India warns e-commerce giants, urges adoption of open network

India will use the “full force of the government” to promote the adoption of its open e-commerce network, cautioning e-commerce giants failing to join the initiative within the stipulated time frame may result in withdrawal of the offer.

The commerce minister of India Piyush Goyal reiterated his appeal to the e-commerce giants to join the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) and warned that at some stage “we will also have to cut off those who are left behind.”

ONDC is an Indian government-backed initiative that strives to democratize the e-commerce landscape by offering a zero-commission platform. Several players from the industry, including PhonePe and Paytm, have joined the interoperable network that allows buyers and sellers to do business regardless of the service they use.

Flipkart and Amazon India, the leading duo in the South Asian e-commerce arena, have thus far exhibited reticence in their engagement with the network.

“ONDC doesn’t threaten nobody. Even big commerce is not threatened by ONDC. It only opens the door to opportunities in more inclusive fashion for more people and businesses. I will encourage all e-commerce companies to join ONDC and join on time so that you’re not too late to join the train,” Goyal said.

Goyal also urged firms to use their marquee apps to join ONDC instead of launching new offerings.

“I would tell Koshy (the chief executive of ONDC) to exclude those e-commerce platforms which are not coming to the network with their main platforms. Some are building ONDC-specific platforms. That’s not our aim,” said Goyal. “If you do that, while you are taking the benefit of ONDC by availing of the sellers, but you are not giving your consumer base the benefit of choice of buying from any of the sellers.”

Monolithic technology platforms will never be able to offer the kind of opportunities and competition that a network of platforms like ONDC can, Goyal said.

“Instead of a siloed approach, where a winner takes it all, the humble effort of ONDC is to offer greater degree of discoverability, so that a consumer can discover more options, can discover better pricing and quality and similarly a seller will be able to discover more buyers across the country, maybe even in their neighborhood and then across the world.”