. Blockchain and the technology gives us different benefits and that’s what people should be looking at.

Today, even corporates, when I go and speak with them, sometimes they say, oh, crypto will be there and there’ll be a problem. There’ll be tokens, will there be a problem, et cetera, et cetera. The bottom line is even they are not very aware of, you know, that it is not the same.

I think that’s awareness at all levels, at the government level, at the institution level, at the enterprise level, you have that in place, we’ll have things moving faster. And of course, a lot of, we have a lot of so-called blockchain influencers in the market, which have no clue about blockchain. They’re just a lot of paper tigers have good theoretical knowledge, but 90% of the people have never really worked on a blockchain.

And that’s where the pieces lie. Sometimes whenever things are going good, we get a lot of people jumping into the bandwagon and then abandoning them immediately after that trend is gone. Now, all of a sudden they’re all become AI evangelists and all sorts of things like that.

That’s, you know, some bad players are always there and that they don’t really give the market a good name. So I think all put together, mainstream adoption will come when people acknowledge that blockchain is a revolutionary technology. Of course, there are, it’s got its challenges, but this is at a very nascent stage.

Challenges are there to be overcome. And I’m sure blockchain will be doing exactly that. Yeah, absolutely.

I think there are challenges in any budding tech space, right? There are more, you know, you kind of focus more on the bad players or you then focus goes to the bad players more because there are too many detractors as it is. But you know, we need to remember that a good guys as well, who are, you know, like you mentioned that, you know, there are people who are actually building fabulous products in this space. Yeah, absolutely.

It’s good. There’s always a yin and yang. There’s always two sides of a coin.

That’s always going to be happening. And if you look at the space, it’s only about 10, 12 years old and the enterprise level, only six years old or seven years old. It’s just a very nascent stage.

It’s AI, VR, etc. been there for much longer and still they’re facing challenges. So it’s just the beginning and we all will face challenges, but then if there are no challenges, there’s no fun.

Absolutely. I think challenges do make the industry grow. I think with every challenge, every cyclical change that comes in the market, any trend, I think all of them present a very unique opportunity to grow and tinker with because I feel that, you know, we are still very, very early, we’re in its infancy and adoption is there, but awareness perhaps at a mass level is missing.

Also, you need the government to give it a push. The government doesn’t talk much about blockchain. They talk a lot about crypto.

They don’t talk about blockchain. Governments need to have the will to push a technology. They talk about technology at multiple levels, multiple forums, but when it comes to ground reality, precious nothing is done for them.

It is the private enterprise that takes it further. I think the government’s involvement in a breakthrough technology will mean a lot going forward. So that I think is also a thing which we need now.

Now is the time. Yeah, I think now is about time that, you know, the government’s really start looking at blockchain as a robust technology, as what it is, rather than just, you know, focusing on the crypto aspect of things, because there’s been too much noise around crypto and the scams and, you know, quick get rich scheme and like a Ponzi scheme is perceived as, but it’s about the technology. Like you said, you know, you came in perhaps to make money, but you know, you stayed for the revolution.

Yeah, that’s true. Now I talk more about blockchain and less about crypto because that’s what makes more sense to me anyways. Yeah, that is true.

Because, you know, the tokens are like, that’s ephemeral, but I think the technology kind of stays. Absolutely. So, you know, you recently spoke at the G20 on compliance and regulation and standards around crypto as well as, you know, blockchain technology.

What were your key recommendations there? Well, a lot of things. Yeah, well, it was a great session, because we had a lot of people from all over the globe speaking. And that is nice, because you get a lot of insights.

There are two things which I always suggest and I’ve written and I’ve recommended to the government as well and to all the bodies which are relevant to this. First and foremost, we are India, we are not USA or Europe, and we look at the Europe and USA to create the first move. Why are we doing that? That’s the first thing.

We should not be doing that. We should know our compliance, our regulations, our rules, our compliances, our risks, everything, and then take a call. You know, India is the only place which has an aloo tikki McBurger.

No other state has. Why is that? Because we customize it to what our palate is in India. Same thing.

It doesn’t have any different rules for policy. That’s the first. Second, political will is really important when decision making is made.

We had a great opportunity, and I still say we have the opportunity in the crypto space right now, because we’ve got the G20 presidency. Now, India missed the Web 1 bus, we missed the Web 2 bus. We have the power, the resources, the people to actually climb on board the bus and drive it from the front.

Web 3 bus, it should be ours. I’m always a very vocal as I’ve recommended that because we have everything in the right place now. Everything else we did in the first two phases, we have it now.

Are we going to take it? Only time will tell. From our side, we are doing our best. Another recommendation, which is a very critical recommendation, which was accepted and acknowledged, was that policymakers, we all sit in large cities, Mumbai, Delhi, all sorts of places doing our roundtables and all that blah.

That’s good. You get a lot of ideas, lot of ideas roll, but tier 2 is always unrepresented. Tier 3, nowhere in the picture.

When most crypto exchanges acknowledge that 60% of their customers and wallet holders are from tier 2 and tier 3, why is it that nobody from tier 2 and tier 3 is representing us on these roundtables? I’m sure they’ll have good suggestions. I’m sure they’ll come up with some good proactive suggestions as well. Nobody comes through.

Third, another point I said is, at least in India, I’ve seen gender diversity pathetically in favor of men. Absolutely. I was at a roundtable, about 25, 30 people were sitting and there were only two women.

I mentioned it there. That’s another thing. We don’t have gender diversity.

