The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) along with traders body Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) is inviting applications from Indian startups to develop solutions that can help local kirana stores take online orders and ensure last mile contactless delivery, according to a proposal on the Startup India website. This development comes as the central government had initially allowed e-commerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart to resume normal operations from April 20, only to backtrack on it later, including after pressure by retailers.

With this, the DPIIT is looking for solutions including e-commerce solutions, messaging platforms, logistics solutions, digital payment gateways, and app development, among other things, to help kirana stores in taking and delivering online orders. Companies willing to develop these solutions can send their proposals to ekiranasupply@gmail.com by May 24, and the results would be announced on June 24.

Apart from DPIIT, Startup India and CAIT, Invest India, All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF) and Avaana Capital are “lead partners” for the project. It doesn’t appear as if participants will receive any financial aid from the government or CAIT for developing these solutions, since the only incentive listed on Startup India’s website is “non-fiscal”.

According to a CAIT press release, this will help in building a “national e-commerce marketplace”, although the Startup India website doesn’t talk about any such pan-India platform explicitly. The proposal mentions that for e-commerce solutions, the aim is to “enable digitizing the retailers, wholesalers and all other stakeholders of the Kirana supply chain”. CAIT’s national secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal told MediaNama that the reason behind it is that the press release “is just a curtain raiser. We shall be launching the portal in couple of days and will response to all queries as many important things are under pipeline for finalisation (sic)”. We have also reached out to DPIIT for more details.

CAIT also claims, that with this initiative, it aims to digitise 70 million traders in the country. However, this claim isn’t new. Khandelwal had made a similar claim last year in August during a panel discussion organised by the Competition Commission of India, where he had said that “CAIT has launched a campaign to digitalise about 70 million offline retailers, wherein every retailer will have her/his own website”. We’ve asked CAIT what happened to this particular plan.

CAIT had rallied against the government’s earlier directive claiming that it was unfair for e-commerce companies to continue operations for all commodities, while brick-and-mortar sellers are allowed to only deal in essential commodities.