At ET India Rising, which is powered by Visa and features a series of defining conversations with top leaders in business and policy where they frame their vision for India at 100, Koshy painted a roadmap for the future of ecommerce in India, with ONDC – which opened to consumers in Bengaluru in September this year as part of the network’s beta testing – poised to cement India as a ‘pioneer in this planet’ for digital commerce.
ONDC, which promotes open-source networks for all aspects of digital commerce, will enable buyers and sellers to move away from the existing platform-centric model to a facilitator-driven interoperable decentralised network. The pilot project is currently live in 15 cities, including Delhi, Shillong, Coimbatore, Bhopal, Bengaluru, and Lucknow.
ONDC, Koshy said, is geared to be an ecosystem builder that is defined by ‘equal opportunity for all,’ powered by a ‘trust-building mechanism’ that ignites entrepreneurial passion, and serves as a benchmark for the world.
Koshy was speaking to Miloni Bhatt, Editor – Digital Broadcast, EconomicTimes.com at ET India Rising, where some of India’s most influential decision makers share their outlook and insights on the challenges, opportunities, and trends that will define India’s rise to a global economic powerhouse, buoyed by three key pillars of the economy: financial services, MSMEs, and infrastructure and manufacturing.
Having been part of a think tank and powered several tectonic shifts in generational structures, Koshy is a digital pioneer and among the venerable names behind epoch-defining projects such as Aadhaar, the demat discourse, and the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
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The great equaliser, Koshy has played an important role in empowering millions of disenfranchised sections of the Indian population, who were earlier cut off from the formal economy. And, by integrating previously left out sections of populations and empowering millions in its wake, Koshy’s vision is aligned with the vision of building for a new India, an India of equal opportunities, through ONDC.
Outlining the mega trends and opportunities that will help accelerate the adoption of ONDC, Koshy said, “There’s an extremely strong startup ecosystem, who’s looking for opportunities to really innovate and not limit their innovation to only a few pockets. Innovations can find scale only if they’re a part of an ecosystem. So, they’re all looking for an opportunity but everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed based on what they have to offer, not because they have some captive control. And that is already there, that’s in ONDC. ”
This is where ONDC comes into the picture in its capacity and propensity to support all digital commerce stakeholders, from small and medium businesses to startups, logistics companies, banks, fintech firms, telecom services, and technology companies. The vision is to create an inclusive ecosystem and to accelerate the ecosystem play by boosting a broader cross-sectional participation of one and all in the digital economy, said Koshy.
A future-ready project, ONDC is reimagining the ecommerce paradigm where buyers and sellers can fulfil their unique and individual needs without the overarching control of marketplace behemoths like Amazon and Flipkart determining buyer-seller behaviour and the play of algorithm-centric reward systems.
Such a robust reimagining of the ecommerce landscape would address two issues at heart – that of fueling an inclusive digital economy and the empowerment of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
He explained, “ONDC provides an opportunity for broad-based participation in the digital economy for bankers, telecos, etc. who have a large number of digital consumers, and who could not hitherto extend their outreach to those digital consumers because they had no captive sellers. So, it is an opportunity for them to offer more services. If you look at the industry, they have had only a few options to be in digital commerce, at the mercy of one or two entities who drive the marketplace in a certain fashion.”
Still, ONDC, touted to be a game changer by none other than the ‘CTO of India’, Nandan Nilekani, remains a new idea and requires a great deal of ‘evangelism’ to ensure it becomes adoption-ready for a broad cross-section of people from banking to telecom industries, among others, Koshy said.
He outlined a roadmap where “…they all become collaborators and co-conspirators because when you have a solution that is going to help a large cross-section of people to win, winning at this game then is to everyone’s benefit.”
While ONDC is committed to finding solutions to a lack of marketplace access for small and medium businesses, the reality, he contends, is that not everyone is equally digitally capable to take advantage of the opportunity presented by ONDC. So, the challenge lies in ensuring a certain level of digital readiness through various initiatives aimed at small businesses and in achieving a threshold volume by tapping early adopters.
“If the ONDC model succeeds, then I believe anybody who has a product or service to sell will make it digitally visible to an open network, and then the different kinds of buying platforms which represent various kinds of buyers will try to help them. So, it will become just an action, a natural extension… My eventual goal and dream is that our country becomes a benchmark for the world,” Koshy said, as he signed off with his thoughts on the future and laying the foundations of a digital commerce breakthrough.