We assume that policy is to be made by guys. Why? It’s not always his story. It could be her story also.

I believe in that, that gender diversity and inclusiveness should be there. That’s not there in making policy. I think the most important thing, when we make policy, and it’s again at a roundtable, which I spoke at recently.

I said, how many of us in this room, there were about 25 of us, have ever worked on a blockchain? Not a single hand went up. I said, we’ve got people working on policy who have never worked on blockchain or crypto. How do we know the algorithms? How do we know what are the loopholes? How do we know how to circumvent? Because a person who’s a tech savvy person in this space will be able to tell you the loopholes, will be able to tell you how to plug those gaps.

It takes a thief to catch a thief. If you don’t have that, I won’t call it a programmer for a technology guy. I’m a tech guy myself.

But at least they understand inside out of a technology, though they can give inputs to the people who are professionally putting the policy together. These are some of the recommendations which I’ve given. There are many, many more, but I think these are the ones which resonated well with most people.

I keep speaking at many events on the same things, because they never change. We’ve been sitting on a treadmill since 2017. The bill is there since 2017.

Today we are in 2023, mid-2023. There is absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel even now. Does it really take six years to figure out what’s good and what’s bad? Why are we having all these roundtables and all these discussions if we are going to go nowhere? Are we waiting for a MICA or an FATF to take out rules and regulations? Might as well adopt them.

Then don’t say that we have our own. Adopt those. Do something.

Do something. Why are we just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, just taxing and making the money fly out, et cetera? It’s a lot to say, actually. But the bottom line is, I’m sure the government is working on those lines, but I don’t see much happening.

And that’s a sad thing, because we really have a chance to become world leaders in this space. Absolutely. I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head.

We are sitting around on the sidelines, waiting for somebody to perhaps make the first move so that we can follow through. And I feel that is incredibly sad. Like you mentioned, we kind of missed the bus and became like the back-end officers for Web 1 and Web 2. We cannot allow it to happen for Web 3 as well.

No chance. Otherwise, we’ll always remain the slaves that we have been for so many years. We are talking about freedom and democracy and things like that.

Well, let’s show it from technology. We are a very tech-savvy nation, and we have fantastic talent. If we have the talent, why aren’t we market leaders? Why are we followers? We should never be followers.

It’s just a few bright sparks that break out, but the rest of us are followers. I think that paradigm needs to be changed. And again, a government initiative would really, really help here.

Do you feel that the government has the guts and the know-how, because you’re interacting with perhaps so many policymakers? Do you feel that they have the right set of motivation to actually bring some kind of robust policy and be like a trailblazer? It’s a very tricky question you’ve put to me, but one thing is there. The government has the resources. We have the talent.

We have a great lot of economists. We have great taxation experts. We have great legal experts.

What we don’t have, really, is great guys in the technology space who can give these inputs, or the government doesn’t consult people in the technology space to give these inputs. And the people whom they do consult are not necessarily from this particular technology. They are great in their own space.

But sometimes there is a big confusion. Somebody knows cybersecurity and maybe some artificial intelligence. They’re talking about blockchain, excuse me, all different technologies.

Why do we don’t? Why? It’s just like I’m going to a heart specialist or a brain specialist, or what am I going to exactly? A heart specialist cannot tell you what a brain specialist can tell you, and a brain specialist can’t tell you the other way around. So we don’t have that. That direction is missing.

As I told you, no tech guys in the policies. No one. Not a single one.

So that’s a very big flaw. The next thing the government has, government needs to have a little more political will. Right now, this is on multiple other added things, but definitely not on this.

It’s not a priority for them. They’re already taxation. They’re already the taxation has been put in.

So they care. I mean, they say, well, if nothing else, we’re getting some tax revenue from there. So there’s no problem at all.

Let that happen. But just like sweeping things under the carpet. Now, that won’t work very long.

You got to take decisive decisions. You have to take a call. You have to have the leadership to take, you should have leadership to take the call.

Leadership is missing within the tech space. I don’t see leadership and the ownership. Let’s take ownership.

Let’s take that. Who’s going to bail the cat? We’re waiting for somebody else to say, yes, this is the policy. And wow, it’s not going to happen.

So many different countries, so many different rules and regulations. Do they all have a common currency? No. Do they have our own common policy? No.

Do they have a common language? No. Then how do you expect them to have all common standards? Very difficult. Absolutely.

I think that’s very idealistic sort of a way of thinking that, okay, everybody will come together and come up with something. But because, you know, blockchain and crypto is global, that is the way they’re looking at, but it’s very short-sighted. It’s very short-sighted because that’s not going to happen.

If that had to happen, it would have happened by now. It’s not happening. Even in the United States is struggling with it in its own way.

European community, the EU took out MICA, but MICA is not the solution. It’s a good framework. At least I laud them for putting a framework in place.

We don’t have a framework in place. Okay. Now we’ll have somebody to make a framework.

Somebody will copy paste the MICA framework and say, this is good for India. That’s what they’re going to do. Exactly.

Most of our policies are copy pasted. So now what’s going to happen is somebody will say, okay, this is a great framework, but this great framework still has flaws, which we have, which even MICA has acknowledged that about 18 to 20 more things, which they have to address over the next 18 months. It’s work in progress.

Yes, it’s a great framework. So just like they have, the EU is not just one country, several countries, they’ve come together, then created, but there has been a consensus in them. Do you think India will have consensus? I don’t think so.

Everybody in India goes in different directions. There are 29 states. It’s like 29 countries, all with different thoughts, everything different.

