The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) which is likely to revolutionise India's ecommerce ecosystem is expected to be launched soon, said Anurag Jain, Secretary of the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
In an interview to Mint, the secretary noted that work is in progress on the concept. He, however, refrained for giving a timeline for the launch. He said that in a panel discussion during the Startup India Innovation Week (January 10-16, 2022), several suggestions were given for the structure of ONDC which the department will consider.
It "will come out hopefully soon, as and when all the preparations are done and the approvals are received", Jain said. Explaining the concept of ONDC, the official said that all the seller platforms and buying platforms will work through one open protocol and they can get connected through ONDC.
"It would provide an open network and if one has to buy a product, ONDC will show all the options of various platforms for the product and the consumer can choose what he or she wants."
He was of the view that ONDC will do to digital commerce and retail business what Unified Payments Interface launched in 2016 did to the payments ecosystem in the country. It will "democratise" the retail business in the country, the Secretary said.
Noting that the open network will empower both the consumers and sellers, he said: "If such an open network comes, it ends the monopoly of big closed loop platforms."
ONDC is also expected to result in cost saving for sellers along with providing better price discovery for consumers.
Talking about the just concluded Startup India Innovation Week, organised by DPIIT, Jain said that the department received several suggestions from stakeholders in the ecosystem including from global venture capital funds during the roundtable chaired by Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, which the government will discuss and consider going ahead.
"Lot of good ideas have come. We also got lot of good suggestions during the global roundtable of venture capital funds. We will get those examined in consultation with the ministry on how to take the system further," he said.
Exuding confidence over the growing startup fraternity in the country and their contribution to the economy, the DPIIT Secretary said that startups are going to be the key to India's prosperity.
"I see the biggest energy coming from the startups. They are the companies of the future and this is the movement which will take India towards the top of the world in the next 25 years."
He was of the view that innovation has always been a key feature in India and the combination of knowledge and innovation helps bring disruption which in turn aids produce "much higher growth".
Talking of the rapid strides by Indian startups in the recent years, Jain also cited the fact that India produced over 40 unicorns in 2021 over double the number in China during the same period, which stood at 20.
India currently has around 82 unicorns. During the inaugural ceremony of the weeklong programme, Commerce Minister Goyal asked the startup fraternity to nurture 75 more startups in 2022.
According the ministry, India has over 61,000 recognised startups spread across 55 industries, with 45% of them emerging from tier-2 and tier-3 cities.