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I walked into the conversation with Praphul Chandra, Founder and CEO of KoineArth thinking that I’d discover more about how blockchain has the potential to disrupt the mobility space. But by the end of our conversation, I was mindblown with the vision that this Indian startup has.
Chandra, who started out as an electrical engineer and went on to get a PhD in Game Theory from Delhi Institute of Science. He started KoineArth as early as 2016, but it was formally incorporated only in July 2018. The first version of its marketsN blockchain platform went live only later in 2020.
“Let’s suppose you have 5-6 people, who have to coordinate with one another. The easiest way to do this is to create a WhatsApp Group between them for all the co-ordination to happen. While this works on an individual level, companies find it hard to have the same kind of convenience when it comes to creating such digital groups between their partners,” explains Chandra.
“That’s when we thought, ‘Can we have a platform where you have multiple companies come together and form a group, with a WhatsApp-like user experience, for them to be able to securely carry out transactions and share data with one another?’ And for this you needed security, auditability, digital signatures, and time stamps, all of which can be facilitated through blockchain. That’s what we did with marketsN. We created a blockchain-like platform, where different companies can come together, coordinate operations, and share data in a secure way.”
“Now let’s come to the part where it links to the automotive space. We thought about the passport as a document. A passport is a proof of identity issued by an entity we trust, the central government, but it’s also a provable record of where the individual has been, complete with a date and time stamp. The reason we inherently trust the passport is because it is a very tightly controlled document, and the legal system prevents anyone other than authorised entities to modify its contents in any way. It is your document, but it’s very tightly controlled by trusted external stakeholders. We wanted to bring the same paradigm to a car.
“With the car passport that we created for MG, our idea was to have a cradle-to-grave history of the vehicle,” explains Chandra.
“Today, a vehicle generates a humungous amount of data. But who owns that data? While OEMs have that data with themselves, they are merely custodians of the data. The real owner of the data is the car owners themselves. It’s a very interesting scenario because the custodian and the owner of the data are different. Third parties, such as insurance providers, would love to get their hands on this data, but OEMs were unsure if they could even share it and, if so, how. This is what the car passport solves for. With customer consent, the OEM is now able to safely share driving behaviour data with insurance companies. It is a secure, auditable, consent-based data sharing in a B2B environment.”
Thanks to the car passport, customers premiums can be significantly reduced based on positive driving behaviour. For example, someone driving in far safer conditions like two kilometres per day in daylight, doesn’t have to pay the same premium as someone who drives 50 kilometres per day at night on highways.
This also reduces risk to insurers. On the other hand, it also improves the resale value of the vehicle, thus reducing the total cost of ownership. Potential customers have the cradle-to-grave history of the car all in one place.
MG’s new Astor comes with KoineArth’s passport tech built in. But that’s not where this partnership ends. KoineArth also helped MG become the first carmaker in India to launch its own NFTs (non-fungible tokens). December 28 saw more than 1,000 NFTs go live on KoineArth’s ngageN platform and the idea is to focus on collectables, community and diversity, collaborative art, and CaaP (Car-as-a-Platform).
“We started working on ngageN, our B2C platform, six months ago,” says Chandra. “We firmly believe that NFTs are a great way to build robust communities for brands. NFTs are essentially end-user licences to certain assets that you want to be associated with, much like owning a prized work of art. You might think what this means for a carmaker like MG. For starters, the revenue from the NFT doesn’t mean much in terms of revenue; it’s a brand engagement strategy.
“People who buy the NFT will become fans or enthusiasts, or even potential customers. Then, of course, there is the community service angle by donating the proceeds to MG Sewa, the carmakers’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. And finally, by encouraging artists to submit MG fan art, which they will in the future convert to NFTs, MG can share the revenue with the artist. So, as you see, there is this whole feeling of bringing the community together from different aspects using NFT as a tool and that’s what we believe the real value is.”
“This has a lot of future scope, and that’s something we’re already talking to MG about,” Chandra continues. “The Digital Passport is an NFT, and so are the digital assets that you are creating, which is artwork representative of MG brand values and influenced by MG history and legacy. Can these two NFTs come together in some way to offer new and interesting experiences in a CaaP?”
It isn’t every day that you see a traditional carmaker immerse themselves in future technologies such as NFTs and blockchain, but MG was a willing partner with KoineArth.
“One of the things we absolutely loved was MG’s speed of decision-making, and that is a credit to the company’s senior management,” explains Chandra.
“We have been talking to other automotive companies for some time now, but the speed at which decision-making happens in MG is phenomenal. They are very eager to innovate. I think they’re one of the few companies that have understood that the automotive sector is going to be much more than just making cars, it’s going to be all about new-age mobility.
“This shift in thought-process, that it’s going to be a mobility company and not just a car manufacturing company, shows in what they’re trying to do and how they’re trying to engage their customers. Through the MG Development Programme, they’re working with many other start-ups like ourselves. I think those are the three things that are probably my highlight on working with MG – the openness of innovation, the speed of decision making and the willingness to work with start-ups.”
So what does the future hold for KoineArth?
“The idea of the CaaP is very interesting to us, and I don’t think it has been fully explored. We believe in the ability to have the digital representation, where multiple parties can both consume and push data as well as engage with the customer. This is the view that we’re pursuing, whether it is with our B2B solution enabling data sharing between different partners who may use the CaaP, or whether it is with our ngageN platform. We believe that the engagement would go beyond just the brand and the customer by looping in other service providers.”
But Chandra’s vision for using blockchain to disrupt the mobility space goes far beyond just this.
The car is a complex machine, with components from multiple suppliers. Imagine, if each of these parts, right from the very grassroots, were traceable in a ledger-like format using blockchain. In the event of a defect, this would mean that there would be increased accountability about where the problem came from, and the time taken to recall would reduce significantly, thus avoiding injuries or loss of life due to those defects.
In another scenario, conscious consumers would be able to track if materials used in the end-product were sustainable or ethically manufactured. Take, for example, lithium used in EV batteries. This technology has the power to inform customers if the lithium in their car’s battery was from an ESG-compliant source and free of child labour. Tied-in with NFTs, where these consumers can proudly display a badge saying that they’re an ESG compliant car driver, and you’ve then closed the circuit.
“I’m glad that you are starting to resonate with the future that we are looking at,” smiles Chandra.