The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), the government-backed e-commerce protocol, on Friday launched a repository of online training material for merchants called the ONDC Academy. ONDC has been conceived—funded initially by banks—as a counterweight against large e-retail, quick commerce and ride-hailing firms. The repository is stored on an ONDC website as well as on YouTube, with assistance from the National Stock Exchange.
As ONDC grows, it has started allowing multiple sellers and buyers to hook into a common protocol—rather than on a single platform. The government has cited concentration risks of large e-commerce platforms, as well as “rent seeking” behaviour. At the same time, Thampy Koshy, the Chief Executive Officer of ONDC, said it was necessary to widen the scope of e-commerce to smaller merchants.
“We’re not too representative of India as a whole,” Mr. Koshy told an audience of reporters and ONDC partners. “We’re a segment of privileged people. That is why the penetration of e-commerce buyers is only 5-7%, and that of sellers is 1-2%.” In order to reach the critical scale where ONDC can sustain, Mr. Koshy said, more merchants would have to be trained in using it.
Over the last few months, discounts from a few seller partners drove up demand significantly for apps on the protocol, posing a potential challenge to firms like Zomato and Amazon. Mr. Koshy said that there were around 70,000 rideshare partners, such as auto and taxi drivers, and 50,000 sellers on the platform. He expects the latter number to grow to one lakh by the end of the year.
Training may not be the most impactful way to increase the number of sellers on ONDC though; Mr. Koshy teased two significant partnerships that may expand demand significantly among merchants: firstly, a partnership with India Post, which he said may take a few months; and second, a partnership with the Government e-Marketplace, known as GeM, from which Union and State government departments often procure goods.