India may soon have a single e-commerce platform that will bring together buyers, sellers, logistics players, and payment facilitators, empowering consumers with a wide array of products, vendors, and price options.
The proposed platform will save customers from coming under the pressure of monopolistic competitions, and will also offer them convenience as they need not use diverse apps or search on various e-commerce platforms to find products and services of their choice.
The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is a not-for-profit initiative started by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), in collaboration with tech leaders and start-up entrepreneurs during the pandemic. Its proponents believe that India has the opportunity to show the world how to democratise and combine the entire digital commerce on a single platform for the convenience of customers and other stakeholders, something similar to how UPI (Unified Payments Interface) has broken down the monopolies of banks and financial institutions.
Addressing a media conference here on Friday, Anuraj Jain, Secretary, DPIIT said the development of an interoperable system, which will be an open network for digital commerce, was under way. This will be contrary to the existing close-loop digital commerce systems.
The ONDC project completed alpha tests in 85 towns across the country, and in April this year, it was soft launched in Bengaluru for beta testing. Some 15 to 20 entrepreneurs, logistics partners, vendors, mom and pop stores are joining the network and over 2,000 digital commerce transactions, mostly grocery and food, were carried out on the network, said T. Koshi, Managing Director & CEO, ONDC.
Speaking on the occasion, Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, said this open network would have the ability to transform e-commerce not only in India, but also in the whole world.
“It’s a marriage between buyers and sellers and payment platforms. This will connect small sellers with big buyers. This will give customers a much larger market place and good price options,’‘ said the minister.
Better price options
Explaining how the existing e-commerce platforms functioned, he said, “When you use e-commerce, you go to a platform where you will get to see only the products that are sold on that platform, because its algorithms will guide you only towards certain products.’‘
However, on ONDC network, buyers would be able to choose from multiple platforms, what is best for them, at the best price, based on their preferred time and location, he explained.
He said over 60 million kirana stores and small retailers in the country were under existential threats because of the advent of big format, large ecommerce companies with a lot of financial strength and muscle to be able to do predatory pricing, run discounts and do very attractive marketing.
India was the largest consumer of data today, Mr. Goyal said. “We have the highest number of financial transactions digitally compared to any other part of the world. Last month alone, I am told we did digital financial payments of over ₹600 crore, that’s probably more than what most of the large economies combined are doing.’‘
When asked about the time frame set for a country-wide roll out of ONDC platform, the Minister said, “It is something that we are trying for the first time. It is a process, which cannot give you results overnight. These are a massive game changing technologies, which need a long testing phase.’‘