The Government of India’s idea of creating a network of market participants, the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), seems to be a big hit with sellers and buyers of goods. In the one year that ONDC has been in operation, over 31,000 merchants with 37 lakh products to sell have registered themselves, according to Thampy Koshy, Managing Director and CEO, ONDC, has said. 

Furthermore, the network has been taken up big time by auto and cab aggregators like Ola and Uber—over 56,000 vehicles have become a part of ONDC, in Bengaluru and Kochi. Illustratively, in the last one week, the daily average rides have come to 20,000, Koshy said. Also, 46 ‘network participants’ (such as Delhivery, Dunzo, e-Samudaay, PayTM, and Snapdeal) have joined ONDC, he said, on Friday.  

Also read: PhonePe launches new shopping app Pincode on ONDC

Koshy’s speech on ONDC was organised by Chennai International Centre, a discussion platform for the city’s intelligentsia. 

ONDC is meant to provide equal opportunities to any seller and buyer to access technologies that are typically deployed by large e-commerce platforms. Even small kirana shops can participate. Koshy pointed out that a seller could come in one of two ways – either directly, with his own digital catalogue or through an aggregator. The buyer will benefit by having access to a much larger seller place and therefore better choice and price. “You can get nice Kanchipuram silk sarees for better prices,” he said. 

He noted that for all the hullabaloo about e-commerce, only 5 per cent of purchases and 2 per cent of sales happen over e-commerce platforms. “In India, more than 12 million sellers earn their livelihood by selling or reselling products and services. However, only 15,000 of these sellers have enabled e-commerce,” notes ONDC’s website. “E-retail has been out of reach for the majority of sellers, especially from small towns and rural areas,” it says.  

Further, since all customers are visible to all sellers, no seller has exclusive customer data, Koshy said. 

Also read: ONDC to have mechanism to identify, penalise e-commerce entities breaking rules

ONDC began its journey on April 29, 2022, when it was alpha-tested. “We started in a small way with just groceries and food, but today we have (products of) fashion and electronics and in a couple of months we will have financial products too,” Koshy later said in a chat with businessline

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has just engaged with ONDC, he said. Asked if one could buy railway tickets via ONDC, he said, “I don’t know what they (IRCTC) want to do, but they might come as a buying platform—they can let their customers buy many things.” 

Payment and delivery security 

One question that kept coming up repeatedly from the audience was about the delivery assurance for buyers and payment security to the sellers. Koshy stressed that primarily all transactions are traceable. It is too tough for small (less known) sellers to come on their own; they usually come via an aggregator. The aggregator would have all details of them—any defaulter could be called out. As for payment, the buying platforms can make sure that the customers pay.