Our learnings from implementing Blockchain: Abhijit Singh, Lead – Strategic Initiatives, Blockchain, ICICI Bank
Emerging technologies are always risky. When executed well, they seem great, but when they fail, the downside can be huge. ICICI Bank, has undertaken a series of big bets on emerging technologies, and it is always interesting to know the bank’s perspective on the approach taken for adopting emerging technologies. To understand the bank’s approach, we spoke to Abhijit Singh, Lead – Strategic Initiatives, Blockchain, ICICI Bank
What was the need for the bank to consider a technology like Blockchain?
Blockchain has many advantages. The technology is designed to be immutable, and once information is written to a blockchain, it cannot be altered. This has tremendous benefits for our industry. In any supply chain, there is a long chain of participants. With the use of Blockchain, you can bring in transparency and consensus more efficiently.
We were the first bank in the country to embark on the journey of Blockchain. Using Blockchain technology, the bank executed transactions in international trade finance and remittance in partnership with Emirates NBD, a leading banking group in the Middle East. We scaled this up subsequently, and in a span of two years, we had successfully on-boarded over 250 corporates on our blockchain platform for domestic & international trade finance, the most by any bank in India.
What was the impact?
The blockchain application created by ICICI Bank digitises the paper-intensive international trade finance process as an electronic, distributed and unalterable ledger, and gives the participating entities including banks the ability to access a single source of information. It enables all the parties- buyers and sellers across domestic and international locations, all branches and locations of ICICI Bank in the country and overseas, to view the data in real time. It also allows them to track documentation and authenticate ownership of assets digitally and execute a trade finance transaction through a series of encrypted and secure digital contracts. Further, it allows each participant to check online the status of the application and transmission of original trade documents through a secure network.
What are some of the biggest learnings from this initiative, and what advice would you give to some of the corporates who are looking at adopting Blockchain?
For Blockchain to succeed, there has to be complete collaboration between all stakeholders. One also has to pick up a few initial processes to experiment and pilot. In our case, we picked up trade finance and remittances. One also has to understand that Blockchain is not like any other technology project. This requires collaboration skills, and the team has to be entrepreneurial in mindset. Pilots have to be done quickly, and tested out in the market. Disruption, I believe, is the outcome of a series of many incremental efforts.
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