Global blockchain NEAR wants to bet big on India, transition brands to Web3

Global blockchain NEAR wants to bet big on India, transition brands to Web3

Despite global crypto markets turning bearish, India remains top priority for several international blockchain projects, networks, and projects.

Several global players are now turning towards India as it has earned a repute for being the next big hub for web developer talent and having a large consumer base.

Ethereum, Solana and BNB Chain have become a staple in the Indian Web3 space. These are known as Layer-1 blockchains—a base layer or network. Polygon—a Layer 2 solution— is also a market leader in India.

Now, another one is joining the mix: NEAR — a promising Layer-1 project which uses sharding to solve the problem of blockchain scalability.

Looking towards India, NEAR is actively incubating startups to help boost blockchain talent development and innovation.

Its goal—to onboard 5 million monthly active users (MAUs) on NEAR from India by the end of the year.

With this, it joins Ethereum, Polygon, and the other prominent chain ecosystems in tapping into India’s tech and developer talent pool.

For NEAR India, the idea is to bring mainstream adoption of Web3 apps and networks, through collaboration, and working closely with Web2 brands and startups.

While the initial plan was to set up a physical incubator, bear market conditions led NEAR’s India team to run a virtual incubator while maintaining a smaller office space in Bengaluru for physical meetings and pitches.

“We started in September 2022, and are bringing NEAR’s technology, infrastructure and DApp ecosystem to a wide range of startups and developers,” says Yash Kanchan, Director, NEAR India.

“We began speaking with NEAR and its non-profit arm NEAR Foundation to build a regional hub in India, and rely on them for support in terms of development, funding… So far, we have already worked with 11 promising startup projects which are all set to go live soon.”

Mass adoption into Web3

NEAR India is not just helping startups incubate their Web3 projects from idea stage to minimal viable product MVP, but also onboards non-Web3 brands.

With NEAR, wellness platform Growfitter is running a fitness challenge to onboard over 1 lakh users to Web3. Claiming to have over 5 lakh active users, the platform is seeking to transition some parts of user activity to Web3 like user wallets.

The onboarding wallet service for Growfitter is provided by Leap, another platform being incubated at NEAR India.

Through this service it provides simplified wallet dashboard services to the NEAR ecosystem, enabling anyone to connect their wallets and manage portfolios.

“The projects we select are backed by strong investors, and can navigate the bear markets, as their fundamentals are strong. Despite the adverse conditions, many brands we reach out to nowadays are open to having detailed conversations about including blockchain in their tech stacks,” says Aayush Gupta, Director, NEAR India.

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How NEAR works

As a Layer-1 blockchain, NEAR employs sharding technology to achieve scale, and features cross-chain interoperability through its Rainbow Bridge and Layer-2 product Aurora. Aurora allows developers to operate their apps on an Ethereum-compatible platform.

Yash and Kanchan vouch for the network’s strength in wallet, bridge and sharding infrastructure to safely onboard and host millions of users.

If mass adoption and enterprise use cases of Web3 were to become reality, there would be a need for chains that can handle high transaction volumes without compromising on security or decentralisation.

Sharding is a possible fix to existing limitations around scaling blockchains.

Simply put, the process involves grouping blockchain network participants (nodes) into subsets (shards), and ensuring transactions are executed only by a certain shard, instead of the entire network. This, in turn, lowers the transaction burden on the larger chain.

As such, with sharding, the entire chain does not have to reach consensus for that particular transaction. NEAR is one of the early movers in adopting this tech, having been founded in 2020 by Alex Skidanov and Illia Polosukhin.

It uses the Proof of Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism to secure its network, and provides an ecosystem for developers to build and deploy its decentralised applications or DApps.

“We are coming up with a way to enable apps to be deployed on NEAR using JavaScript – which is a more mainstream language than Web3 languages Solidity and Rust. This will enable a large mass of developers to build on NEAR,” added Yash.

Despite being discrete from Ethereum – the most dominant DApp ecosystem in terms of value, number of developers, projects and mindshare – NEAR’s Aurora chain is Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) compliant, enabling interoperability and transfer of value between Ethereum-based and other EVM chains.

NEAR’s India team is also focussing on powering brand relationships with users through Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) which steadily accrue in value and are not subject to volatile market conditions.

For instance, an NFT proving a user’s membership or subscription for a brand would only accrue value over time.

NEAR India is confident that all these features put together will create a strong use case for Web2 brands and startups to come onboard and deploy on NEAR Protocol.

“At the moment, Ethereum is the most dominant ecosystem. Over time, we can gain more monthly users as we onboard more brands. As we gain users, our strong fundamentals will come into the spotlight and become more visible to the masses,” explains Aayush.

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A large market for Web3

At the moment, NEAR India is working to take its cohort of 11 startups live with their Web3 plays.

Besides Growfitter and Leap, the team is working closely with Bitverse – a fantasy gaming app, Electron Labs – a zero knowledge (ZK) blockchain solution, Binocs – a crypto tax and compliance platform, Stader Labs – a liquid staking network, Router Protocol – a cross-chain bridge, and more.

With its active push into India’s startup ecosystem, NEAR is looking to build a strong community of users and developers—one that could rival market leaders Ethereum, Polygon or Solana.

Its entry into India signals a strong interest to tap into the domestic tech ecosystem.

In fact, a recent NASSCOM report found 90% of digital enterprises expect to increase investments across blockchain, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Reality or Virtual Reality (AR/VR), and other emergent technologies.

NASSCOM’s report which was released amid the crypto downturn revealed that 11% of the global Web3 talent is from India, and there has been a 138% increase in blockchain and cryptocurrency related jobs since 2018.

NEAR’s bet on India is based on several such factors. It is developing and investing in its NEAR India efforts to identify high quality Web2 and Web3 startups.

“This hub gives us the chance to nurture the local talent that will have global opportunities in the near future. We look forward to seeing amazing applications and initiatives come out of this ecosystem,” said Marieke Flament, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NEAR Foundation at the time of this regional hub’s launch.

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