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ONDC Pilot: India Digitalising Fair Price Shops

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In a significant stride towards digitalisation, Fair Price Shops (FPSs) in the Una and Hamirpur districts of Himachal Pradesh have become the first to onboard the Open Network Digital Commerce (ONDC), marking a pivotal moment in India’s digital commerce landscape.

Spearheaded by Shri Sanjeev Chopra, Secretary of the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, this pilot initiative aims to modernise FPS operations and provide additional income streams for dealers while enhancing beneficiary satisfaction.

The launch event, conducted virtually across 11 FPSs, signifies a crucial step towards leveraging digital platforms to transform traditional retail practices. Shri Chopra emphasised the potential of ONDC to empower FPS dealers by granting them visibility in the digital marketplace, access to a wider customer base, and the ability to compete on par with larger retailers and e-commerce platforms.

This initiative not only enhances the efficiency of FPS operations but also addresses challenges faced by beneficiaries in making online purchases, offering them the convenience of ordering through FPS dealers. With MicroSave Consulting (MSC) providing support, the success of this pilot project in Himachal Pradesh is poised to set a precedent for statewide and nationwide adoption, paving the way for a more inclusive and digitally empowered retail ecosystem.

As of the end of last year, the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has successfully onboarded over 2.3 Lakh sellers and service providers, spanning small, medium, and large enterprises, as well as mobility drivers, facilitated through various seller network participants. Distinctly, ONDC operates as a network rather than a platform, enabling the seamless transaction of both products and services without a centralised monitoring system.

To foster awareness and facilitate adaptation among small businesses, ONDC has implemented various initiatives, including collaboration with industry associations for nationwide awareness workshops. It also works closely with state and union territory departments, appointing Nodal Officers to drive state-level engagements and organising awareness campaigns and workshops across the country.

Additionally, ONDC’s Feet on Street programme supports Network Participants in educating sellers about ONDC’s benefits, facilitating onboarding, and offering hand-holding support, while the ONDC Academy serves as an educational hub, providing guidance and best practices for a successful e-commerce journey for all participants.

The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) initiative seeks to advance open networks for the comprehensive exchange of goods and services across digital or electronic platforms. Embracing an open-source approach, ONDC will leverage open specifications and network protocols, free from any platform dependencies.

At its core, ONDC is built upon open protocols designed to cover every facet of the goods and services exchange process, akin to established protocols like the hypertext transfer protocol for internet information exchange, simple mail transfer protocol for email exchange, and a unified payment interface for transactions.

These open protocols will serve as the backbone for establishing public digital infrastructure through open registries and network gateways, facilitating seamless information exchange between providers and consumers. Users will have the flexibility to utilise any compatible application of their choosing for information exchange and transactions on the ONDC platform.

By transcending the current platform-centric digital commerce model, ONDC empowers buyers and sellers to engage digitally without being constrained to a single platform or application.

Standardising operations such as cataloguing, inventory management, order processing, and fulfilment, ONDC protocols will enable small businesses to leverage any ONDC-compatible applications, freeing them from platform-centric policies. This fosters greater discoverability and business conduct options for small enterprises, while also facilitating the adoption of digital commerce among those not currently integrated into digital networks.

Expected to enhance inclusivity and accessibility in e-commerce, ONDC enables consumers to discover sellers, products, and services through any compatible application or platform, expanding consumer choice. It also allows consumers to match demand with the nearest available supply and select preferred local businesses, thus promoting operational standardisation, local supplier inclusion, logistics efficiency, and overall value enhancement for consumers.

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