Why fear virtual currencies?


Virtual currencies are similar to many disruptive innovations that we have incorporated into our lives, writes Akhil Prasad at Boeing

The recent decision by the Supreme Court not to pass an injunction against the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) prohibition on virtual currency transactions doesn’t come as a shock. There was a huge outcry when Uber was setting up its taxi aggregator model a few years ago. When Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal first set up online stores, there were concerns that the companies would not be able to get customers, and when they did, quite robustly, the fear was that retail stores would suffer, and “mom and pop” stores would die. And yet all co-exist in the shopping ecosystem.


Investment in real estate were considered better than mutual funds and stocks, even though the former was unregulated until the recent arrival of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, while the latter has been regulated for many years. The concerns about safety and calls for regulation continue for autonomous cars and planes, which handle ever greater navigational functions that reduce the need for human input. Yet corporations like Boeing and Tesla, as well as Google, Apple and Microsoft continue to invest in autonomous mobility, which belongs to the grey side of the spectrum and introduces new innovations and disruptions.

What I have read and understood about virtual currencies, in very simplistic terms, gives me an impression that virtual currency is a great idea. The currency system has seen a complete transformation from being completely unregulated during the barter system era, to today’s currency system, which is regulated by various central banks. Despite tight controls and regulations, the current currency system has also enabled the creation of black money, cross-border hawala transactions (unregulated transfers of funds through intermediaries), the finance of illegal trade, non-transparent political funding, and many other maladies that all of us wish were eradicated.

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AKHIL PRASAD is India country counsel and company secretary at Boeing.