Can Indian e-commerce go global?

Once you are plugged into ONDC, you can easily be on the demand side of things. We are extending this to global markets.

Pradeep Chakraborty
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DQ Conclave

At the Dataquest Digital Leadership Conclave, Saransh Agarwal, ONDC was in conversation with Dhaval Gupta, CyberMedia at the session: can Indian e-commerce go global?


Agarwal said ONDC is not an app or platform! You may be using your own email servers. I would use my own email. These are all from big tech giants. Now, transpose the same thing to e-commerce. If you are using a big tech platform, you can't send to me. We have closed bubbles, called platforms for marketplaces. On ONDC, all emails work on simple transfer language protocol. What difference does it make? You are selling your services. All of that is transactable on the network. We exited at 8 million transactions. We probably need to take commerce penetration from 7-8% to 40-50%. Once ONDC scales, my challenge is: you will not be able to do without ONDC.

ONDC is a protocol. It can be included into your system,  or built into. We started two domains: grocery and food. We help the 50-odd people who are already out there. It will go all the way to the small players. On the demand side, we have about 15 apps. We also have a contract with Common Village Service Center. We also launched mobility, which was a runaway success. In Bangalore, we let auto and taxi unions run operations, and they have been very successful. We have significant interest from B2C brands, and also some jewellers. About 5,000 farmers are also sellling on ONDC. 30% of our business is coming from tier-1 cities. The rest is from tier-2, -3, cities etc. The coverage is pan-India. We are also operating in Singapore.

Gupta said one of the first partners ONDC had was PayTM. The initial idea was that it is like UPI. How is the experience of retailers in the global scene? Agarwal said once you are plugged into ONDC, you can easily be on the demand side of things. We are extending this to global markets. In Singapore, we have Proxtera. They focus more on B2B. The joint effort aims to connect SMEs, logistics operators, financial institutions, and cross-border payment providers, to ensure seamless exports for Indian businesses. Every seller in the Indian network has visibility in Singapore. So, it solves visibility and access.


Let's say, a jam seller from Meerut has an ONDC order. You can buy logistics-as-a-service on the network. Every layer of transaction is a service. International logistics is nothing new. We need to get a forwarding company that can help ship to Singapore. We are also bringing in credit and insurance. If you are shipping overseas, you need to manage insurance. If you are a startup, you can scale very rapidly. You develop a product that helps small sellers. Technologies like LLM and image processing already exist. In the non-ONDC world, you have to sell via large companies, or build an app. 

Everyone can take the service dynamically. For instance, Unilever announced a program to onboard 1 lac kirana stores on ONDC. If you happen to be a global manufacturer, and are trying to enter the India market, you have to develop a value chain. ONDC allows you to do that easily. As more global companies integrate with ONDC, you continue to grow. Can ONDC be the future? It puts startups in a great position. If you can sell in India, you can also sell across the world. We are seeing pure tech startups scale now. 

ONDC does not have any data. We are a post office, with from and to. It is a peer-to-peer transaction. We only ask for health data, to ensure the network is working fine. We also third-party scrutiny done. We expect you to follow the law of the land. We will remove you if you are found doing something fishy.