Why the hell will they come together? They will not come together. Do we have a national policy for blockchain? No. Tamil Nadu government has got a national policy for blockchain, but does India have? It does not have.

Here we have a state policy for blockchain, but we don’t have a national policy. There’s a huge gap, I think. And as you said, like political will is required to perhaps change it.

And you know, the lack of leadership, perhaps in the tech space is also to be blamed. So what, according to you, perhaps can be a good way to bridge this, like to get some good tech heads in the policy space, how can they get involved, or for the tech space itself to perhaps, you know, get some, feel some onus and get like a leader who can perhaps, as you said… Again, it’s a very difficult thing to do, because right now the focus in India is around exchanges. And exchanges, for God’s sake, are nothing to do with blockchain.

They are nothing but an exchange mechanism. What is blockchain about an exchange? Nothing. They just trade tokens and crypto and virtual assets, correct? So the government does a lot of discussions with all these crypto exchanges.

Now, crypto exchanges obviously have their own agenda of making sure that their business is robust and running properly. So it’s an agenda based partnership. It has nothing to do with trying to make a good crypto policy.

Any crypto policy which will go against the exchanges will never be made. Right? Yeah, that is very true. Why would a crypto exchange say something which will go against them, when actually a lot of things will go against them.

But the simple things like even crypto exchanges in India don’t have common standards. They don’t have common policies within the exchanges, which are there are a handful of them, 10, 12 of them, 15 max. Yet, there are no standards.

There are no similar onboarding process. There is no… Everything is different. Rates are different.

Yeah, there’s no standardization, basically. The space needs to come together, right? For that, perhaps to bring out like a common messaging or a common narrative that you can all agree on. Yeah.

And okay, again, all the people in the exchanges, are they from the blockchain space? No. None of them are from the blockchain space. Why? You don’t need to know blockchain to have to run an exchange.

To create an exchange, yes, the technology, you might require black, but these are centralized exchanges. They’re not even decentralized exchanges. So centralized exchanges just like any other technology, anything.

So that’s one. That’s the biggest number of, you know, players who are talking to the government in this space, followed by law, legal. Now legal has one point of view, they want to protect themselves.

So nothing should fall back on them. So there are too many different factions, and no common… Everybody has to contribute. I agree completely.

Everyone, we have to have legal, we have to have compliance, we have to have taxation, we have to have risk mitigation, we need to have everybody inside. All players need to be there. And it has to be a non-agenda based policy writing.

When we have non-agenda based policy writing, then only something will happen. And we need people from technology as well. That’s the last part, which is all missing from the jigsaw.

Now, right now, is there any unified body doing it? The answer is no. Exchanges have their own body, yes. Legal, nobody as such.

It’s just everybody doing their own things. And of course, giving good recommendations. Also, a lot of them are very upset at some reports, excellent reports.

But how do you fit that with technology? How do you fit that with crypto exchanges? How do you fit that with compliance? How do you fit that with the risk? How do you from the company secretarial laws? You have to get all these guys in a single box. There’s no attempt as such. There are many, many ad hoc conferences, seminars, and all those things which happen, which doesn’t really serve a purpose.

Because after you’ve discussed everything, it goes and then everybody’s forgotten about it. You had your tea and cookies and all and then everybody’s gone. What next? Yeah.

There’s nothing actionable, nothing actionable that comes out. Or a white paper and then what? Does anybody actually read the white paper or read the recommendation? Does it get published anywhere beyond their own circles? Does it come in the national? What is to be discussed? Is there a national debate on it? No. Nothing.

So we’re just stirring the pot again and again and hoping something will happen. Still, I see a long way to go. That’s my personal opinion.

I’m sure everybody’s putting in a lot. We’re all putting from our side also everybody’s putting. But bottom line is, it’s not nothing I see tangible happening in this place.

We have also a small forum called the Blockchain Governance Council, which I head. We’re doing our bit and it’s a pro bono. We don’t charge any money.

We don’t do anything. We do a lot of work and we’ve got people from compliances, policy, law, from all aspects contributing. All of them are pro bono, completely pro bono.

Everybody puts together their thoughts and then puts it up for debate. We’re not saying we are 100% correct. We put our suggestions and thoughts because of our experience in a certain space.

Now debate. Now talk. Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

The pros and cons are hardly debated and if they are, they’re at a very cursory level. The government needs to sit down and say, let’s get all stakeholders in. Let’s form a committee which has no ego, no agenda.

And that’s when things will start working. It’s taking a little time, but it’ll happen. Eventually everything happens.

Yeah, that’s true. It’s still a long way to go and it’ll eventually fall in place. Yeah, there’s a long way to go.

So if somebody wants to become a part of the alliance or the governing board that you guys have created and want to perhaps give time, as you mentioned, in a pro bono fashion, add value, how can they go about doing that? It’s very simple. Anybody who wants to contribute in any way as an individual or as an organization just applies to us or go to the website, Blockchain Governance Governing Council and just write a mail to us, send a WhatsApp to us and that’s it. There are no charges to be part of it.

We don’t charge anything as a membership fee. We do not believe in money being the factor. It should be passion.

It should be contribution. And that’s where we have been successful for the last so many years, being the largest and the oldest think tank in this space now. So we’ve never charged money for anything in this space.

And that’s, I think, it’s driven by passion. Yeah, absolutely. I think the onus, you feel a sense of onus, you feel a sense of responsibility building in the space that you want to push out the right kind of messaging, the right narrative, the right kind of content to make sure that we are doing good for the ecosystem in some way.

