DR. PRADEEP SALGAONKAR lists out the various advantages of ONDC and its key features in providing a level-playing field for all e-commerce outfits
Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is the new buzzword in the world of e-commerce. Though not popular at present – as it is in its nascent stage, ONDC is expected to take the online business by storm. ONDC has been a significant step towards revolutionising the way consumers will/are accessing goods and services online. It is a government-backed initiative aimed at creating a digital platform that promotes fair competition, transparency, and accessibility for both businesses and consumers. It will contribute in a big way to consumer benefits, and shaping a more inclusive and consumer-friendly e-commerce landscape. ONDC is the next big thing with its ability to bring buyers and consumers all together at one open platform pushing e-commerce to another level. In other words, it is a single platform that will change the protocol for product cataloguing, vendor search, choice of merchandise across sellers and price comparison with an open network like Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
As per Wikipedia, ONDC was incorporated on 31st December 2022, as a private non-profit, Section 8 Company established by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of Government of India, to develop open e-commerce. It received initial investment from Quality Council of India and Protean e-Gov Technologies Limited (formerly NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited). Indian Government, through ONDC, aims to change and revamp the value chain, and e-commerce operation standards, augment logistics efficiency, and provide enhanced consumer value. Presently, ONDC is in test stage, being introduced in few numbers of cities, the goal being to reach over 100 cities soon. To get access to ONDC benefits, sellers or the participating apps must register or join the open network to get access to this UPI model which allows bigger and better competition.
Bengaluru was the first city to use ONDC back in September 2022, where consumers could place their orders in two domains – groceries and restaurants – through any buyer apps participating on the ONDC network. Now, the platform is available in multiple cities and people are using it to get the best of deals. As of July 2023, there were 14 buyer applications, 41 seller applications with 60,000 plus sellers registered on them offering 66 lakhs plus SKUs, and 7 logistics applications operating on ONDC. Some of the prominent buyer applications are PayTm, Mystore, Yatri, Smartshop, Craftsvilla, NammaYatri etc. Among the seller applications, prominent ones are Sellerapp, Yatri, Mystore, Ushop, Snapdeal, Digit, ITCstorein etc. and the logistics applications include ekart, Dunzo, Delhivery, Grab, Loadshare, and Shiprocket. This is a single network where all parties i.e buyers, sellers and suppliers are connected with each other and it permits cross platform selling and buying.
Some of the key features of ONDC includes the role of ONDC in restricting digital and e-commerce monopolies by providing a level playing field to all big or small players alike, rather more opportunities to small scale sellers as they can showcase their products to a wider customer base, it creates a platform-centric system with an open network, enhances digital visibility for sellers and buyers, more and wider choice for buyers, wider e-commerce interaction through an open network and more wider market place.
With ONDC a consumer is no longer stuck to the limitation of browsing varied platforms like Amazon or Flipkart or Meesho separately through different apps, to search for a particular product and then compare their prices separately, or search separately for other options offered, before finding the right deal. With ONDC the consumer can easily access all information required about a particular product from all sellers offering that product along with prices and benefits on a single platform without having to move to a different platform.
Other benefits consumers would get owing to ONDC include:
Wide Range of Products: One of the primary advantages that ONDC brings to consumers is the enhanced access to a diverse range of products and services on a single platform. By providing a common platform for all sellers, from big corporations to small businesses, ONDC offers a broader selection of products to consumers. This variety thus enriches the consumer experience and also promotes healthy competition among sellers, leading to competitive pricing, better quality products, and better customer service.
Transparency and Trust: ONDC mandates that all sellers registered on the platform comply with a set of business practices, thus ensuring transparency in all transactions with buyers. Consumer trust is paramount in business and more so in the e-commerce space, owing to non-personal transactions, and ONDC strives to reinforce this trust through transparency. This set of transparent business practices includes clear pricing, accurate product descriptions, and fair return policies. Such transparency is essential as it protects consumers from deceptive practices, cheating, overpricing etc. and tries to foster a sense of trust and confidence in online transactions.
Inter-operability: Using a single platform, customers will have the benefits of accessing and buying products from across sellers, a feature, which at present, is not available to consumers. ONDC will enable ordering across platforms and sellers dealing in varied products at the same time without going to individual sellers or platforms.
Price Competition and Savings: ONDC’s marketplace model encourages price competition among sellers. This competition will result in better choice and lower prices for consumers. With various sellers vying for customers’ attention, now operating from single platform, consumers will find themselves benefiting from competitive pricing strategies, discounts, schemes and promotions offered by sellers. As a result, they will have better benefits, value for money and save some money on their purchases.
Ease of comparison: Another notable consumer benefit of ONDC is the ease of comparison between products of different sellers. The platform allows consumers to compare prices, reviews, and product specifications across various sellers, all in one place. They don’t have to move on to two or three different platforms, like at present what is happening. This streamlines the decision-making process and empowers consumers to make informed choices, leading to higher satisfaction with their purchases.
Faster and secure payments and deliveries: ONDC uses block-chain technology and virtually removes any third party payment gateways, which makes the payment quick, hassle-free, and secure. Besides, the ONDC platform can be integrated with the Aadhaar Payments Network (APN) which makes it possible to verify consumers’ identity and avoid financial malpractice. Likewise, buyers get access to faster deliveries due to the availability of hyper-local retailers.
Inclusivity and Rural Outreach
ONDC is designed to bridge the digital divide and promote inclusivity. It extends its reach to remote and rural areas, connecting sellers and consumers who might not have had access to digital commerce before. This outreach is particularly valuable for rural consumers in underserved regions, as it provides them with a wider range of products and services, which otherwise they wouldn’t get easily.
Data Protection and Privacy
ONDC places a strong emphasis on safeguarding consumer data and ensuring that it is not misused. In the digital age, consumer data protection and privacy are of utmost importance. ONDC implements stringent data protection measures and regulatory guidelines to ensure consumer data protection.
ONDC is a game-changer in the world of e-commerce, offering numerous benefits to consumers and sellers alike. By creating open-source, robust and decentralised digital infrastructure, ONDC democratises the Indian e-commerce industry. Further, being a single platform supported by the central government provides a very broad scope for its scalability and success. As e-commerce continues to evolve and grow, ONDC stands as a beacon of consumer-centric progress, fostering inclusiveness of buyers, sellers and other stakeholders alike, thereby reshaping the digital shopping landscape for the better.