Lessons from Open Network for Digital Commerce

Flipkart | Amazon: Taking on Amazon-Flipkart duopoly: ONDC is an ambitious idea, but will it deliver for the consumer?

ONDC will not entail a separate, centralised platform. It is essentially an ‘established protocol’. There will be buyer-side apps which will be any application wherein consumers can search for products or services. Then there will be seller-side apps, which will onboard sellers. These will receive buyer requests and publish the catalogue of goods and services and fulfil buyer orders.

So, when a buyer searches for a product or service on the buyer app, the search request is multi-casted to all seller apps based on criteria such as location, availability, and other preferences. The buyer then selects the seller based on their preference.

Concept framework

I am enamoured of platforms approach. Designing the platforms and adopting a “middleware” approach. Middleware is the new rage where you build components and allow the entities to interact by designing protocols. The one who owns the platform gets the insight into myriad interactions. Fintech and innovations in middleware have huge implications for healthcare delivery (at scale). I have written in bits around here. Platforms are like the giant jigsaw puzzle “pre-solved”.

Here’s something interesting:

The ONDC strategy paper also goes on to say that the open network concept is “not restricted to the retail sector” and that it can be extended to any digital-commerce domain “including wholesale, mobility, food delivery, logistics, travel, urban services, etc”. Another unique feature of the ONDC will be a network-level reputation ledger, which will track whether sellers are offering genuine products and resolving customer complaints.

You can now imagine the implications for this standard in healthcare too. For example, having a platform like this will ease the procurement for medications. Instead of a competitive bidding system, it can have transparency in the pharma purchases and help discover the lowest cost for medicines (without regulatory price capping).

Here’s more:

The ONDC infrastructure will also entail a gateway between the buyer-side app and seller-side app. The application, as per the strategy paper, will ensure discoverability of all sellers in the network by multicasting the search request received from buyer applications to all seller applications.

This has profound implications for both sellers and buyers; not only for procurement, but also for other services like medical procedures. I am surprised there has been no rigorous econometric modelling for healthcare schemes/benefits. You can well imagine the marketplace for healthcare insurance too. The benefits are profound.

Bulk of discussion in the linked write-up is consumer complaint redressals and e-commerce, but I have listed the potential benefits of having a platform approach. I intend to take this further.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.