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T Koshy shares the three key ideas behind having an Open Network at startup event SLUSH’D

T Koshy, CEO of ONDC, observed that the platform aimed to ‘unbundle’ the building blocks of any transaction, so as to allow, for example, the buyers, sellers and those associated with logistics to interact with each other on the same platform.

“When the open network is fully mature, in the next couple of years’ time, every product or service which is catalog every product or services which is catalog will be available in this open nature,” T Koshy, the CEO of Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) said at the startup and tech event SLUSH’D Delhi on November 3. Koshy pointed out that while everyone is familiar with e-commerce today, its reach has been limited. He said that on the buyer side applications, the reach has been about 7-9% and on the seller side it is even less about 3-4%. 

Unbundling of transactions:

“One is that the idea of [an] open network [ONDC] is just going to unbundle the building blocks of any transaction and we need specialized agencies to manage those unbundled blocks in the most efficient fashion they can,” Koshy said. While Koshy didn’t explain what unbundling of transactions meant, based on ONDC’s strategy paper it means — “the breaking down of a complex system into granular activities or microservices which can be separately operated to orchestrate a whole transaction.” This means that buyers, sellers, and those in logistics can all interact with each other on the same platform, as opposed to the traditional e-commerce ecosystem where all of them operate in separate spaces. 

He explained that with ONDC, it will not just be one or two platforms that will be able to use proprietary technology to provide for the needs of their customers, but that smaller businesses would be able to have equal opportunities, “to be the best in their small building block.” Here, building blocks refer to parts of the ONDC network such as buying and selling apps.

Democratizing data:

“Second, it is also democratizing data because the power of AI and the power of modern technology is going to be all dependent upon data,” Koshy said. He explained that currently, only a few platforms have [a] strong hold over data, with very limited resources available to the larger tech ecosystem.  

Koshy said that with ONDC, “each enterprise will participate whether it is a buyer interface, whether it’s logistical [business], whether it is a seller, packaging [business], different building blocks, they will all have their user data that is available. Buyer enterprise will know which people came and what they bought, seller enterprise will know who ordered, what was their requirement, what is their demand?” He mentioned that as a community ONDC has decided to create a common data lake which is, “non-competitive, shareable with India as an infrastructure in addition to the protocol, as a complementary infrastructure for everybody to benefit by.” This, according to us, implies that all the data collected from users on the ONDC platform will be available to Indian firms, who can then use it to train AI models. 

Lighter digital infrastructure:

“If you look at (it), there are very sophisticated and high-end tools that are shaping up, but when you’re trying to develop solutions that will help participate of a small buyer at a small market we can’t be having very heavy duty IT solution for it,” Koshy said. By lighter digital infrastructure he meant that ONDC will create the possibility for easy-to-use digital solutions. 

How AI can help sellers:

Koshy said that AI can help sellers find where the money is, he explained that there are “smart AI tools that will help you  [sellers] understand a lot about [the] garment industry in India and the world and give you strategies on styles and marketing strategies and the possible positioning that you need to do in America versus Singapore.”

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