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Digital commerce: Govt sets up key panel to set protocols

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Interestingly, the council doesn’t have any member from key e-tailers.

The department for promotion of industry and internal trade (DPIIT) on Monday set up a nine-member panel, including National Health Authority chief executive RS Sharma and Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani, to suggest measures to design an open network for digital commerce (ONDC) that aims to curb monopolistic tendencies of e-commerce platforms, among others.

The ONDC is expected to set standards for onboarding retailers on online market places as well as for the supply and delivery of products through online channels. The idea of an ONDC was mooted last year to bring some kind of standards and streamline the country’s e-commerce ecosystem. Currently, different e-marketplaces have different set of rules, which at times make it difficult for small traders and suppliers to adopt.

The move is the latest in a series of changes announced or being planned to be rolled out by the government for the e-commerce sector. Already, the government’s draft e-commerce policy under the consumer protection Act has caused considerable unease among e-tailers for a host of changes, including the ban of “specific flash sales” by e-commerce players. Last week, commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said the government could issue a clarification on its foreign direct investment (FDI) policy for e-commerce “very shortly”. Various reports have suggested that the government could tighten the norms that could force players like Amazon and Flipkart to restructure their existing marketing tie-ups.

Last year, the DPIIT had asked the Quality Council of India to initiate a pilot project on the ONDC.

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The panel also comprises Adil Zainulbhai, chairman of the Quality Council of India; Anjali Bansal, chairperson of Avaana Capital; Arvind Gupta, head of Digital India Foundation; Dilip Asbe, MD at National Payments Corporation of India; Suresh Sethi, MD and CEO at NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Ltd; Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders and Kumar Rajagopalan, chief executive at Retailers Association of India. An additional secretary at the DPIIT will be the convenor of the advisory council. Interestingly, the council doesn’t have any member from key e-tailers.

“ONDC aims at a promoting open networks developed on open sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols independent of any specific platform. ONDC is expected to digitise the entire value chain, standardise operations, promote inclusion of suppliers, derive efficiencies in logistics and enhance value for consumers,” the DPIIT said in a notification.

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