In today’s uncertain environment, trustworthiness and transparency are factors consumers highly expect from a brand. It is here that technology like blockchain comes into play. The digital record-keeping technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency networks blockchain is already known to disrupt financial markets. It also enables faster and more cost-efficient delivery of products, enhancing its security, visibility and traceability in the supply chain. Debapriya Nandan, Senior Director and Head-Public Sector, Oracle India, explains in an exclusive interaction with CXOToday how blockchain can help brands in building a secure and transparent relationship with their customers.
CXOToday: While blockchain is moving from hype to reality, when we see the actual adoption rate, the numbers are still very low. What could be the reason?
Debapriya Nandan: Unlike other emerging technologies, blockchain is more of an ecosystem play, where you need multiple parties to come together and co-function. Further, different organizations are at different stages of their digital journey. While blockchain remains in its infancy at present, there is an opportunity for blockchain to have a social and economic impact. This game-changing technology is considered both innovative and disruptive – because blockchain will change existing business processes with streamlined efficiency, reliability, and security. But projects will only succeed if there is adequate governance and a collaborative approach. We also believe it’s a matter of time before we see widespread acceptance of this powerful technology paradigm.
CXOToday: So, where exactly do you see the challenge? Is there a lack of awareness among businesses about the advantages of blockchain technology?
Debapriya Nandan: I think the awareness of the technology is very much there. But there’s perhaps a lack of depth in understanding its applicability in a specific business process or function within an organization, where there are several disparate solutions at play, especially in a hybrid IT setup. That’s where technology providers like us step in and help customers get their blockchain playing right.
CXOToday: Can you tell us about some of the blockchain solutions Oracle has built in recent months?
Debapriya Nandan: Oracle offers a comprehensive blockchain solution that helps organizations securely create smart contracts, extend their business processes and applications, while enabling them to process business transactions much faster. Our blockchain applications seamlessly connect with Oracle SaaS, PaaS, and other cloud and on-premises third-party applications. For instance, Oracle Intelligent Track and Trace SaaS application offers end-to-end visibility into multi-enterprise supply chain networks, thus enabling asset owners to track and trace things of value to drive faster results and strengthen trust between participating trading partners.
Additionally, as companies work towards getting back to business in the current business climate, they will face challenges. These could range from reduced human resources and need for contactless working. In such a scenario, blockchain can help ensure quality of deliverables and check on people productivity without any human interaction. Blockchain can help in preventing duplication or falsification of data.
CXOToday: In which sectors do you see maximum traction?
Debapriya Nandan: Overall, industry analysts are reporting steady growth for blockchain technology, with some calling blockchain perhaps the most disruptive emerging technology in the new decade. According to a May 2020 survey by ESG Research and Oracle, 83% of organizations leveraging blockchain within their finance applications expect a significant return within just one year. Generally speaking, BFSI and logistics sectors have been the most open to piloting blockchain projects. At the same time, there’s an increased interest from the Public Sector as well, for use cases such as streamlining land records and other citizen-centric services for delivering better citizen experiences.
CXOToday: Can you share a few use cases of blockchain adoption in India?
Debapriya Nandan: Let me give you an example of Oracle’s partnership with NITI Aayog, Apollo Hospitals and Strides Pharma Sciences to tackle the growing menace of counterfeit drugs in India. We had to pilot a real drug supply chain using blockchain decentralized ledger and IoT software. The aim was to bring transparency, accountability and efficiency in tracing and tracking drugs manufactured in India. Oracle’s blockchain software permanently registers a drug’s record in the manufacturer’s drug supply chain (serial number, labeling, scanning), leaving no scope for record tampering. From here on, at every point of movement in the supply chain, it records the drug’s movement – from manufacturer to logistics, from stockists/distributors to hospital, or from pharmacy to consumers. In case of a fake drug, the software will detect irregularity and notify the concerned nodal point. Additionally, Oracle IoT provided functionality to track critical information such as chemical ingredients of the drug or maintenance of temperature control in case of life saving drugs or vaccines. The pilot was very successful.
Another good example is Jyoti – Fair Works, a small German “fair fashion” label that works with NGOs based in South India, offering professional training, education and microloans to underprivileged women. As demand for its products grew in the last few years, its downstream supplier network was becoming increasingly difficult to track. To ensure transparency and to better showcase it to its customers, it is using blockchain software to map its supply chain data. They are able to access information to the last link of the material sourcing. This has certainly elevated the levels of brand loyalty among their customers.
CXOToday: What potential does blockchain hold for IoT?
Debapriya Nandan: There’s tremendous interest among the logistics and supply chain fraternity for blockchain, especially track and trace sort of applications, directly linking blockchain with IoT processes. Consider how track-and-trace capabilities would work in a typical supply chain. Companies would be able to see when their products move across borders. If an SMB is responsible for growing something in a farm somewhere near Salem that will eventually end up in Noida, a company can easily see how that product moves along its journey. Tracing capabilities, on the other hand, allow companies to look back to where something came from.
Both capabilities are critical to developing and establishing trust throughout a supply chain. As customers demand more transparency about their products, as well as faster action to address an issue when it comes up, companies need to be aware of what’s happening with their supply chain partners. This is especially critical for SMBs, which may depend more on partners and where it takes only one mistake to be the difference between overcoming a challenge to the business and losing trust.
CXOToday: What according to you is the future of blockchain technology in the post COVID era?
Debapriya Nandan: Organizations are experiencing the real value of digital transformation as they are looking at bringing their operations and growth back on track. Blockchain technology can play a crucial role especially for the manufacturing and supply chain segments by helping organizations identify disruptions, streamline their processes and addressing loopholes that are hampering their efficiency and quality of output. From financial markets to pharmaceutical industry, blockchain can not only enable organizations in sourcing and identifying credible information but also bring in transparency and efficiency in the system.