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India’s Open Network for Digital Commerce to be Beta-Tested

Image credit: Press Information Bureau

The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Piyush Goyal, recently chaired a meeting to review the progress of the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC). It is a non-profit company established by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) to develop open e-commerce.

According to a press release, it was apprised that since the alpha launch in five cities in April, ONDC has been testing with a closed user group for end-to-end execution to understand their fulfilment. ONDC expects the number of network participants to substantially increase to more than 30 in the coming weeks. Building on this, ONDC plans to start beta-testing the network with public users in limited areas.

Goyal noted that while continuing the various network development initiatives, the organisation must keep in mind that the basic purpose of ONDC is to assist the small, undigitised trader, who must be helped in their digital transformation journey. The aim is to digitise these traders and enable them to avail opportunities offered by the e-commerce ecosystem.

He said that existing e-commerce platforms are popular because they remain consumer-focused. They have created robust trust in their platforms based on their ability to deliver on promises made about products, fulfilment of orders in time, no-questions-asked returns policies, and consumer-friendly refunds and cancellations. ONDC will be tested against these benchmarks. ONDC must create consumer trust through robust mechanisms for ensuring the redressal of grievances of consumers and enforcing transparent policies for returns, refunds, and cancellations, he added. These policies are to be implemented at the network level.

DPIIT has been directed to work with all state governments to create awareness about the utility of ONDC and devise programmes in collaboration with state governments so that small traders, artisans, handicraftsmen, farmers, and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) from across the country are able to take full advantage of this open network.

Goyal also added that ONDC must work in active cooperation with traders and industry associations to implement the network at the ground level. Faster scaling up can be achieved with the cooperation of these associations. The government wants ONDC to work with the startup ecosystem to encourage and assist more entrepreneurs from across the country to develop e-commerce apps and assist their local traders. All government-supported incubators and other institutions and mechanisms working for innovation and entrepreneurship should be leveraged.

Earlier this week, Goyal reviewed the progress of the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal. As OpenGov Asia reported, among several other things, various functionalities of the portal, as well as the timeliness in procurement and delivery, were reviewed in detail. Launched in 2016, GeM is an online platform for the public procurement of goods and services in India. The initiative aims to create an open and transparent platform for government officials. Currently, there are around 62,000 government buyers on the platform.

GeM’s initiatives for compressive monitoring and anomaly detection in procurement, which are based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), were also reviewed. They detect and report potential collusion and fraud. Goyal said that strong legal and punitive actions must be taken against buyers and suppliers that conduct fraudulent activities.

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