Sunday 23 January 2022
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Ambani backs blockchain while Modi govt wants to ban cryptocurrency

Time and again since 2018, Mukesh Ambani and some of his companies have spoken in favour of cryptocurrencies; he has done it again in an interview

Not quite known for taking a contrarian stand, industrialist Mukesh Ambani has but once again stood in support of cryptocurrency, which the Narendra Modi government is contemplating prohibiting through a proposed law to be tabled in the parliament. Curiously, however, Ambani backed the proposed law five days ago.

The Reliance Industries chairman and managing director has said again that he is a big believer in blockchain technology. “I believe in blockchain technology and this is different from cryptocurrency,” Ambani said, adding, “Blockchain is very important for a trust-based, equitable society.”

Time and again since 2018, Ambani and some of his companies have spoken in favour of cryptocurrencies. Reliance Jio Infocomm was reportedly planning to create its own cryptocurrency, JioCoin, in 2018. A 50-member team was working on the blockchain technology, anchored by Mukesh Ambani’s elder son Akash, The Economic Times had reported on 12 January 2018.

This time, he said it in the course of an interview at the Infinity Forum, hosted by International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA), virtually from the Gift City.

A bill for regulating cryptocurrency is in the works, and RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das is among those who feel that the blockchain technology underpinning cryptocurrencies could exist on its own, even without the currency.

The prime minister voiced his concern over cryptocurrencies last month.

“Using blockchain, we can deliver unprecedented security, trust, automation and to almost any type of transaction,” Ambani said. “It can be used to modernize our supply chains that form the lifeblood of our economies,” he said.

Ambani said the technology provided great opportunities for the next level of financial innovation.

“Blockchain has today created a whole new concept of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). The technology can enable real-time transactions and settlements, authentic digital recording of all transactions — digitalisation ownership of land, property, gold and other kinds of assets. In the e-commerce space, we will need innovative solutions to take care of working capital needs of lakhs of merchants, while managing their credit scores real-time,” Ambani said.

Ambani believes blockchain could be used also to invent an innovative model for data privacy where customer data is owned and controlled through technology by the people themselves.

Ambani and Modi not working on crosspurposes

But the industrialist ‘believing’ in something that the government wants to prohibit and yet backing the bill is not actually a paradox. Ambani today also backed the proposed data privacy and cryptocurrency bills, saying India was putting in place the most forward-looking policies and regulations.

Ambani, who has been a votary of Indians owning and controlling their own data and the nation drafting strict rules around how digital information is stored and shared, said nations had the right to build and protect strategic digital infrastructure.
Stating that data is the ‘new oil’, he said every citizen’s right to privacy had to be safeguarded.

“India is putting in place the most forward-looking policies and regulations,” he said at the Infinity Forum, hosted by International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA). The country, he said, already has a great framework of digital identity – through Aadhaar, digital bank accounts and digital payments.

“We are on the verge of introducing data privacy bill, and the cryptocurrency bill. I think we are on the right track,” the industrialist said.

“Data and digital infrastructure is strategically important for India and every other nation in the world. Every country has the right to build and protect this strategic digital infrastructure,” he said adding a uniform global standard was needed so that cross-border transactions, collaborations and partnerships are not hampered.

Stating that every citizen’s right to privacy had to be safeguarded, he said the right policies and the right regulatory framework had to balance this with the nation’s need to guard data and digital infrastructure.

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