India has been a global leader in creating interoperable systems and UPI is the biggest example of this. India is now leading the charge in making e-Commerce interoperable! Today, each e-Commerce business owns the entire value chain of a transaction but ONDC, or Open Network for Digital Commerce proposes to make a platform in which different players can own different parts of the value chain. Through this approach, ONDC aims to make e-Commerce more inclusive and accessible!

Vani interviews Shireesh Joshi, captain of the ONDC ship. An industry leader, Shireesh comes with over 22 years of experience in large MNCs. He has previously led Strategy at PepsiCo and has also been the COO for Godrej.

Learn about:-

01 : 50 – Definition and genesis of ONDC

06 : 00 – ONDC will act like the Internet of e-commerce

12 : 01 – How will ONDC impact consumers

27 : 29 – Future possibilities and evolution of the platform

Read the complete transcript below:-

Vani 01:33 

So Shireesh, thank you so much for being here. And the first question to you, of course, is the most obvious one. We’ve been seeing a lot of ONDC in the news everywhere. Tell me what is ONDC? The long form and then what does it mean? Just help us understand what this ONDC platform is? 

Shireesh Joshi 01:54 

Sure. So the letters ONDC stand for Open Network for Digital Commerce. And this is public infrastructure being created to allow anyone, anywhere who wants to buy something to buy from anyone who is selling that item or that service. So it is really trying to create a network where all buyers and all sellers are present in a single network and they’re able to seamlessly transact with each other. This is a departure from how e-commerce takes place today. Today, e-commerce takes place platform by platform, so the buyer and the seller both have to be registered on that platform in order to be able to buy that respective product or service. So we go to one application, for example, to book taxis, we go to another application to order food, we go to a third application to buy our flight tickets, we go to a fourth application to buy a t-shirt. So each platform has determined their play arena or what goods or services they will operate in. They accumulate providers of that particular set of goods and services and they also accumulate buyers of those services. And each commercial activity takes place for that particular good or service inside that platform. There’s no interactivity between platforms. So buyers on one application cannot buy from a seller or another. The buyer has to go and register in that other application or a seller on one cannot sell to a buyer on the other one. The seller has to go and register on their other application. So everything is taking place inside the application and while that has created a degree of solution, after all the song and dance, after all the billions of dollars of investment and excitement and everything, the penetration of e-commerce is still in single digit percentages for a vast company like ours. And when the pandemic first hit and the only containment method available at that time was to contain movement of people that automatically raised the question that if for whatever reason you have to contain people’s movement, how will they access essentials foods, medicines, et cetera. So that was the genesis of the question: could we create a digital infrastructure that could allow anyone to buy and sell without having to physically interact? That’s the genesis and the purpose. 

Vani 04:16 

So how does this work, Shireesh, help me understand this. So I’m going to use Amazon as an analogy. So Amazon, you have to get onto the Amazon platform. If you are the buyer and I’m the seller and let’s say I’m selling pens and you wanna buy a pen, both of us are on Amazon. You can buy my pens. Now you are saying that in this case, even if the two of us, so now help me understand this, how is this different from Amazon? 

Shireesh Joshi 04:45 

Okay, So first, let me use a different analogy first, then I will come to your analogy. Let’s look at the world of the internet. On the internet, there are two sites, one side is publishing information, the other side is consuming information. Those who consume information do it through browsers. You and I are, for example, chatting right now, you’re using a browser, I’m using a browser. We may not even be using the same browser. I don’t know that yet. But anyway, we are on the net and we are both using browsers and we are consuming services. Likewise, there are people who are publishing services, who are publishing information, publishing content. Now in order for me, if I wanted to publish a website, I can go to any website publisher, I can use a readymade template. I can have somebody who’s tech savvy to build one for me whichever method I do, I just need to publish that site in one place and all the consumers, on all the browsers in the world can see that site. I don’t need to specifically go and register on a particular browser, on a particular user. Same the other way around. So all the websites in the world, it doesn’t matter which browser I’m on, I can see all the websites. It doesn’t matter which company published which website. For me, the entire universe is one. Now, eCommerce doesn’t function that way, eCommerce, everything is inside. So both the sides, the consumer and the provider both need to be present in that particular platform. Otherwise they can’t see each other. Now let me use the equivalent. Many companies have an intranet. Now in the intranet, only the employees of the company can post and only the employees of the company can see. Now, e-commerce is like a universe of intranets. Everything is taking place inside and the thing is taking place in between.

So Amazon is one example of an intranet of commerce. Both parties need to be in there. Now, what happens with the intranet world of commerce is that commerce is taking place inside as part of their own business goals. Everybody wants to become big, so therefore they deploy business practices to acquire a large number of buyers and a large number of sellers and that’s where commerce takes place. Now, what also happens is that as if few entities start to grow, then that also automatically starts becoming a barrier of entry for others, which is why no matter which arena you go, you’ll see a few, two, three, maybe max four large players. So if you look at booking taxis, you’ll see a couple of large applications. You want to order food, a couple of large applications. You want to book flight tickets there are two, three, maybe max four significant players. If you look at household goods, again, similar. So what happens is that the entire thing starts to gravitate towards a few intranet. They’re closed systems.