We are doing something for nation building. We are building something for our nation. At the end of the day, we realize that and keep passion and patriotism before profit.

That is the time when we will succeed. Otherwise, we are going to run in circles and everybody will run in different directions. That is absolutely true.

I think there is a very strong need for some focused, perhaps, work being done in a way that is actually incremental and it is helping the ecosystem as a whole. Yeah, totally. We need a lot, but I’m sure everybody’s taking steps.

And of course, things happen with baby steps before they become giant strides. Absolutely. I think some movement is better than no movement.

People are talking about the right thing, at least now. So that is definitely a positive. This is not the case, perhaps, especially in bull markets, there’s so much noise that nobody’s really talking about these things and the basic hygiene that needs to be there.

It’s good that in the bear market, everybody has their sanity and they want to talk about the more important and foundational things. Bear markets sometimes are good bearing. Yeah, absolutely.

I completely agree. So now, talking a little about content and the education, I think both you and I, we tend to talk a lot about this. Whenever I go on a public forum and talk about blockchain, Web3, crypto, be it any name, I usually talk about how the responsibility is on the stakeholders and the builders in this space.

So if somebody is perhaps looking to join Web3 and crypto or blockchain, what kind of skills or knowledge should these individuals perhaps focus on? And then, that kind of touches upon my next question, which is to do with what kind of content and what kind of actions do you think really make a difference? So let’s take it one at a time. First, let’s talk a little about the skills and the knowledge areas that you feel that individuals should focus on if they want to stay relevant in this space or become a part of this space. Sure.

I think blockchain, I can split it into two different sections. One is tech and one is non-tech. I think that’s important for us to know because we have different skill sets for both of them.

Now, for example, if you are a developer, engineer, and an analyst, you need to understand the technology very well. So a lot of people say, I want to become a developer, a blockchain developer, et cetera, et cetera. For those guys, it’s good to have Java or knowledge of Java, Python, stuff like that, so that they have a better understanding of developing blockchains.

So that’s one aspect. So they need to have a little technical skill, they need to have the acumen, and they need to be sharp in their analytical and logical skills. On the other side, I have a lot of guys, for example, blockchain marketing is there, blockchain project management is there, there’s a lot of blockchain business development.

There are so many non-technical roles in this space. I have actually created a 16-slice pie in which almost half of them are techie, and half of them are non-techie. Now, for those which are non-techie, you need to understand the concepts of blockchain very well, because you should know where to apply them.

Blockchain is great, but can you apply it everywhere? Sometimes you don’t need it. You don’t need it, so why are you putting it? So just because it sounds good and cool? No, don’t do that. Sometimes you don’t need decentralized applications, or you don’t need to have things decentralized, they’re running perfectly well all there.

But you need to have that acumen. So basically, management acumen, understanding the in-depth applications of blockchain, for example, a utility sector. Where are you going to put it in the utility sector? Yes, you know the utility sector.

You know where the applications of blockchain can be in the utility sector? Is it in peer-to-peer, green credits, RECs? Where is it going to be? You must understand that. And then you get sector-specific. So for non-techies, I think they should go sector-specific.

Like just say, let me focus on supply chain. I do not need to create a supply chain on blockchain. But I must know what is the process? What are the roadblocks? Where are the problem areas? So a lot of analytical thinking skills, problem-solving skills need to be there along with basic fundamentals of blockchain.

Because if you don’t have the fundamentals, you’re going to be shooting in the dark. So for techies, get some good tech, basic fundamental tech, like Java and Python. And for non-techies, all the other skills, analytical, management, problem-solving, application skills, these are very important.

Now comes a very big question, where do I get this content? The answer is, it’s all over and still nowhere. The reason, everybody says, everybody suddenly, till three years back, there were no blockchain courses. Now everybody’s mom has a course now.

There’s a course everywhere. And 90% of other rip-off and cut and paste are the same courses. 90% of them are the same.

So what we have done from our side is, we have formed a chain excellence framework internally in IBM, where we say, anybody wants to get, because we said that we tell the universities and colleges and people that if you’re going to get content, you might as well get some sort of a certification that it has gone through some filtering. So the chain excellence system filters the different criteria of content, relevance, currency, everything, and then certifies it as a chain excellence certified. It’s not written by us, it doesn’t make it, it’s perfectly okay.

It can come from anywhere. We just certify it and say, yes, this is correct. And if it is not, we send it back to the drawing board and say, listen, guys, don’t wait.

Now, everybody doesn’t have to come to us. But we’re trying to put some sort of a criteria to give good content and relevant content to youngsters. Otherwise, everyone is sitting down and making courses and say, well, these are my courses, these are my courses, do it.

But there is no cohesion, there are no against standards, it’s just like the crypto space. There is no framework, there are no standards, everything is just going on as is. So we’re trying to do that so that more relevant content is delivered to the audience.

So that’s a very big thing which we’re trying. It’s a tough task, because everybody says ours is the best, we don’t need anybody, perfectly okay. It’s okay.

But we’re also not doing only for content, we’re also doing it for blockchain companies, blockchain products, blockchain standards, blockchain solutions. It goes through this filter, that we give them the recommendations so that they can make the product is proper. And also we do the audits for them so that we know that the product is a blockchain product and not just in the name.

So a lot of things in that space. But coming back to content, content is something you are not going to find very easily patterned, even for example, a lot of large institutions, very famous institutions offer blockchain courses. It is out of date, out of context.

