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Open-sourcing project govt panel: What’s in store for online retailers

This is a step in the direction of making e-commerce processes open source, thus creating a platform that can be utilised by all online retailers.

Making a software or a process open-source means that the code or the steps of that process is made available freely for others to use, redistribute and modify it. (Source: Pixabay, Representational)

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) Monday issued orders appointing an advisory committee for its Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) project that is aimed at curbing “digital monopolies”. This is a step in the direction of making e-commerce processes open source, thus creating a platform that can be utilised by all online retailers.

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What processes are expecting to be open-sourced with this project?

Several operational aspects including onboarding of sellers, vendor discovery, price discovery and product cataloguing could be made open source on the lines of Unified Payments Interface (UPI). An executive of an e-commerce company has said that if mandated, this could be problematic for larger e-commerce companies, which have proprietary processes and technology deployed for these segments of operations.

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Who are the members of this advisory council?

National Health Authority CEO and former TRAI Chairman RS Sharma and Infosys non-executive chairman Nandan Nilekani are on this council. In addition to these two, Quality Control of India Chairman Adil Zainulbhai, Avaana Capital Founder Anjali Bansal, Digital India Foundation Co-Founder Arvind Gupta, National Payments Corporation India CEO Dilip Asbe, NSDL e-Governance MD & CEO Suresh Sethi, CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal, and Retailers Association of India CEO Kumar Rajagopalan are also members on the council.

What is the meaning and significance of making something open-source?

Making a software or a process open-source means that the code or the steps of that process is made available freely for others to use, redistribute and modify it. For example, while the operating system of Apple’s iPhones — iOS — is closed source, meaning it cannot be legally modified or reverse engineered, Google’s Android operating system is open-source, and therefore it is possible by smartphone OEMs such as Samsung, Xiaomi, OnePlus, etc to modify it for their hardware. If the ONDC gets implemented and mandated, it would mean that all e-commerce companies will have to operate using the same processes. This could give a huge booster shot to smaller online retailers and new entrants.

What does the DPIIT intend from the project?

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In the order forming the council, the DPIIT noted that the ONDC “aims at promoting open networks developed on open-sourced methodology, using open specifications and open network protocols, independent on any specific platform. ONDC is expected to digitise the entire value chain, standardise operations, promote inclusion of suppliers, derive efficiency in logistics and enhance value for consumers”.

First published on: 06-07-2021 at 01:39:59 pm
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