One of the largest mobile network operators in India, Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited, better known as Jio, has announced their plan to enter the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. They will also launch their own cryptocurrency JioCoin.
Jio has only recently, i.e. in 2017, disrupted the telecom sector in India significantly, with their free offers, and tariffs that broke all earlier records of competitiveness. It appears that they could also be bringing the next disruption in Indian telecom market with services and products powered by blockchain technology.
Blockchain is a technology that ensures immutable record and complete audit trail, because a network of computers maintain a shared, verifiable, and permanent record of data. In this distributed database each node is considered as a ledger, and the entire database is maintained by all nodes. Changing or deleting an existing block is not possible, hence, to update a blockchain, a new block has to be created. To create a new block, each “Miner”, i.e. the combination of powerful software, specially designed hardware, and their user, has to provide proof of work (POW) for the last recorded block in the blockchain, using a massive number-crunching operation done at high speed. This is in an environment where many other miners are also doing the same, which makes it more difficult for any miner to provide POW. This makes updating blockchain very hard, i.e. only when a miner provides proof of very significant number-crunching work done, he/she gets to create a new block. Hacking blockchain is, hence, not economically viable. It’s also the underlying technology of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum. Every information on blockchain being mathematically proven, the technology holds significant promise for many industries.
Jio has the following plans, currently at the proposal stage:
- Cryptocurrency JioCoin
- Deploying smart contracts
- Using blockchain in supply chain management logistics
- Basing loyalty points on JioCoin
Additionally, Jio plans to enter the Internet of Things (IoT) space, and they see blockchain technology helping there significantly. IoT is a technology in which machines can communicate between themselves. Physical devices such as vehicles or home appliances are embedded with electronics, software, Radio-frequency identification (RFID), and network connectivity, allowing the devices to exchange information. Each device can be uniquely identified, while the embedded computing system is able to transmit data over the existing Internet infrastructure. Machine-to-Machine (M2M) micropayment transactions will enable the devices to purchase more electricity, bandwidth, storage or data when required, and sell resources when in excess. IoT has several applications, for e.g. Smart Grids, Smart Homes, Intelligent Transportation and Smart Cities. A key requirement for using IoT successfully is that the machines should be able to communicate securely, without being hacked, and blockchain can help in securing IoT.
Reliance group was originally founded by India’s visionary businessman late Dhirubhai Ambani, and was later split. Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) is led by Mukesh Ambani, the Chairman & Managing Director, and Jio is part of RIL. Mukesh’s elder son Akash will lead the venture into blockchain and cryptocurrency.
The outlook for blockchain technology in India seems bright. Indian government-owned think tank National Institution for Transforming India, or NITI Aayog, is building the largest blockchain network in India called IndiaChain, and the plan is to connect with AADHAR (literally meaning “Foundation”), the biometrics technology-based unique identify issued to Indian residents. Use cases for multiple areas have been identified IndiaChain, including agriculture, property records management, and education. Some Indian companies have already started using blockchain technology to deliver better services to their clients, such as Bajaj Finserv and Bajaj Electricals. However, the future of cryptocurrencies in India is not yet clear. Indian central bank, i.e. Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has already issued three warnings over trading in cryptocurrency, where they have stated that bitcoins are not recognized as legal tenders in India, and anyone trading in them must manage their own risk.