Very obsolete. So how are we going to check this now? That’s the big problem. So as a result, a student, youngster starts doing some work, some study, and some saying, what the hell have I done? Nothing of this is relevant to me.

Now, I think the best way to learn is to actually work hands on on projects, do a lot of internships with actual blockchain companies. And we can help them, we help a lot of them. And we don’t charge anything for it.

We have we work with a lot of them, we help youngsters get internships. And then they can get their jobs later on. I mean, we don’t promise jobs, but we can help them with internships.

We have about 400-500 members who also have their own projects for which these youngsters can work on. They can develop this hands on learn, learn with people who are in this space for a long time who’ve been doing it. There’s nothing better than hands on learning, in my opinion, after doing the after understanding the fundamentals, which you can because there are some decent courses which you can understand, then it is better to do a lot of hands on my this is my personal opinion.

I have learned my blockchain that way. I learned blockchain at the age of 48, 13 years ago. So that is, I learned it from being hands on on the job.

Today, I work on more than 150 projects. It’s not for nothing. We know we get this work because we know the work now.

But that’s come not from any book, not from any video, not from any site. It’s come from working with people hands on. I think that’s where you should need to go.

And if you, for example, you want to know something in Ethereum, go to the website, you’ll get that. There’s a lot of good learner videos there. Same thing with hyperledger, same thing with every other blockchain, whatever you want to learn.

And a simple message to everybody, whoever is stuck somewhere, give me a call. I’ll help you for sure. And I don’t charge for that.

I am absolutely okay. My idea is to bring about blockchain to mainstream, then that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s commendable what you’re doing in this space, I think, and especially, you know, setting, it’s very important that again, apart from creating the right kind of content, sort of driving the individuals and the youth was just perhaps entering the job scene in the right way.

Because like you mentioned, there is a lot of content now. It’s overwhelming, perhaps, you know, when we started, like my journey was also sometime around when you started in 2011, when you know, we started mining, we had a lot of hardware was running the data center. So we started mining a few tokens here and there, Zcash and all.

And that was, you know, at that point, there was not much information online, right? There’s nothing to how to even set it up and perhaps like a rig and you know, it was all, you had to sort of do it on your own and you fail and you know, do it. It was, it was exciting. But right now, when I like look it up, and those same queries, there is, you know, you’re inundated and bombarded with information and not all of it being correct.

So what you said is very, very, you know, bang on, I feel that, you know, the information itself is so much that you should be getting it from the right source. You know, Tarusha, if we actually go back and now UCB both are around the same time, if we look at the information today, probably we’ve never been successful, because we’d be so confused. That’s true.

That is very true. I feel that, you know, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. It is so much, so many chains, so much, something new is happening all the time.

And then there is the silver, shiny new, you know, object syndrome that comes into play, right? Every day, there is a new trend. And if you start following those, then I don’t know how will you find your footing? Yeah, first of all, you have to shut out all the noise. There’s too much noise, right? Put on your blinkers and focus on what you want to do for a start, then start branching out.

And that’s, I think, an advice for everybody. It’s not going to happen. Otherwise, I mean, I learned everything about blockchain from Satoshi’s white paper.

So the Bitcoin white paper. So I think that was where it all started. I think everybody should actually download that anyways and read it.

It’s the basis of all technology. Absolutely. I could not agree more.

I think there are so many, so much stuff online, but you know, you need to learn how to cut through the noise. That becomes very, very important. Absolutely.

And the last thing, you know, the litmus test is always, you talked about Web3 as well. What should they have a Web3? First of all, they should understand what is Web3 and what is the Web3 tech stack? If 90% of you, I can bet my last dollar, 90% of the people who have teamed in a Web3 don’t know the Web stack completely. And that’s another very big thing, very disappointing.

For example, the metaverse in India, for example, is not really a metaverse. It’s a good AR, VR experience, but definitely not metaverse. We are way off, way, way, way behind in that space.

So let’s not say that. The metaverse is not a great extension of AR, VR, but that’s all what you’re doing right now. We must do much, much more.

And to understand the Web3 stack, it takes a little time because we’ve got multiple technologies built there. So I think that’s another litmus test for a lot of people. I asked that question, this question in many forums, how many of you know Web3? And lots of hands go up.

Then I asked five people to name the tech stack and I don’t get five answers. So that’s the story, unfortunately. Yeah, that is true.

That is absolutely true. It’s a lot about superficial knowledge. You mentioned about influencers.

I find that it’s a little distasteful. Not all of them, but a lot of the influencers that have become very popular are riding the blockchain horse. They don’t really know the very basic things.

And that is very disappointing that how are you going to, and they have substantial following. That is what is scary to me, that they’ve garnered these followers and they are perhaps putting out not a hundred percent correct information and very superficial conversations. And the discourse level itself is so low that it’s very disheartening, at least for me.

And I’ve tried, but I don’t think there is any way to really cut through all of that noise. You just need to know which sources to get your information from and do your own research. Yeah, I think their own research is the best and find good mentors.

Find mentors, good people around, they will help. Those guys who don’t charge money for helping are the ones who are real mentors. The rest are all professionals making money.

That’s fine. Each one chooses a path. Yeah.

So you choose who you want to work with and align with what you’re looking to create and go forward from there. You mentioned emerging technologies as well. There is a lot of noise about AI.

Everybody is talking about AI. They used to talk about blockchain technology. How do you see perhaps the convergence of blockchain and AI? And how would it shape the future of industries and society as a whole? I’ll tell you what, one thing.

