Startup Saturday: Driving up the blockchain revolution
From procuring luxury merchandises and accessories across the globe, selling them on e-commerce sites in India to creating a futuristic image search engine platform powered with artificial intelligence, Prashant Surana’s success story is of perseverance and of great inspiration.
Surana began his endeavour young; at 16-years-old he set up an e-commerce company . “My college friends and I launched India’s first image search engine, with the idea that, it would make shopping easier. So if you saw your friend wearing a watch, all you had to do was take a picture and upload it on our site. The site would show you the price, availability and nearest retailers who could deliver it to you,” he said.
The e-commerce company was doing great and Surana’s idea even acquired 10,000 customers, but things got complicated. Surana said, “The model became complicated as it was difficult to manage inventories in real time. I lost my investors, and my partners quit, so it became difficult for me to survive.”
However, Surana did not lose hope, his passion for technology was deep.
How it all began
Talking about how he developed interest in blockchain technology, Surana said, “In Hong Kong I was exposed to bitcoins. There I realised that one could move billions with just 10 cents as cost with no middleman or bank. To me this was money and trust being an open source for the first time, and the technology behind this bitcoin was blockchain.”
He added, “I was so obsessed and researched about blockchain technology. The biggest need I saw was security and trust. Today’s web infrastructure is not secured, its prone to hacking, our data is being traded and decision making is centrally controlled. Imagine what this world would be if the government, banks were working with doors open? You could know how banks are using your money and you could have smart contracts that would be executed automatically without the need for a trust custodian.”
Convinced that the world needed blockchain technology, Prashant started Snapper technologies in 2017, along with his mentor Naresh Jain and Jain’s childhood friend, Avinash Gupta.
“When we started out, we discovered, that there was a huge shortage of people who were trained blockchain technology. We hired a senior employee from Tata Consultancy Services and trained him. Later we trained and added six more developers. By mid 2017 we were ready to jump into the market,” said Surana.
Building a technology of trust for businesses
India is yet to adapt the blockchain technology and the founders of Snapper technologies got a taste of it from the government of Andhra Pradesh.
Surana said, “We offered to do a proof of concept for them with their land records. We spent our time, efforts and resources and at the end of it, the officials just would not proceed with the idea. I think they were put -off with the fact that blockchain would not allow for any manual changes in any record. The power to manipulate records would not be available to them.”
Snapper then approached the government of Telangana and West Bengal. Says Naresh Jain, “We worked hard for the government of West Bengal, however, it did not fare well. But, we learnt a lesson, that the government are not interested in the technology as it brings everything out in the open. Hence, the founders took a call to move to the private sector.
Hits and misses
The move to the private sector, saw Snapper, develop a technology for a company that went into an Initial Coin Offering or ICO. Jain said, “In 2017 there was this huge trend of using crowd funding to raise funds. So anybody could put out their plans and offer ‘coins’. This, investors bought by paying cash. This money was then utilised the way you stated it would. We developed the blockchain technology for their crowd funding platform. The company we did this work for, had targeted Rs 20 million but could not raise the money.”
“Sadly, about 95 per cent of all ICOs were scams. People used this to cheat and did not use the funds raised for any economic purpose. And since there are no rules and regulations in India, the end of that year saw the end of ICOs.” However Snapper later took on the job of building technology for a British company that successfully raised 100 million dollars via an ICO,” said Jain.
With the government experience and the crowd funding ICOs not taking off, the founders, had to come out with a different strategy. Surana said, “We realised that any new technology has very few takers. In India, people will never try something new. So we decided to target overseas markets where customers can be more adventurous with new technologies.”
With their foray into international waters Snapper got four new customers, in US, Hong Kong and China. They’re from different industries, such as an Insurance company that verifies the title of a property before insuring it in the US, in Hong Kong it is the gold and silver commodity exchange.
Courses in blockchain technology
However, they are still upbeat about India. Jain said, “According to research, the size of the authentication industry in India is Rs 250 crores. Corporates spend Rs 15-20,000 and two months per candidate they hire. With bloackchain this can be done very easily. For that we need to tie up with various universities and training institutes to put up their certificates on our platform. However, we have tied up with Vishwakarma Institute of Information Technology (VIIT), Pune and are offering a blockchain technology course.”
Surana said, “The aim is to be able to have a database of certificates and degrees offered by educational institutes so that they can offer verification services to corporates. Apart from this the company has also started a blockchain training programme.”
Snapper technologies have received some funding from Eminem Technologies, USA and do not want to reveal the amount. “We have a non-disclosure agreement with them that doesn’t allow us to give numbers,” said Surana.
Breaker of chains
Blockchain is byword for the next generation of tech-enabled business processes. So what’s Snapper’s deal?
What is blockchain technology?
Blockchain is the technology underpins digital currency (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum). The tech allows digital information to be distributed, but not copied. The information is constantly reconciled into the database, which is stored in multiple locations and updated instantly.
Snapper is involved with blockchain technology development and building internet of value. The company believes that blockchain revolution is as big as Internet probably even bigger because blockchain builds trust and trust is the greatest value creator.
Blockchain certification programmes
Snapper and Vishwakarma Institute of Information Technology (VIIT), Pune have partnered together for building a strong Blockchain community
-Certified blockchain professional programme
-Certified blockchain training and internship programme
-Certified blockchain workshop programme
-Blockchain hackathon programme
-Blockchain certification programme
Blockchain value proposition
Step by step and agile implementation approach
Minimal change in existing system
Easy and simple solutions
Easy integration through standard application program interface (API)
Scalable solutions through new smart contracts
Simple user interface
Snapper has developed many blockchain-based solutions across industries
Crypto and wallet & exchange
Loyalty programme platform
Cross border supply chain
Luxury goods authentication
Diamond trading platform
Crypto token based application
Fund raising through crowd funding by using crypto tokens has surpassed traditional early stage venture capital fund raising. Snapper has developed a fully secured blockchain-based crowd funding platform
Step 1: User registration
Security private key
Step 2: Generate tokens
Deploy smart contracts
Step 3: Token allocation
Crypto currency using smart contract
Step 4: Buy tokens
Use any crypto currency to buy tokens
Step 5: Token balances
Live token balances
Step 6: Withdraw tokens
Withdraw tokens using smart contract
Future plans: Blockchain the Internet
Prashant Surana wants to create firewall to India’s digital economy to protect citizens.
He says, “I think India’s Internet infrastructure is worst, we have very poor standards. Given the chance we can create a firewall, with real time surveillance using deep tech making the job of the government easy. Blockchain can be the backbone and universal infrastructure. India lags behind in technology.”