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NEW DELHI : The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), an open-source e-commerce platform that all online retailers can use, is expected to be launched soon, according to Anurag Jain, secretary of the department for the promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT).

Work is in progress on the concept, the secretary noted in an interview on Friday. He, however, refrained from giving a timeline for the launch. It “will come out hopefully soon, as and when the preparations are complete, and approvals are received," Jain said.

Several suggestions were made for the structure of ONDC at a panel discussion during the Startup India Innovation Week, held from 10-16 January, and the department will consider these, the secretary said.

All seller and buyer platforms will work through one open protocol and can connect through ONDC, Jain said. “It would provide an open network, and if one has to buy a product, ONDC will show all the options of various platforms for the product, and the consumer can choose what he or she wants," he said.

ONDC will do to digital commerce and retail business what Unified Payments Interface launched in 2016 did to the payments ecosystem in the country, the secretary said. It will “democratize" the retail industry in the country, he added.

The open network will empower both consumers and sellers, Jain said. “If such an open network comes, it ends the monopoly of big closed-loop platforms," he said.

ONDC is also expected to result in cost savings for sellers and provide better prices to consumers.

The department received several suggestions from stakeholders in the ecosystem, including from global venture capital funds, during the roundtable chaired by Union commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal, held as part of the just-concluded Startup India Innovation Week, Jain said. The government will discuss these suggestions, he said.

“Lot of good ideas have come. We also got a lot of good suggestions during the global roundtable of venture capital funds. We will get those examined in consultation with the ministry on how to take the system further," he said.

The secretary exuded confidence over the growing startup fraternity in the country and their contribution to the economy and said that startups would be the key to the country’s prosperity.

“I see the biggest energy coming from startups. They are the companies of the future, and this is the movement that will take India towards the top of the world in the next 25 years," Jain said.

Innovation has always been a key feature in India, and the combination of knowledge and innovation helps bring disruption, which in turn leads to “much higher growth", the secretary contended.

Jain also pointed out that India produced more than 40 unicorns in 2021, which is more than double the number in China during the same period, which stood at 20.

India has around 82 unicorns. The startup fraternity should nurture 75 more startups in 2022, Goyal said during the inaugural ceremony of the weeklong programme.

According to the ministry, India has more than 61,000 recognized startups spread across 55 industries, with 45% of them emerging from tier-2 and tier-3 cities.

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