AI is going to require blockchain no matter what anybody says. I’ll tell you why. I totally feel that.

Yeah, I concur. Right from the audit process. How do you audit? AI can go haywire.

It’s like a Hydra with many heads. It can go anywhere. You got to tame that.

Blockchain can actually work very strongly in that space. That’s one of the things I see is an audit trail which can be there. That’s one part of it.

The second thing, and this is a very dangerous thing, AI steps on very dangerous territory when it actually picks up information which is rightfully somebody else’s information without having paying them a single penny. Some of it could be patented. Some of it could be copyrighted.

Some of it could be royalty-based. It doesn’t give anybody anything. So I think putting in the blockchain’s layers out there, integrating well, will actually make it a pathway for them to say, listen, okay, we pick up, we also monetize or reward the players where we’ve taken up this information from.

Now that is, nobody wants to do that. Nobody’s thought about it. Nobody says, why the hell should I pay anybody when it’s available for me on the net or whatever.

But I think that’s, it’s actually infringing on a lot of copyrights. AI is infringing on a lot of copyrights and a lot of studies. And a lot of people are unhappy about, oh, suddenly I’m quoted without being told I’m being quoted, et cetera, et cetera.

So there is a lot of hype if AI, yes. AI is a great tool. But I ask a question, how many hammers are there in, you know, for example, I was in the US, I was asking how many hammers you guys have.

So they said, somebody said some number, some number, but actually America’s got 50 basic hammers. Why have you got 50 hammers? They’re like the same tool, but the same tool with 50 different iterations. Now that is something we should be looking at.

AI is the same thing. It’s a great tool. We need it to be more responsible.

Blockchain brings about responsibility. Blockchain will bring about, you know, in terms of the volume, everything, storage, everything, blockchain will help out. It’s not going to replace, blockchain cannot replace AI, they’re different technologies, they’re different as chalk and cheese.

But all deal with voluminous data. And how you, data prediction, data will give you analysis. And if data is inaccurate, how are you going to predict correctly? Business modeling will go wrong, forecasting can go wrong, everything can go wrong.

Because these are, they are trained machine learning, they’re trained, they’re trained on what they can consume. So how are you to understand the provenance or the authenticity of the data which is fed to them? You will, you will eat rubbish, you’ll throw out rubbish. Yeah, it’s garbage in garbage out.

Exactly. That’s exactly what the scenario is right now. All the noise will die out in some time.

Just like the crypto once upon a time, everyone used to call me, give me a quotation on crypto, please give me a quote. Yeah, I know, I’ve been there, done that, like everybody wanted a quote. Yeah, on crypto, on blockchain, I don’t know, on crypto, it’s the same thing.

So it’s not the same thing anyway, we all know that. But that’s exactly when suddenly AI, everybody wants to have an AI startup. Why do you want to have an AI startup? Do you have any knowledge? What are you going to do with it? AI, how are you going to train it? There are so many even from the sustainability perspective, how much water it uses, etc.

All the stuff, a lot of things are there. But anyway, I think it’s a good fit. I think they’re a great tool.

And it’ll be a fantastic complement. And I think blockchain and AI can not only coexist, but they can converge to create a beautiful products in the future. Yeah, I totally concur.

I think, you know, for the veracity of data, especially now that you know, there is so much false misinformation and misinformation that are actually, at times consciously being created using AI. I think it’s become very, very important that these two technologies converge. And to create perhaps, as you said, the future by 2030, you’ll feel you by 2030, which is a five to seven years from now window, you’ll see a lot of products with with both these technologies working in tandem.

That’s the only way to move forward, I think, because this is this is going to become this is, as you said, it’s like, this is also like a Hydra only like, you know, too many heads, too many things. How many can you perhaps, you know, you can’t tame all of them, you have to figure out a way that that kind of creates like a standardization or in a way, there is a way to, you know, curtail it in the right manner to make sure that you know, that it is being used for the good, because ultimately, it’s not the technology that is bad or good. It’s the people who are using it.

Absolutely. It’s a tool, you know, at the end of the day, you have you have stones, either you build a wall or you build a bridge. It’s your call.

Right? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It’s a tool and what people do with it comes down to who’s perhaps using it.

Yeah, this is very interesting. Tell me a little about what? Okay, so this is more of a philosophical question, hypothetical question, if you had to perhaps, you know, start an indigenous blockchain in India, and, you know, would you do it? Or if and if yes, then what would you do perhaps differently than the ones that are already there? Okay, first of all, I’ve already doing that. Okay.

So okay, that doesn’t become very hypothetical. But at the same time, I can give you an answer. Why am I doing it? There was a reason for it.

Okay, so I’ll give you a very simplistic reason. Today, we have so many blockchains and some of them are really good. Some of them are rip offs and copies of the others.

Some of them are just features here and there and saying we are different. Somebody saying this proof of mechanism that proof of consensus, blah, blah, blah, POC, plenty of stuff. Okay.

Plenty of consensus mechanism today. Proof of community proof of this blah, blah, I think that’s all bullshit. At the end of the day, I said there are too many.

There are more than 8000 blockchains. I don’t know how many 1000s there are. I don’t know why there are more than 800,000 anyways.

But which ones are popular? Few of them now. They’re not going to go anywhere. But there are gas fees attached.

There are other other costs. And that also becomes discouraging. And I could circle back to one of the reasons why adoption is in difficulties sometimes because the people feel really very costly.

