Nikhil from Alfresco Coin talks about his idea and innovation! (Interview)
A blockchain-based cryptocurrency for travel, leisure and event industry. This cryptocurrency would enable the consumers to spend their reward points in a manner that they deem fit while traveling. Nikhil Borkar, participant of the Tilburg University Challenge, talks about his idea, entrepreneurship and the relevance of innovation!
Thank you already for answering our questions Nikhil! Of course, we want to know more about you and your idea. Can you tell us about yourself, your hobbies, and interests?
Hi, I'm Nikhil Borkar. I'm a 90's kid, born and raised in Mumbai, India. My MBTI archetype is ENTP. I'm a polymath with interest in Finance, Tech and Law. I have attained Master's degrees in Quantitative Finance, Business Law with a specialization in Securities and Investment Law and currently pursuing my third Master's degree in Data Science. I've also attained professional qualifications in the disciplines of Financial Crime Examination, Anti-Money Laundering, Blockchain and the CQF designation.
Over the years, I've had the privilege of working and learning from some of the most interesting people in the travel and leisure, financial analytics and digital publishing industry. More recently, a chance to advise early-stage EdTech startups on product strategy; and devising an omnichannel sales strategy for a popular women’s innerwear brand in India.
In my free time, I love to watch standup comedy, movies and TV shows; comedies and spy thrillers being my favorite genres. My playlist is a mix of Western Classical, Jazz, Hip-Hop/Rap and of course, Bollywood. I like to explore new cities and learn about different cultures. I have a habit of finding similarities between my (Indian) culture and other cultures whenever I interact with people from different parts of the world. It always amazes me how much we have in common with cultures that are geographically distant from each other! I also like to cook and experiment with different cuisines.
"It can prove to be a good way of creating a talent pipeline
for future key management personnel of the company."
Many interests.. means many ideas! Tell us about your idea with which you are participating in the challenge, and how it was born?
The idea with which I am participating in the challenge is a cryptocurrency, named Alfresco Coin, designed specifically to meet the needs of different stakeholders in the travel and leisure ecosystem. It aims to unlock the value trapped within various reward programs by creating a payments- and ledger system to facilitate exchanges of services and document transfer of value; in a way that would aid in the recapitalization of the travel and leisure industry that is facing crippling losses due to the Covid-19 crisis. The mission of Alfresco Coin is to decouple the travel and leisure industry with an annual contribution of US$8.9 trillion or 10.3% of global GDP (estimated as of 2019 by World Travel and Tourism Council) from the real economy. The decoupling would minimize the impact of external socioeconomic and political pressures on the stakeholders and create a robust, resilient and thriving industry.
The idea was born out of my frustration when transacting with my Indian debit card upon arrival in The Netherlands in January 2020. There were several instances where local shops weren’t able to process my card. I asked around and found out that many of my international friends too were facing such issues occasionally. It was really surprising and odd to me that students and travelers are encountering such problems in one of the most technology-ready economies on the planet, and the idea of Alfresco Coin started taking shape.
At the Kruikenstad in February, I found the payment mechanism for food and beverages to be unnecessarily cumbersome; this further convinced me that Alfresco Coin is an idea whose time has come.
Sounds like a really good idea! As your idea is innovative and future-oriented, why do you think innovation overall is so important?
We can't ignore how the internet has democratized the marketplace. It increasingly continues to play a huge role in the lowering of barriers to entry by making knowledge and skills of niche subjects readily accessible. Thanks to the internet and emerging technologies, a lot of industries are ripe for disruption and/or transformation. We’re already seeing how CleanTech and electric mobility startups are posing a credible threat to the fossil fuel-dependent automobile industry. Especially now, in an era of exponential technological advancement, being innovative not only as a business but also as an industry has become imperative for its survival. We’re seeing centuries-old institutions like banks getting disrupted by Fintech startups, Universities challenged by Edtech startups, Traditional media being decimated by the Digital Streaming platforms; and so forth. The companies that dominated the last decade might not necessarily be the same in the coming decade if they don’t innovate. Innovation is a “need” and no longer a “want”.
As you said, innovation is a ‘need’. What do you think a company should do to stimulate creativity and innovation?
Depending on the size and resources available at the disposal of the company, there are different strategies of different levels of sophistication that companies can adopt to stimulate creativity and innovation. But according to me, there are some things almost all companies can do regardless of their size and resources. Firstly, try to break the silos within the company and encourage a culture of knowledge exchange within the company. Secondly, spot and encourage entrepreneurs within the company. It can prove to be a good way of creating a talent pipeline for future key management personnel of the company. Lastly, and most importantly, frequently conduct blue sky thinking workshops. As cliché and jargony as it sounds, it can be effective when done correctly.
Talking about entrepreneurs and innovations.. What innovation/tool/gadget are you missing in your daily life?
I do not appreciate the language barrier among people. In my experience, I've found quite a few people shy away from engaging in a conversation because they aren't comfortable/confident speaking in English. I've had instances, both in India and Europe (both rich in diverse languages and dialects), where my friends crack a joke in their native language and say it doesn't translate that well in English and complain that the humor gets lost in translation.
I'd really like a device or an app that can translate in real-time from one language to another; including idioms and phrases to make it a "smart" translation and not a literal translation. In instances where a “smart” translation isn’t available, I’d like to know what the idiom or phrase means and the cultural context in which it is used.
"I’m sure there’s a generation of kids who were left awestruck and now aspire to be Scientists and Engineers.
Imagine; you can work with a company on a new innovative project. What company would you choose? And why?
I'm not sure if agencies/organizations count, but I would jump at the opportunity to work with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in a heartbeat! I don't think they get enough recognition for what they've accomplished with the Mars Orbiter Mission. The ISRO Scientists and engineers harnessed Earth's gravity to pull off a "slingshot" maneuver to send a satellite to Mars, at a total budget lower than what it cost to make the movie Gravity! If this wasn’t impressive enough; they did it on their first attempt!
I personally think it would be great to get an opportunity to collaborate and learn from a team that optimizes its resources by thinking out of the box and accomplishes truly remarkable feats. I’m sure there’s a generation of kids who were left awestruck and now aspire to be Scientists and Engineers.
Interesting! So looking at the future: How do you see yourselves and your idea in 5 years?
That's a really difficult question to answer given that there are so many unknown unknowns that can influence a roadmap, even more so in a post-coronavirus world! But, if I manage the known unknowns well, I see myself leading Alfresco Coin and successfully crossing the chasm on the adoption curve. As it's being designed specifically for the needs of the stakeholders of the Travel and Leisure industry, in 5 years, I hope that Alfresco Coin becomes the cryptocurrency that helps process and settle at least half of the $8.9 trillion travel and leisure industry transactions. With the knowledge and experience that I would have gained in 5 years, I would like to help the next generation of entrepreneurs by sharing my knowledge and experience; and being a mentor to startups that excite me!
Dear Nikhil, thank you so much for answering our questions and sharing your experiences and ideas! We wish you all the best and look forward to hearing from you during the Tilburg University Challenge!
Read more about Alfresco Coin on the candidates-profile.