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Need to build a big ecosystem for blockchain in India: Kavita Gupta of ConsenSys Ventures

Manu Kaushik     June 7, 2018

Kavita Gupta spent just 40 days at her home in the US last year. For the remaining part of the year, she was travelling different parts of the world searching for promising companies in the blockchain space. After working with institutions like McKinsey, World Bank, IFC and Eric Schmidt's family office, she joined ConsenSys, a leading blockchain technology firm, last year and currently heads the ConsenSys Ventures, a venture fund that helps entrepreneurs in the blockchain space scale their businesses. In a conversation with Business Today, Gupta shares her experience with the Indian blockchain developers, and her work in India. Edited excerpts:

BT: What's the size of your fund?

Gupta: The first fund is $50 million and the second fund is $100 million. We have already allocated around $8 million. We have invested in 10 companies. I only do investments in Ethereum blockchain - pre-seed, seed stage and early stage companies. They are all global. We are a sector- and geography-agnostic fund. That's the beauty of decentralized world. I continue to look for great companies in India but I haven't seen anything so far that's exciting enough for us. We are starting a developer education programme in India, and then start tapping talent from there. I am happy that India has picked up way earlier than a lot of other places around the world from the education perspective.

BT: What are the issues with blockchain ecosystem in India?

Gupta: I think Blockchain has become such a big buzzword in India. Last October, when I had first come to India while working with Consensys Ventures, I tried to meet people in the ecosystem, and understand what's really happening. I was thinking that I will find one-two companies to invest in. I could not find people who could go deep into the technology. I realized that the knowledge was just at the surface level. I came back again in January, and we did a four-city tour - Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Vizag - and met over 800 developers and we realized that the technology [knowledge] was at a very shallow level. We do need to build a big ecosystem in India because it's one of the biggest brain power hubs.

BT: In India, do you have examples of companies and government bodies that are effectively using blockchain technology?

Gupta: We have signed a POC [proof of concept] with NITI Aayog. We are doing land titling in Chandigarh with them. We have a land titling architect flying down to India and implementing it. Chandigarh has good digitalized records. I never expected Chandigarh to be so advanced in technology. We are going to create blockchain nodes for them so that they can see the registration part and taxation part in real-time. As a user, I can see the records going back to hundreds of years. It takes out corruption because it is so much time-stamped and access-oriented. We will deliver the pilot project to them over the next two months.

We have also signed MoU with the Andhra Pradesh government which is for their transportation department and land titling. We are in conversation with a lot of banking solutions for custodian and settlement. Today, the settlement of money for the international exchange takes up to 3-5 business days. If you do it on blockchain, it can go up to 30 seconds to 1 day. We are talking to a couple of banks, and hopefully we will close something by July.

BT: How's Ethereum different from other blockchain technologies?

Gupta: Blockchain is a decentralized database. The first technology was Bitcoin which was created just to support the financial transactions of Bitcoins. But that created the base of what a blockchain technology could be. Ethereum is a financial currency but it's different from Bitcoin. You can use it for authentication, verification and security of data - land titling, land records, transportation records, birth records, medical records and education records.

If you actually use Blockchain nodes, online companies cannot use my data without actually asking my permission. I can choose how much data I am comfortable to give them, and get monetized for it. Today, I have no power over it.

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