So indigenous people are very fearful. Where is my data? Is it? We don’t know where the hell it is in especially countries which are paranoid. India is always about data conscious, let’s put it this way, are going to say, listen, my data is going to be stored where we don’t know how it can be attacked.

See, I’m talking about basic questions which come in the head of a layman, not of a technical guy. Where is this data going? Where is the storage blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, etc. Now, a lot of chatter around that.

So I said, if your validators and nodes are in India, your data will be in India no matter what. But how are we going to confirm that? So we have actually creating a layer zero blockchain. A layer zero blockchain will basically, in simple words, simply reach out to all the blockchains and put out the best consensus mechanism, which it can, and all will be done from India.

So we’re trying to do something in that space. That’s one. That is only one of the things we’re trying to solve.

One of the biggest problems we’re going to try and solve is to reduce the gas fees, because that is something which is going to go haywire otherwise, because Ethereum has the most popular ecosystem out there. That’s another one. And the most important thing, I think, when I speak in the government a lot, they want control over data.

That matter doesn’t, that defeats the very purpose of a decentralized system in the first place. But we can have a decentralized system within a centralized environment. It’s quite like this, you know, you wear jewelry, I wear rings or whatever.

Jewelry can never be made out of 24 carat gold. It’s just melt, it’ll never set in a position, you have to alloy it. You have to alloy it with either make it 22 carats or 18 carats, but you’re going to alloy it.

And this alloying is what we’re trying to do in India here, trying to alloy it and make some sense. It can only have beauty when once it is alloyed. Otherwise, gold is a block.

That’s it. It’s just a blob of gold. We’re trying to do the same thing in this now.

So if, hypothetically, we just started, the process has just started, and we’ve seen this little success right now. I’m not saying it’ll be a successful launch or not. I don’t know the future.

But what we know is, what we have done is identified 196 problems of all from different, different blockchains, and trying to solve them one problem at a time. So that’s what we’re doing. That’s what the biggest thing is, everybody works in different directions.

There are different blockchains, different communities. No one speaks to each other or do a little bit here and there. No one, it’s the same problem, everywhere and everything.

So we try to bring in some form of uniformity and bring it in India, because India itself is a very large country. It has all the resources. It has the people, it has the infrastructure.

I think that’s what my wish would be to make a completely Atmanirbhar blockchain for India. That’s brilliant. And what is like, what are you naming this particular chain? And when does the test not come out? No, it’s not out as yet.

We are doing it that way. We will be I think, out in the month of end by the end of August, during which we will be wonderful. Yeah, it’s coming up very soon.

During the end of August, and we will do it. This is so promising. This is wonderful that you know, there is an indigenous chain that is coming and you guys are really trying to take the solution first approach of solving all of these problems that the existing chains have.

I’m really looking forward to it. Please do. Yes, I will.

Out of the 196, we’ve managed to cross 109 of them so far. So we’ve still got some more to go. We’ve managed to solve 109.

And there is a whole group of about more than 40 people working on this at any given time, all volunteers. Wow, this is wonderful. I would love to add value in my own way if I can do this.

This is fabulous. And I’m so glad that you know, you asked this question and you brought it up. This is wonderful.

Thank you. Awesome. So, you know, we are kind of, this has been such a good conversation.

Like, look at the time, I just have a few more minutes to wrap this up. So now I’ll jump up to perhaps like an ultimate question. I would love to know what, you know, what trends or developments in the market do you feel, you know, would pull it from this bear market towards the next bull? Next bull is going to come because we’re going to have the halving of the Bitcoin again.

That’s one of the trigger factors which people are looking for. That’s one. Secondly, I see the bear market is not really a bear market.

If you look at it, it’s actually a correction phase, which is a longer correction phase than most times. But I think a factor which will take is if countries start putting some regulatory frameworks or steps towards that, and making it that yes, we are there, we are going to do it. We are there if not today, tomorrow, next year, by next year, we’ll have some sort of frameworks that will trigger a market that will trigger a bull run.

Third, I think we need to have a few less so called scams in the space right now. We’ve had a whole bunch of them last year. And we have a couple of them this year as well.

I think the more market confidence because every time something happens, the market confidence gets shattered. The minute a scam comes through, because they start blaming it on crypto. It’s not the crypto, it’s the people behind it.

But then you can do it. Suddenly, Binance is in trouble, and there are rumors flying. Nobody’s in trouble.

I mean, there are issues everywhere. Of course, there will be. And that’s how iteration happens.

That’s how things settle. Trial and error. Exactly.

And moreover, I think there are issues in all sectors. It’s not that this is, we are some sort of a unique unicorn. There are issues everywhere.

And I really hate it when people sort of say that, okay, look at the kind of scams that are happening in crypto. And this is like, look at the traditional financial world. Really, you’ve not seen scams happen in banks.

Honestly, that is just laughable. There have been bigger scams in centralized systems than they have ever been here. We can talk about the Choksis, the Nirav Modis, and God knows who all who have fled and thousands of crores moved out.

How did that happen? That happened before crypto or any blockchain. People say, oh, it’s very good for terrorist funding. Listen, guys, they were terrorists before Bitcoin and they’ll be terrorists after Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is not the cause of terrorism. Right? So all these things, you’re right. Every sector has its challenges.

Every sector. You even go to a Paanwala shop, he’ll have his own challenges. Exactly.

The scale doesn’t matter. I think as the scale is, you know, perhaps changing, your problems will change. But the problems intrinsically remain the same.

The scale of problems changes. Yes. Now, you put a little bit, you put framework, as I said, you alloy the metal a little bit, you start getting better results.

