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03 Jun 2024

Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) – A Report

03 Jun 2024
Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) – A Report

What is ONDC?

The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is a pioneering initiative by the Government of India aimed at democratizing digital commerce and reducing monopolistic tendencies in the market. Launched with the vision to create a level playing field for all retailers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), ONDC seeks to enable buyers and sellers to be digitally visible and transact through an open network. This ambitious project represents a significant leap towards an inclusive digital economy where competition is fair, entry barriers are minimal, and consumer choice is paramount.

Objectives and Benefits

1. Promoting Inclusivity and Fair Competition: One of the primary objectives of ONDC is to prevent the dominance of a few e-commerce giants by providing equal opportunities to smaller retailers. This inclusivity fosters a competitive environment where services and prices can improve, benefiting consumers.

2. Enhancing Consumer Choice: ONDC enables consumers to access a wider range of products and services from various vendors across the country. This not only increases choice but also encourages competitive pricing and quality.

3. Boosting SME Participation: By lowering entry barriers, ONDC helps SMEs and local vendors participate in the digital economy, thus enhancing their reach and scalability without significant investment in technology.

4. Streamlining Operations: The network aims to standardize protocols for cataloging, inventory management, order management, and payment facilitation, making it easier for businesses to operate online seamlessly.

How It Works

ONDC is not an app or a marketplace in itself but a set of open protocols that can be adopted by any digital commerce platform. It functions as an interoperable framework allowing independent platforms to connect and transact with each other, similar to how the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) transformed digital payments in India. Retailers, regardless of their size, can list their products and services on this network, and consumers can access these through any participating platform or application.

Features of ONDC

The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) is a transformative initiative aimed at redefining the e-commerce landscape by fostering an open and interoperable ecosystem. This ambitious project seeks to democratize digital commerce, making it more inclusive and competitive by reducing entry barriers and preventing market dominance by a few large players. Here are some of the key features that define ONDC:

1. Open Protocol Framework

ONDC operates on an open protocol framework, which means it sets a standardized way for digital commerce transactions to occur across different platforms. This approach ensures that various software applications and services can interoperate seamlessly, allowing for a more fluid exchange of goods and services across the digital space.

2. Interoperability

A hallmark of ONDC is its ability to facilitate interoperability among different e-commerce platforms. Just like how the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) enables cross-platform financial transactions, ONDC allows consumers to access services and products from any participating retailer, regardless of the platform they are on. This feature is central to breaking down the walled gardens created by big e-commerce entities.

3. Inclusivity

ONDC is designed to level the playing field for all vendors, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and individual entrepreneurs. By providing a common platform that is accessible to everyone, it opens up opportunities for smaller players to compete on equal footing with larger corporations.

4. Consumer Choice

The network significantly enhances consumer choice by aggregating offerings from various sellers across different platforms. This not only increases the variety of products and services available to consumers but also fosters competitive pricing and improves service quality.

5. Decentralization

Unlike conventional e-commerce models that are centralized around specific companies or platforms, ONDC promotes a decentralized approach. This means that no single entity has control over the entire network, thereby preventing monopolistic practices and promoting a healthy competitive environment.

6. Privacy and Security

ONDC is built with a strong emphasis on privacy and security. The open network ensures that consumer data is protected and that transactions are secure. This is crucial for building trust and encouraging widespread adoption of the platform.

7. Efficiency and Scalability

By standardizing the way digital commerce is conducted, ONDC makes it easier for businesses to scale and reach a wider audience. The network’s efficiency in connecting buyers and sellers directly can lead to reduced costs and faster transactions.

8. Innovation and Flexibility

The open nature of ONDC encourages innovation by allowing developers and entrepreneurs to build upon the platform, creating new applications and services that can meet the evolving needs of consumers and businesses.

9. National and Global Reach

ONDC is designed to not only cater to the vast and diverse Indian market but also to set a precedent that could be followed globally. Its scalable model can potentially be adopted by other countries looking to democratize e-commerce and stimulate their digital economies.

10. Sustainability

By making the digital commerce ecosystem more competitive and inclusive, ONDC also supports sustainable economic development. It empowers local businesses, promotes regional products, and encourages responsible consumer practices.

In essence, ONDC’s features are aimed at creating a more accessible, fair, and efficient digital marketplace. By doing so, it holds the promise of transforming the e-commerce sector into a more vibrant, competitive, and innovative space, benefiting consumers and businesses alike.

Implementation and Challenges

While the initiative is ambitious and holds the potential to revolutionize e-commerce in India, its success depends on widespread adoption by retailers, platforms, and consumers alike. The government is actively working to onboard partners and create awareness about the benefits of joining the ONDC. However, challenges such as digital literacy, standardization of protocols, and ensuring robust cybersecurity measures are critical for its effective implementation.

