You no longer need to carry a wallet to go shopping in India. Well, mostly. Whether you are shopping from a street vendor or at a branded showroom in a luxury mall, now all you need to do is scan the QR code on your Unified Payments Interface (UPI) application and initiate a transaction using your PIN on your phone.
You can no longer make an excuse of leaving your wallet at home to make your friend take that bait! It has just been five years since its launch, but now almost 60% of all digital transactions are done through UPI in India. India has the third-largest online shopper base globally, behind only China and the US. In terms of digital transformation, India has been leapfrogging to the front!
The latest in India's bid for digitalisation is the ONDC project initiated by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.
What is ONDC?
ONDC—Open Network for Digital Commerce, as the name suggests—is an open source initiative by the Union government to democratize the ecommerce industry where every business—small, medium or big—gets an equal and fair opportunity to thrive and flourish.
ONDC hopes to act as an enabler of ecommerce expansion by getting more participants and industry players to do commerce with each other. They plan to do this by setting up open source protocols to standardize all aspects of ecommerce, including product cataloguing, price discovery, vendor matching, and order management. It aims to help all the sellers gain access to all the buyers on the platform of their choice once they have all come aboard the ONDC network.
In other words, a seller doesn't have to register on every available ecommerce platform to gain access to more buyers. As a consumer, you can find all things you need on a single ONDC-enabled platform, whether you are looking to buy grocery from a hyper-local vendor or an exquisite rug from a home decor boutique. You also get to compare prices of the same item from different websites on the same platform! As long as the sellers are part of the ONDC network, you can search and order both from any ONDC-enabled buyer application even if the sellers aren't registered on the same ecommerce platform. By virtue of being part of the ONDC network, the sellers get to showcase their products on all ONDC-enabled buyer applications.
How exactly does ONDC work?
The ONDC network currently has three main components:
- Open registry - This application will maintain the list of participants in the ONDC network
- Buyer- and seller-side applications
- The buyer-side app acts like the marketplace for the buyers to do their transactions
- The seller-side app receives buyer requests, interacts with sellers, and deals with the supply side of the transaction
Technology service providers/partners - These will help facilitate or develop ONDC-compatible seller and buyer applications
What is Zoho Commerce's role in ONDC?
It was a straightforward decision for Zoho Commerce to be part of the ecommerce revolution. As a technology service provider, we hope to facilitate hassle-free registration and onboarding of our customers/sellers to the ONDC network. Our Commerce customers stand to gain access to more buyers and subsequently more sales by virtue of being on the ONDC network. With Zoho Commerce, integration to ONDC is a simple single-click process to become a part of game-changing ecommerce ecosystem. Our support team will help you get registered as a network participant so that your inventory can be seamlessly integrated to the ONDC-enabled buyer-side applications like PayTm and PhonePe that have joined the network.
Why should you be part of the ONDC network?
The economy is booming. India recently overtook the United Kingdom as the fifth-largest economy. If the 20th century was considered America's, global consensus is that the 21st century belongs to India mainly due to its demographic dividend.
Naturally, for entrepreneurs, going digital in a booming economy like India is a no-brainer. It is no wonder then that ecommerce in India is expected to grow manifold. It's the present and future of commerce. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the growth.
If you are a small or medium business owner, the natural line of thinking for selling online would likely be to test waters on social media or register as a seller with the major ecommerce players like Amazon, Flipkart, and a few other platforms depending on the budget at your disposal. You then hope that consumers who access these platforms will somehow find your products and actually buy them. Of course, you will have to pay to register, pay to feature in top searches, and pay a commission fee to the platform for every sale. After navigating through all the obstacles, if you do happen to have a best-seller at hand, you would then sincerely hope that the platform doesn't turn to unfair practices to start procuring, promoting and selling similar products through its online brand. If that happens, the honeymoon period is over, folks! Your sales take a hit and you find the ecommerce platform not so viable for your business any more.
How do you stop the ecommerce giants from taking advantage of small and medium business owners? A logical option would be to set up your own ecommerce store to take control of all aspects of your business. But that comes with its own challenges.
How do you gain visibility for your brand? How do you gain access to the millions of buyers that the dominant ecommerce platforms have accrued through years of efforts? How do you enjoy the best of both the worlds? ONDC may be your solution.
How is ONDC different from marketplaces like Amazon or Flipkart?
Firstly, ONDC is not a platform, nor will it act as a gatekeeper. According to them, it is a protocol that aims for a paradigm shift from an "operator-driven monolithic platform-centric model to a facilitator-driven inter-operable, decentralized network" of participants. It essentially tries to take the power back from marketplaces that act as operators and hand it instead to the individual actors in an ecommerce transaction—the sellers, the logistics providers, and the buyers. With a decentralised model, there is scope for the entry of more logistics providers, packaging entities, and last-mile delivery partners.
What if more players enter logistics, packaging, and last-mile delivery? Sellers will be able to offer faster deliveries at a better price point. Hyper-local retailers, or your local kirana stores, do not require to set up an ecommerce ecosystem to start going digital.
Lower infrastructure costs, more autonomy, better pricing, and faster delivery—it's a win-win for all.
What is ONDC's scope for growth?
The main objective of ONDC is to get more MSMEs to do digital commerce, paving the way for an ecommerce revolution in the country. According to an ONDC strategy paper, during its outreach programme, it found out that about 1.4 crore kirana stores account for 80% of the retail sector in India, but only 10% of them have taken the digital route. The Gross Merchandising Value (GMV) for the digital commerce retail market in India was USD 38 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to USD 200 billion by 2026. That's a lot of growth in a short span of time, and we wouldn't want you to miss out on such a big opportunity.