[The Viewpoint] Metaverse: The Next Great Frontier To Be Explored By Businesses And Its Development In India

The concept of Metaverse might seem far removed for some industries and businesses, however, its prominence and need will only grow with the passage of time.
Vikrant Rana and Pranit Biswas
Vikrant Rana and Pranit BiswasS.S. Rana & Co

The Metaverse, or rather, Metaverses, is an ever-growing phenomenon, which has captured the attention and creativity of businesses worldwide. It is a constantly growing concept, which businesses can ill-afford to miss out on. It is something which is here to stay, and businesses in India especially have been very keen to understand the concept and potential of the Metaverse, and have taken active steps to build a Metaversal footprint, case in point being India business behemoths such as Mahindra and Mahindra, Tanishq, Makemytrip, etc. With so much having transpired in the rather nascent world of the Metaverse, the abstraction of Metaverse is a lot more than a simple virtual room for facilitating interactions with the rest of the world.

While the change of name of Facebook to Meta may have been the catalyst in the concept gaining wider business traction, it is equally the contribution of other brands and organizations, which has coalesced into the current widespread attraction of the Metaverse from a business perspective. While companies like Facebook/ Meta and other Silicon Valley companies may rake in most of the global media attention regarding the Metaverse, Indian companies are not far behind, and are now taking equally strong steps towards developing the Metaverse and being an active part of this virtual world.

Indian Businesses: Embracing and acing the Metaverse!

The launch of Metaverse Foundry to enhance ‘virtual- physical interconnections’ was announced by Infosys, which has been a giant in the information technology sector for over four decades. In a press release, it was declared that the podium ‘converges the power of domain and design expertise, platforms and digital accelerators, with strong relationships in a rich creator- partner economy’. Infosys’s drive into the Metaverse also advertises AR/VR integration, as well as a “Living Labs” platform.

In February 2022, President and Head of Business and Tech Services at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) Krishna Ramanujam in an interview with MoneyControl expressed his interest in Metaverse as ‘‘In terms of deals, a lot of proactive proposals we have put in for the customers. But currently they are small’’. Adding to this, he expressed his belief on unlocking Metaverse in the industrial space as a key for its evolution and acceptance.

Mahindra and Mahindra, has launched Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) costing around INR Twenty Six Lakhs individually (approx. USD 32,700) which are themed on their iconic “Thar” vehicle, and purportedly the collections from the same shall be allocated towards empowering the girl child. Harish Lalchandani, Vice President marketing, Mahindra & Mahindra saidOur aim is to build a differentiated authentic brand. In order to do that, there has been a significant shift in the way that we approach the market. We have been focusing on adapting new and innovative ways of marketing especially digital marketing’’.

Similar step was taken by Makemytrip, a travel company, on top of that set in motion virtual vacation NFTs valuing at INR14,999 (USD 190 approx.).

On April 7 2022, Tanishq became the first Indian jewelry brand to set its foot in Metaverse by launching its recent collection titled ‘Romance of Polki’, where three dimensional designs were displayed for the general audience by scanning a QR code. Ajay Chawla, CEO, jewelry division, stated that,

‘‘It is another construct in the virtual world. While e-commerce is basically a transaction management and happens through omnichannel routes often today, the metaverse is a space where brands can create assets and interact in an immersive engaging format through cryptos, NFTs, and engage the audience through AR and VR impactfully’’.

Indian Companies: Leading development of the Metaverse

While many Indian companies have been proactive in creating a Metaversal presence, what is even more encouraging is the fact that several Indian IT companies have been at the forefront of creation of Metaverses of their own, by providing innovative platforms, which are exclusively made in India (in fact echoing that Indian notion of AatmaNirbhar Bharat, i.e. a self-reliant India!).

Startups like Loka, an application designed for its users to commence interaction with the rest of the world through a gaming feature providing for real locations and experiences to the players.

Another Company, Ikonz, a financial platform pointing at monetizing digital assets into the Metaverse through NFTs.

Wall App, is a distinct application promoting social interaction among its users by eradicating any chances of third party interventions.

In fact, India’s first Metaverse Wedding took place in a homemade/ domestic Metaverse platform, i.e. the Yug Metaverse!

Due Diligence And Preparations For Entering The Metaverse – Brand Protection

In a virtual plane where every design/image/content is a click away from getting stolen, it becomes imperative for businesses to zealously safeguard and enhance their Intellectual Property. As has been demonstrated by the ongoing MetaBirkins saga in the USA, issues of IP misuse and infringement in the Metaverse are very real, and there is a pressing need for entities to take proactive steps to safeguard their brands in the Metaverse.

One such important way of protecting ones brands in the Metaverse is to file trademark applications for relevant goods and services, prior to launching a brand’s Metaversal offering, as well as offerings such as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Indian businesses have been very proactive in securing their IP rights for such goods and services. For instance, please see below a few examples of Metaverse related filings done by Mahindra And Mahindra Limited recently:

Preparations For Entering The Metaverse –A Chief Metaverse Officer (CMO):

In order to monitor web 3.O, the role of the newly minted position of CMO or a Chief Metaverse Office, is an integral one, which businesses have already begin to fill. Big global brands such as Zepeto, MetaFrames, Shadow Factory, etc., have already hired CMOs, and there are ongoing developments regarding the same from other brands such as Amazon, Disney and Nike.

A CMO has a dual role to play, which hypothetically goes beyond the traditional ambit of a Chief Marketing Officer. Where organizations like Dell, Virbela and Starwood Hotels are spending millions building a digital space for interaction, standards of accountability have to be established depending on needs and specializations required. This demands for a strategist having a combined expertise of Information Officer and Technological Officer to assist in navigating for better reflection of Intellectual property and business. For more information on such CMOs, you may access our earlier article on the topic here.

The concept of Metaverse might seem far removed for some industries and businesses, however, its prominence and need will only grow with the passage of time, as the world slowly tilts towards Web 3.0. It is exciting to see how things transpire in this direction in the coming months and years, which would see the Metaverse as well as utilities such as blockchain becoming closely intertwined with day to businesses and customer engagement. The time is ripe for businesses to take note of these developments and accordingly take steps to mark their presence in this new digital and virtual world.

Vikrant Rana is the Managing Partner and Pranit Biswas is the Managing Associate at S.S. Rana & Co.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news