When Blockchain Meets Retail

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This is a significantly delayed publication of our write-up on the Blockchain Meetup organised by SUSS on July 26, 2017. We enjoyed the meetup tremendously, and hope to share a little of what we have learned from the terrific team of speakers.

By LO Swee-Won and Hung Yu-Chen, SUSS.

Blockchain is a social technology developed to connect people, and it changes the way people collaborate. Similarly, blockchain is going to change retail behaviour, said Mr. Qian Dejun, the CEO and Founder of BitSE. Retailers are now looking for ways to change the way they connect with the consumers. Blockchain is here to not only path new ways for consumers to get information about a product, but to also efficiently shorten the supply chain by allowing every party in the supply chain with access to a single, trusted and reliable data source.

The panel, which included the panel chair Prof. David LEE Kuo Chuen (Professor, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)), Mr. Qian Dejun (CEO and Founder of BitSE), Mr. Sunny Lu (COO & Co-Founder of BitSE), Mr. Gary Loh (Executive Chairman of Sunmoon Food Co. Ltd.), Ms. Daphne Ng (CEO of JEDTrade), and Dr. Guan Chong (Head of Marketing Programme, SUSS), were in consensus about the inevitable and imperative digitalisation of information as the way forward. By using blockchain as a “shared database” between parties in a supply chain, data transparency can be provided and be used to regulate and monitor the number of products activated in the market. This, according to Mr. Sunny Lu who also heads BitSE’s VeChain project, would not only provide proof of ownership (e.g., for luxury items, diamonds, and gold), but would also help to trace information and the path of a product, efficiently facilitating the effort to thwart counterfeiting. When using blockchain with IoT (Internet of Things), the entire supply chain industry will be revolutionalised. Similarly, in the food industry, Mr. Gary Loh illustrated a scenario where data about a fruit that is obtained from optical sorters could be used as a means to verify if the consumer is buying a product as what it is claimed to be. The blockchain is then a solution that allows trusted information to be securely disseminated from the source to the consumers. For Dr. Guan Chong, data transparency is the most optimal method to target the most critical pain point when doing a market analysis.

Initial Token Sales
Touching on the issue of initial token sales, Ms. Daphne Ng commented that it is critical to be able to address efficient international trading at the digital age. At present, Business-to-Business process is progressing very slow due to complication in cross-border trading. When enterprises digitalise their business on blockchain, the existence of a cryptotoken in the blockchain can help to tokenise illiquid assets, e.g., cows, and will provide financing to farmers in the remote area and help to guarantee the viability of the supply chain. Also, Mr. Qian remarked that a blockchain with a digital token is extremely important because as the number of enterprises employing blockchain for their business increases, the value of the token will generate return to enterprises, and this allows simultaneous growth of both the blockchain company and the enterprise. “If blockchain is the bone and smart contract is the muscles, then token is like the blood that keeps the system going,” said Mr. Sunny Lu.

On top of this, Mr. Gary Loh added that token is the way to change the community, taking for example, again, the farmers. At the present setting, products are handled by middlemen as they travel from the supplier to the consumer, and most of the money goes to the middlemen. Blockchain, along with a digital token, mitigates this situation by bringing the community directly to any part of the world – i.e., the consumers, and it would greatly help to raise the community.

Singapore as an Intermediary
Responding to audience query about blockchain eliminating middleman and the impact it would have on Singapore, Mr. Gary Loh said that Singapore as a hub for ASEAN e-commerce is well-placed, and its unique feature will play a vital role in the blockchain platform as data across different countries that do not trust each other will go through Singapore. As a final remark, Dr. Guan Chong expressed her confidence that South East Asia countries will have much potential as e-commerce progresses.