Difference between the ONDC and Traditional E-Commerce Apps

FeatureONDCTraditional E-commerce Apps
Ownership and ControlDecentralized network without a central controlling authority.Centralized, owned and controlled by specific companies.
Access to SellersFacilitates access to any seller on the network, regardless of their platform.Limited to sellers that are registered or listed on the specific app.
InteroperabilityHigh interoperability allows consumers to shop across multiple platforms through a single interface.Low interoperability, with shopping limited within the app’s ecosystem.
Data PrivacyDesigned with a focus on privacy, limiting the aggregation of consumer data by any single platform.Platforms often collect extensive consumer data for targeted marketing and other purposes.
Market EntryLowers barriers to entry for new sellers, making it easier for small and medium enterprises to reach consumers.Higher barriers to entry due to competition, marketing costs, and platform fees.
Product and Service DiversityPotentially higher diversity as it aggregates offerings from across various platforms.Diversity is limited to the range of products and services available on the specific platform.
InnovationEncourages innovation by allowing developers to create interoperable applications and services.Innovation is often within the confines of the platform’s capabilities and policies.
Consumer ChoiceEnhances consumer choice by allowing access to a wider range of products and services from different platforms.Consumer choice is limited to the offerings available on the platform.
Pricing ModelCould lead to more competitive pricing due to increased visibility of alternatives and competition.Pricing can be competitive but is also influenced by platform policies, fees, and the degree of market control.
Scalability for SellersEnables sellers to scale quickly by being visible across multiple platforms without significant additional investment.Scaling often requires investment in marketing and compliance with multiple platform requirements.

This table highlights the fundamental differences between ONDC’s approach to digital commerce and the traditional e-commerce app model. ONDC’s framework aims to democratize digital commerce, making it more accessible and equitable for both sellers and buyers, whereas traditional e-commerce apps tend to centralize control and data.

The Road Ahead

As ONDC progresses, it is expected to empower not only the retail sector but also other domains such as food services, mobility, and more. The vision is to create a digital ecosystem that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, and consumer welfare. If successful, ONDC could serve as a global model for digital commerce, showcasing how technology can be leveraged to create more equitable economic opportunities for all stakeholders in the digital marketplace.

The Open Network for Digital Commerce is a forward-looking initiative that embodies the spirit of innovation and inclusivity. By fostering a more competitive and accessible digital marketplace, ONDC is poised to transform the landscape of e-commerce in India, benefiting consumers, retailers, and the economy at large.


1. In Which Cities is ONDC Currently Operable?

Answer: ONDC is being rolled out in phases across India, with the initiative initially launching in select cities before expanding nationwide. To find the most current list of cities where ONDC is operable, it’s recommended to visit the official ONDC website or contact the ONDC helpdesk. This phased approach allows ONDC to ensure a smooth rollout and address any operational challenges as they scale up.

2. How to Join ONDC as a Seller and Expand Your Business?

Answer: Sellers can join ONDC by registering through a participating platform or service provider that is ONDC-compliant. This registration process typically requires submitting your business details, GSTIN, and bank account information for payment processing. Joining ONDC enables sellers to access a broader customer base across multiple e-commerce platforms, leveraging the network’s standardized digital commerce protocols to expand their business reach and visibility.

3. What are the Key Benefits of ONDC for Consumers?

Answer: ONDC offers several benefits to consumers, including a wider variety of products and services, competitive pricing, and the convenience of accessing multiple retailers through a single interface. The initiative is also focused on enhancing consumer protection and privacy, ensuring a secure and trustworthy digital shopping environment.

4. Can ONDC Disrupt the Current E-Commerce Marketplace?

Answer: ONDC has the potential to significantly disrupt the current e-commerce marketplace by democratizing digital commerce. Its open and interoperable framework is designed to break down the monopolies of large e-commerce entities, leveling the playing field for smaller businesses and fostering a more competitive market that could lead to improved services and pricing for consumers.

5. How Does ONDC Ensure Security and Privacy of Transactions?

Answer: The security and privacy of transactions on ONDC are of utmost priority. The network adheres to strict data protection standards and employs advanced cybersecurity measures to safeguard user information. Its architecture is intentionally designed to prevent data monopolization and ensure that all transactions are processed securely, maintaining user confidentiality and trust in the digital commerce ecosystem.

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Last updated on
Jun 03, 2024, 5:56pm


The content of this article is for information purpose only and does not constitute advice or a legal opinion and are personal views of the author. It is based upon relevant law and/or facts available at that point of time and prepared with due accuracy & reliability. Readers are requested to check and refer to relevant provisions of statute, latest judicial pronouncements, circulars, clarifications etc. before acting on the basis of the above write up. The possibility of other views on the subject matter cannot be ruled out. By the use of the said information, you agree that the Author / Treelife is not responsible or liable in any manner for the authenticity, accuracy, completeness, errors or any kind of omissions in this piece of information for any action taken thereof.

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