Can open networks for digital commerce take over Amazon and Walmart?

According to Arvind Gupta, Head of Digital India Foundation, a public platform is something that revolves around the concept of openness, standard and trust. It is supported by the government and not by a private entity. There are around nine platforms with over a billion users each across the globe. Five of them are in the United States and four in China. And none of them are backed by the government. With Aadhaar, India has built the world’s first and largest public digital platform. It is now used in banks, KYC and several other areas. This led to a kind of digital revolution, like the birth of UPI which ended the duopoly of two international operators in India. It allows you to send or receive money regardless of the payment platforms on which you are registered. And now Nandan Nilekani – who helped the government create biometric identification for nearly 1.4 billion people after co-founding Infosys – believes the Open Network for Digital Commerce or ONDC meets all the criteria for the next revolution and disruption in India. It has government commitment, market conditions are poor, and there is a massive shift to e-commerce post-pandemic. ONDC seeks to level the playing field for small merchants in the country’s fragmented but fast-growing $1 trillion retail market. In a lecture, Nilekani recently said that the ONDC is very similar to the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) – which is also a non-profit Section 8 corporation. Giving some details, Nilekani said that the ONDC will put in place the ground rules, network participation rules, obligation and dispute resolution. It will have a top-notch set of protocols to govern online trading. This will lead the country to the transaction-oriented Internet from the Western model of the Internet based on advertising. The small-scale implementation of the ONDC began on Friday last week. This pilot project is being carried out across Delhi, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Bhopal and Shillong. It will then be launched in 100 cities over a period of six months. ONDC will define protocols in critical areas such as price discovery, supplier matching and cataloging, apparently open source.

So you ideally get an open network with open specifications and protocols. Obviously, there is a lot of stress on the “open” part.

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