Interview with Kush Poonith
Kush Poonith, you’re a lawyer and yet you post funny videos of yourself on YouTube. Why?
After spending 16 years in London, my French became rusty. And when I returned to Mauritius, I was somewhat embarrassed to speak French as part of my job. But I persevered and made myself understood. I work as General Counsel at Ducorp and its operational arm XTM. As part of a series of reality videos, XTM wants to share its own experience in building its business in the world of new technologies. We came up with the idea to produce these little videos under the name “Maitre de Poonith”. The reaction was awesome and showed us that Mauritians do enjoy reality shows on social networks.
What are the characteristic traits of Maitre de Poonith?
Maitre de Poonith is someone who is not shy by his way of speaking French. He has his own way of seeing the world. He does not care what people think of him. He presents his daily issues with a touch of humour, without any exaggeration. As a lawyer, he feels comfortable in jeans and T-shirt instead of the traditional suit and tie.
By making these videos, I make fun of myself. I am proud to speak creole and in situations where I “have” to speak the language of Molière, Maitre de Poonith appears, in spite myself.
As a lawyer, you work on blockchain technologies that are still largely unknown. Why and how did you make this choice?
I came across blockchain towards the end of 2017 when I met James Duchenne, the CEO of Ducorp and XTM. I had heard about Bitcoin and related technologies, but I was never really interested in exploring the issue. After my discussion with James, everything changed. I realized the implication of such decentralised technology. Blockchain is a technology which is programmed to record and track anything of value, for example, financial transactions, medical records, or even land titles. Blockchain is disrupting the middlemen’s role in transferring value and that’s huge.
Can you explain the crazy rise in the price of bitcoin in an explosion that some describe as speculative?
I believe that the intrinsic value of bitcoin must be measured on the scale of the thing it replaces. How much does it cost the banking infrastructure to manage, administer, secure and transfer Rs 1 from one person to another, anywhere. When you understand that bitcoin just absorbed that value so that there is no need for it, then I think we can talk about intrinsic value. This is real. Regarding the price speculation, I think this is what headline readers are focused on. There exists an immense amount of speculation that feels like gambling and probably is. But this is no different to, say, investing in a technology start-up in its early days before mass adoption.
Four big banks, JP Morgan, Bank of America, Citi and Capital One opted to ban the purchase of cryptocurrency with their credit cards!
I think we should not pay too much importance in those headlines that seem to be driven by those that are unsettled about disruption. For example, on the one hand, these banks don’t allow their customers to purchase cryptocurrencies but on the other hand, they are developing their own specific crypto coins (JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon famously bashed bitcoin as a «fraud» that global governments would “crush.» Less than two years later, Dimon is pushing his company headfirst into the crypto space where the bank is launching its very own digital coin). Watch what banks do, not what they say.
What do you say to traditional bankers who say “it’s speculative wind”?
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”. I think that this plays in the mind of people today. This is the reason that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin make all governments and their central banks worried. The control over the issuance of money is paramount to order in society. Losing part of that control is problematic on so many levels. It is vastly more severe, which the migration of attention from the previous gatekeepers of information, to that of the Internet. I don’t know how this will play out, but I am neither on one end nor the other. I do not predict things just watch while adapting to the current reality. However, I think that the truth is probably somewhere in between with an ordered coexistence.
What must be done to give a new breath to the country?
I will speak for the sector in which I practice. The regulators are moving in the right direction with the introduction of guidelines on two major pieces, namely the Custody of Digital Assets and the recognition of Security Token Offerings. This follows the announcement last year that Mauritius as a jurisdiction recognises digital assets like cryptocurrencies as a form of commodities. There is a genuine willingness from the authorities to adopt what is happening across the world in terms of blockchain and digital assets. I understand their caution in moving forward though. These being new technologies, there is a delay in putting ideas into action. I would say that instead of reinventing the wheel, we could replicate what has been working well in other jurisdictions and learn from more mature ones.
Watch the videos Maitre de Poonith on Facebook @DucorpXTM or Youtube @Ducorp X-Team.