Residents of India are struggling under their government’s recent decision to remove high-denomination banknotes. Amid this, there is increasing interest in new technologies that could replace cash in society altogether.
BlockZero was a one-day blockchain technology conference in Mumbai, India’s richest city. It attracted 200 attendees last week. Although the event touted blockchain’s efficiency promises across many industry sectors, most speakers focused on its financial and payment solutions.
KPMG partner Rachna Nath delivered the keynote, while local “blockchain evangelist” Rohas Nagpal of Primechain Technologies followed up by introducing the technology to newcomers.
Which Technology Is Getting Attention in India?
One hallmark of such conferences is their tendency to avoid the word “bitcoin”, or speak of it in hushed terms. Blockchain events are more about integrating the new technology into existing industries, not shocking the uninitiated with promises to replace the entire financial system.
That wasn’t the case in Mumbai, however. The first industry representative was Sandy Liang from China’s BitKan — a Bitcoin-centric data and software provider. BitKan’s chief offering is a mobile P2P bitcoin trading app; something that offers ordinary Indians an escape from their country’s current monetary chaos.
Reports from India’s bitcoin exchanges suggested the cryptocurrency was trading far above its international market price, as citizens rushed to convert piles of soon-to-be-defunct bills.
The disappearance of circulating cash is just the beginning of India’s new monetary reality, Liang said.
“After the cash curb, there is an gold curb. So, for now, Indian people are seeking for another investment asset to store their money. The bitcoin price is rising this year, also the underlying tech-blockchain is hot in India too, so bitcoin has became a investment choice for India.”
BitKan’s P2P trading app, conveniently, now also supports BTC to Indian rupee (INR) trading. It is actively seeking new users in the country.
Liang said the conference attendee list also skewed towards finance, with most representatives from banks, financial institutions, and other technology companies.
Her presentation to the conference focused mainly on bitcoin’s growth in China, and the role individual crypto/fiat currency exchange can play in spreading its influence further.
She added there is also a lot of curiosity worldwide about the role China plays in bitcoin, its domination of the cryptocurrency mining industry and its government’s changing approach to regulation.
Blockchain Conferences, Bitcoin Interest
Even Liang and her friends ran into problems trying to acquire local currency for spending in India. Money changers at the airport imposed a $70 USD per-passport limit — not nearly enough for travel expenses.
Exchanging bitcoin face-to-face with locals was the only choice remaining. An Indian IT company representative told her demand for value storage in the country is now a basic and urgent need. With cash and even gold disappearing as options, everyone is looking for a new kind of asset.
Mumbai’s conference, and financial themes, demonstrate it’s still money and finance where blockchain technology will rock the status quo. Blockchain may be the theme, but its applications are still largely experimental.
Financial blockchains, whether public like Bitcoin’s or private like banking consortia are testing, are functioning right now. Real disruption can happen the moment users pick up a smartphone, and input their cash.
If you have an opinion on India, China or bitcoin growth in general, please let us know in the comments.
Images via BitKan, Sandy Liang