You’re not going to alloy it at all. Either you’re going to just put arbitrary taxation or putting it under certain heads. It’s not going to solve the problem.

People will start using devices and people start moving into other things. Because people in the tech space are much, much way far ahead than what anyone in the markets are. So they will do their own things.

You’re encouraging, I mean, unlawful activities by not putting some frameworks around. So that needs to be done. And they will be done.

So there will be another rise because of that. Then a lot of stablecoins will start coming up and things like that. But that’s not part of the run.

I think the biggest run will be if overall, G20 will be one side. Overall, every nation believe that there has to be a, they cannot ban a currency. Now you got to actually regulate it.

So put the regulatory framework. That plus the natural progression of the Bitcoin halving, plus the popularity of a technology going further, getting more mainstream. Like just a few years back, you know, how many of us knew talked about blockchain? Three years, four years back? No one talked.

Today, every one of us talks about it at least has a fair awareness of what is blockchain. Right? You’re actually seeing that happen, the more mainstream it gets, the more it gets on your tongue, the more validation it has. And I’m not only talking about blockchain, along with that comes crypto, because they were both somehow joined by the hip anyways, so they’re moving together.

So bull run is going to come in. And multiple factors like these, I mentioned a few of them here, they will be in the next bull run. Most important, I think, is the stock exchanges need to also reduce some of the costs and that they’ll also benefit from that.

Yeah, I absolutely agree. Some of the stuff that keeps happening in the traditional financial world doesn’t, like defies all logic. All of them are suddenly showing some other face, which is a different thing, which is a good stunt and a good strategy.

I would not call it a stunt. But I think it’s more of a camouflage than anything else. Absolutely agree, completely agree.

And, you know, I think this is one of those conversations where I feel like, I don’t know whether it’s because we’ve been around since the same time, but we have very similar views. Yeah, it’s like we’re old friends in the same space. Yeah, exactly.

Right? Yeah. It seems like old friends catching up. So this is a real fun conversation.

Okay, so that kind of takes me to the last question. And this is something I ask everybody, every individual that comes on the show, I ask them this. So if somebody is peering in from the outside into Web3, blockchain, crypto space, and they want to perhaps, you know, they’re still testing out the waters, what would be your suggestion for them to start living on blockchain? Yeah, first of all, when you see it from a bio, you know, like a bioscope in the olden days we used to have, and you look inside your beautiful fairy tale world, well, first of all, it’s not a fairy tale, but it’s a very bright world we’re looking at.

So let’s look at the world first. You know, there is, we say every cloud has a silver lining. I said, why aren’t clouds silver? Why are we looking for the lining? Let’s look for silver clouds.

So if silver is as expensive as gold now, more or less, so it’s not really. But bottom line is, for anybody who wanted to see, is there an opportunity? Is there a future? So the answer is a very big resounding yes. Why are we today by the grace of God, from 12 projects to 150 projects in three years time, I couldn’t believe that myself.

I’m doing that myself, my guys are doing it. It has happened not because of me, not because of anything else. It’s because people across the globe are realizing the power of blockchain.

That’s one. Web3, Web1 happened, Web2 happened, nobody questioned it. It happened.

Because we have an information overload now, and a whole lot of people who want content all the time, who want us to make a noise about every damn thing, whether it is as sad as a train crash, or tomatoes going up to 150 kilos or rupees a kilo. Everybody wants to make a noise and create a lot of content. But here’s what we need to know.

We, Web3 is also a natural progression from Web2. We always want to progress and go forward. Why do we make such a noise about it? That befuddles me.

The only thing is it’s going, it’s a natural progression. Don’t we get older? Don’t we celebrate the next generation and the next decade and the next is another 1.0, 2.0, 3.0. It’s the same thing. Nothing is changing.

We’re just making more noise now. So when you look into it, look at it as another stepping stone towards the future, towards the tech future. And that future is only, technology has made things much simpler for all of us.

Correct? 10 years back, how many of us use Google Pay today? How many of us don’t use Google Pay? That’s the question now. So where we are right now is exactly where we were 10 years back with Google Pay. Web3 is about 10 years away from what you’re going to see the real benefits of it.

It’s going to be good for all of us, especially in a circular economy, which is going to be the economy of the future anyways. When we talked about economics, today we talk about tokenomics. That has been a paradigm shift.

Let’s enjoy the shift, embrace the change, and look into the bioscope and see the beautiful golden world. It does exist right there. Wow, this is wonderful.

I think this is such a beautiful analogy that, you know, we grow older every year. And this is also just natural progression of the technology. This is again, something I just said, I spoke at a Bangalore event.

And this is what I was telling the students there, that, you know, this is just natural progression. There was Web1, there’s Web2, now there’s Web3. And perhaps there’ll be something else later.

But you know, it is just the way things are moving ahead. And we are moving towards the future. And why do we question this so much? And why is there even an ounce of doubt that, you know, that, okay, this is something that perhaps, you know, opportunities do not lie here anymore, just because people associate crypto with bad things.

Exactly. Crypto means actually a tomb or a safe. That’s a good word, actually.

I mean, it’s a good word made into an abuse, but that’s a different matter. That’s a long story. We will enjoy it as it goes.

No problem. The bricks and the bouquets always come together. Yeah, absolutely.

No, this is wonderful. Thank you so much. Once again, I’m really, really glad that I had this conversation.

You made a day that was looking pretty mundane, really fabulous for me. So thank you so much for taking the time.

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