Christopher Fernandez was already a serial tech entrepreneur when he founded Block Gemini in 2016. Since then the Dubai-based company never looked back, meeting a growing demand for blockchain implementations particularly in the supply chain and fintech space. “The fact that we are now working with a company like Vodafone on a truly innovative blockchain project is testament to what we’ve been able to achieve in such a short span of time,” he says. Cryptocurrencies like Ether and Bitcoin may have been what got everyone talking about blockchain, but Block Gemini is bullish about its long term potential to disrupt many industries. Enterprises are waking up to this technology and its tremendous operational upside, as shown by Block Gemini's rapid expansion of its operations to Canada, India – and with the support of Tomorrow Street, a joint venture between Vodafone and Luxembourg's national incubator Technoport, to Luxembourg.
Any industry that deals with transactional ecosystems that are tracked and monitored digitally can be greatly improved through the use of blockchain technology. “The project we’re currently deploying for Vodafone, using blockchain and smart contracts to manage complex contractual agreements with their suppliers, is an example of the value that blockchain can create. Of course, managing procurement contracts is not specific to the telecoms industry, but there are many other areas specific to the telecoms industry that can benefit from the use of blockchain.”
In 2020 Block Gemini went into partnership with Vodafone Procurement Company (VPC) to tap distributed ledger technology (DLT) and help Vodafone transform into a digital procurement company. VPC manages a growing portfolio of some 50,000 contracts. Manual processes were time-consuming and vulnerable to human error. Another problem was that VPC and its suppliers maintain multiple versions of the same contracts during the negotiation and reconciliation processes, resulting in longer contract lead-time and value leakages. Block Gemini's solution gives Vodafone a blockchain-based CCM platform that ensures compliance and identifies value leakages in its contracts. It brings transparency and cuts contract lead-times from weeks to minutes.
Over the last two years the collaborative relationship between Block Gemini and Vodafone developed from identifying opportunities with blockchain, to establishing a proof-of-value, building a POC, then a MVP, and on to the pilot stage. “Block Gemini has been supporting the project from its conceptual stage all the way to the deployment and maintenance of the solution. From consulting and advisory to services, to design and development, every aspect of the project has been managed and delivered by our dedicated in-house team - I believe this has been the strongest driver for our continuing partnership with Vodafone on this project. Considering Vodafone’s long term strategy for fully digitising their procurement operation, the project is only in its initial stages and I see Block Gemini bringing a lot of value to the future growth and expansion of this solution across their internal procurement systems.”
Fernandez has a lively appreciation of Vodafone’s welcoming attitude towards a startup like Block Gemini. “They provided a lot of support during our initiation into their supplier ecosystem, and once we were in we were given the chance to prove our capability.” Looking forward, he sees plenty of opportunities for ongoing collaboration. Tomorrow Street will now help Block Gemini to bring its services and expertise to Vodafone's wider circle of enterprise customers.
Blockchain has the power to transform the global telecoms ecosystem, Chris Fernandez concludes: “Take the example of fixed-line leasing services - huge amounts of bandwidth are bought and sold across millions of customers worldwide. These transactions need to be negotiated and settled between many discrete telecoms service providers, and that's a very resource-intensive process. With blockchain, the entire manual settlement could be replaced by a smart contract settled instantaneously!”