Widely known as the creator of the fifth industrial revolution, Pratik Gauri is the founder and CEO of 5ire, along with being a serial Indian social entrepreneur, investor and public speaker. He has won several accolades, including being named Creative Entrepreneur Of The Year - Startup by Entrepreneur India magazine, Entrepreneur Of The Year 2020 by Indian Achievers’ Forum, Entrepreneur 35 Under 35, AsiaOne 40 Under 40 Most Influential Leader, Changemaker at Global Action On Poverty, etc. With more than 200k followers, the social media influencer and TedX speaker’s work has been covered by Forbes, World Economic Forum, NASDAQ, etc.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Gauri shares his take on how new-age technologies such as the blockchain can shift the business landscape to change the world and find innovative solutions to strengthen sustainability and solve social problems in line with UNSDG goals. Here are some key excerpts.
One of the many significant paradigm shifts you have talked about is the move from a for-profit to a for-benefit paradigm pioneered by 5ire. What is your take on its business impact?
The 5th industrial revolution is a concept that I've been promoting for the last 15 years to prove the thesis that you can make more money if you do more good to the world. So I’ve set up eight businesses in the past around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and this is the ninth one, which is called 5ire and is the world’s first sustainable blockchain.
It is trying to transition the world from the current age of the 4th Industrial Revolution, which follows a for-profit paradigm, to the 5th Industrial Revolution, which follows a for benefit paradigm. We have created a Web 3 infrastructure that operates on a consensus that embeds and tokenises all 17 UNSDGs and takes data from 650 ESGs. So anybody who adopts 5IRE, whether a government or a fortune 500 company or any family office, actually has to align their practices with the UNSDGs to get the blocks rewarded.
The end goal is to redefine the world in a way where sustainability will define profitability, positively impact a billion people and enable financial inclusion so that businesses can act as a force of good.
Before businesses can do good for the world, how can the blockchain model empower their employees to become a force of good?
A significant function of blockchain technology is decentralisation which means giving the power back to the community. And the first community that makes up a business is their employees, after which comes the extended orbit of investors, partners and stakeholders. So employees play a crucial role in this transition to the 5th Industrial revolution and let me illustrate how.
When we consider the intersection of the blockchain, Metaverse and sustainability as a Venn diagram, at the centre of these intersecting circles lies the power of your community to empower this transition to a for-benefit paradigm because, in the blockchain architecture that we espouse, financial rewards to an employee also come from following sustainable practices. We have to understand that blockchain is one layer of sustainability. It rests in the domino effect of employees practising sustainability which impacts the business at large and then the blockchain technology. In simpler words, if the employees act as a force for good, then the Companies work similarly, and then the blockchain can bring in the for-benefit focused paradigm shift.
As we zoom out and look at the business landscape, what are those impactful trends you see coming, especially in digital transformation?
The one big trend that will impact how businesses operate is the intersection of blockchain and sustainability. Given that enterprises today work at speed and scale, this digital transformation has many unintended consequences on the sustainability front. For example, if we talk about the consensus mechanisms being used in blockchain technology, proof of work results in expending greater computational power and energy, while proof of stake demands the usage of more crypto to get the financial rewards from the blockchain. This takes us back to the traditional finance problem wherein the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
However, if enterprises work at the intersection of sustainability and Web 3, all of that playing out in the metaverse, we can not only scale faster but also enable financial inclusion for about 1.5 billion people who do not have access to traditional banking. Suppose we carry on this practice for the next 15-20 years. In that case, we’re expediting progress towards UNSDGs and solving social problems by ensuring that socio-economically vulnerable people are not left behind in this race for profit and growth.
While we envision this massive social and business impact by leveraging blockchain architecture, as we zoom in, what are those artificial barriers that stop us from achieving this?
Of course, one of these barriers is adoption by the large stakeholders, which I split into three categories: governments, Fortune 500 companies, and family offices. Blockchains can enable auditing standards at speed and can also be a platform for predictive policing and land registration processes, among others. But given the lack of adoption, sustainability, as I’ve pointed out, gets negatively impacted because the original consensus mechanisms of blockchain technology do not empower businesses to use technology for the betterment of humanity. As a result, social problems related to healthcare or climate change continue to take the backseat. To truly solve the problem of sustainability at its core, we have to deal with it at the consensus level of digital adoption, which needs to factor these in.
If this is not done, these large stakeholders will miss out on the opportunity of adopting this beautiful technology which has the power to change the world for good and scale the impact they create. For instance, if an entrepreneur develops an amazing land registration solution that the government does not adopt due to challenges resulting from proof of stake or proof of work when utilising blockchains, then there will be barriers to the power of blockchain to empower sustainable, accessible, inclusive and decentralised business practices.
Today’s dynamic ecosystem of people and work calls for rethinking what’s possible. So how are you reimagining your horizon of possibilities at a personal, entrepreneurial and societal level?
The ecosystem will play a significant role when we talk about this, and it comes back to promoting the thesis that you can make more money if you do more good to the world. The ecosystem where an entrepreneur builds a solution with employees and the extended orbit being a part of it is at a very nascent stage that requires expansion. That is the major focus of 5ire, where technology is a force for good and is adopted at scale by prominent stakeholders. This adoption is aligned with sustainability. As a result, we’re empowered to solve all social problems currently in the media, whether gender inequality, climate change, or even the absence of equity in access to healthcare and housing.
When revisiting today’s business landscape with fresh eyes, what is your word of advice? What is that one thing enterprises must stop and that one thing they must initiate with a fresh look at the market today?
Businesses should stop thinking that only charity can change the world; this idea takes me back to when I was 16 and started my first company. What I have learned since then is, it’s not charity, but rather social entrepreneurs designing solutions by working at the intersection of purpose and profits, who are going to change the world. To truly implement this change, an entrepreneur’s lifestyle must also be embedded with sustainability and ESG metrics. This is because 15-20 years down the line, sustainability will define profitability and the best way to be part of this revolution is to build solutions around it.
Entrepreneurs must build solutions driven by purpose at the intersection of profits and charity and then use technology to implement it at scale and positively impact a billion people. That’s my word of advice.
If you want to learn more about how your business can be part of the digital revolution and innovate for-benefit models, join us at People Matters TechHR India 2022 on 4-5th August in Gurugram, where Pratik Gauri will be sharing his path-breaking ideas around intersecting profitability and sustainability.