News & Analysis

ONDC Launch – What’s Next for India’s Big Idea

It's been ten days since the ONDC went live across some pin codes in Bengaluru. What's in store for this big idea next?

Post the hype, comes the real story. Now that all the hype around the open network for digital commerce (ONDC) launch and its impact on eCommerce as a whole is done and dusted, it’s time for a reality check. Of course, nobody expected the open networks to get off to a flying start – especially in its preferred city of launch – given that Bengaluru is already digitally savvy and boasts of every conceivable app delivering every possible product or service. 

The adoption was expected to be slow as was the case of the UPI payment gateway, which got a big boost following the lockdowns when laying one’s hands on physical currency was not just tough but also not without its risks, given the Covid-19 protocols and the manner in which the disease had spread across two vicious cycles. 


Big cities or small towns? 

However, what does make it intriguing are reports that the ONDC could be considering launches in Delhi and Mumbai, which would mean that they want to conquer the territories where eCommerce is already a big hit. Alternatively, the powers that be could be concerned about issues such as complaint redress on bad players or delivery issues in smaller towns. 

In fact, sources tell us that in parallel to the plans for another big city plunge, ONDC is also studying the possibility of launching in smaller cities such as Meerut and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and possibly even some states in the northeastern part of the country. However, they are currently tight-lipped about future launches, but are happy discussing other issues. 


Multilingual is the answer

A report in the Economic Times said the ONDC is looking to add a B2B layer to its network as well as pushing more regional languages into it. CEO Thomas Koshy said the network could consider adding Indic language support for both buyer and seller applications using some of the existing solutions in the market. 

The not-for-profit organization is considering partnerships with buyer apps that offer multiple language support on their platforms that can automatically enable catalogs suited to the location where the buyer is.  There are also reports that ONDC is looking for text-to-audio solutions, translations and visual solutions via these partnerships. 

Readers would recall that Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal, who has chaperoned the ONDC over the past several months, was the first to suggest the inclusion of regional languages on grounds that this could be one means of scaling up to smaller towns and cities and getting merchants and their customers on board. 

Both Amazon and Flipkart have limited access to regional languages and that too only for the bigger brands on the platforms. 


A B2B layer in the offing?

At another level, the ONDC is perceived as a solution to enhance the footprint for MSMEs across the country and even other geographies. In the past, officials have made the right noises about onboarding small merchants through partnerships with banks whereby the latter could get their customers onboarded through support from app makers or by creating their own. 

However, for the moment, there is a lot of noise around what could be next, but the levels of clarity haven’t come about. Maybe, we could once again see some action either close to Diwali (in two weeks time) or post that as the country leads towards the New Year. Suffice to say that ONDC would continue to make news, at least for the next 12 months. 

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