Now, would we rather have a world which is full of multiple intranets or would we rather have an internet where everyone can see everyone? Then it doesn’t matter who’s bringing the consumers of that and who’s bringing the providers of that. Everybody’s pulling them in and everyone can see everyone. So, ONDC is the idea of everybody pulling in buyers and sellers into a single place. Nobody owns them, nobody controls them and people are free to operate as buyers and sellers in whichever way they want to operate. So let’s look at it first from a seller’s perspective. A seller is interested in e-commerce because they want to access a large number of buyers. Today they have a trade off to do, either they become part of a platform, where there are a large number of buyers, but then they have to obey the rules of the platform and the platform controls how the consumers are going to see them, and there are, you know, commercial considerations and processes involved with that. So, including certain things that can be a financial burden. So I can send the perfectly correct product to the correct customer in time and yet that customer could say, I no longer want it and I have to take it back and pay for its return journey and maybe I can’t even resell it once that happens. Now, that’s an additional cost that I have to bear as part of being part of this large network because I’m having access to a large number of buyers. 

Now on ONDC, once people have pulled in buyers and sellers. I, as a seller, do not need to be on any particular size of platform. So let me go back to my internet example. If I’m publishing a website, honestly, I don’t even know the website publisher that I’m using. Are they the world’s largest? Are they the world’s smallest? Are they somewhere in the middle? Are they in the upper quintel, bottom quintel? I don’t even know because it doesn’t matter. When it’s an open network and all parties of one kind can see all parties of the other kind, the size and scale of the entity through which I’m connected becomes irrelevant. That’s the democratization. So now I no longer am dependent on any particular size of player. Now I can choose what terms and conditions I want. So if I want to publish my website, I will find the website publisher with whom I can work with, who may be the right template. So it makes it easy for me to work with commercial terms I can work with. And no website publisher can say that only if you publish through me can you access a certain number of readers of the internet, you can’t because everything is open. So that is what will happen in ONDC that no publisher or seller catalogs can claim that only through me, you can access a large number of sellers. Therefore, you need to follow my terms and conditions because the seller can just simply go to a different way to connect to ONDC and still access the same number of buyers and operate on their own terms and conditions. So now a seller can declare what terms and conditions they’re comfortable with.

Vani 10:28 

How does ONDC make money? 

Shireesh Joshi 10:31 

ONDC does not need to make money because ONDC is a not for profit organization. So ONDC is a section eight company. It’s a private sector company created at the behest of the government, but it’s a private sector company and not for profit. So we have an intrusion of funds that will see us through the initial two, three years at least, maybe more. And during that time, the network will scale up. Once the network is large in the outer years for sustainability and just basically covering our expenses, we may have a very, very small charge. We’ve not yet determined that, we’ve floated a few thoughts which the network participants were supportive of, but we’ve not implemented that. So right now, ONDC services are free and they will be for a while. We’re not in a hurry to start charging. But it’s a not-for-profit organization because we are mainly providing the infrastructure. So, think about it like a company that builds highways. So we’ve got an intrusion of capital to be able to build highways once it’s built for the longer term, for just for maintenance purposes, we might levy a small toll. But other than the highways available, whether you want to create a bicycle and ride on it, you want to create an auto rickshaw and ride on it. You want to create a cab and ride on it. You want to use private cars, you want to use buses, trucks, whatever vehicle you want to create, the highway is available. So that’s the idea that we create a commerce highway, which allows any kind of entity to create whatever commercial activity they want to participate in and be able to operate like the internet. So the internet doesn’t determine what kind of activity you will do on the internet. 

Vani 12:01 

So now just help us open our eyes up to the possibilities of this like I think the possibilities of this are so huge. It’s entirely dependent on one’s imagination because we are so attuned to thinking in terms of platforms like Amazon today, what implications will this have now on our everyday lives? 

Shireesh Joshi 12:25 

So first is everything that you can do in e-commerce platforms today, you will be able to do on ONDC as well, but in addition, because of its unbundled approach. You can actually create new combinations. So think about it like, you know, models that you buy as kids, some of us at least used to buy these model ship or model plane, and we would take out all the parts and glue them together and build that plane or build that ship, but it could only build that particular plane or that ship. Now instead, if you have Lego bricks, you can one day decide to build a plane, another day you can decide to build a ship, and on the third day you can decide to build a house with exactly the same bricks by just recombining them differently. So that’s the idea about ONDC that instead of building finished items, molded finished items, which can only be that we allow people to create bricks and we’ve only created the protocol. So in Lego you have these circular things that allow pieces to connect to each other. Any brick that has those circular things can connect with any other brick that can accept those circular things. So we’ve created the commerce protocol that’ll allow any two parties to interact. So now let me give you a few example use cases, but you’re right, it’s all dependent on your imagination and so I’m giving you only one person’s imagination. Imagine when a billion people imagine what all is possible and therefore what could take place. So first I explained that today commerce takes place, platform by platform. We do different activities in different places. Now, if I’m going on a holiday, I want to buy a different size suitcase because I don’t want to carry too much stuff, but I don’t want to carry too little so I just need that right size suitcase. I want to buy a particular suitcase. I also want to buy my favorite snacks to take along. I want to book a flight ticket. I want to book a hotel room. I also, when I’m going to the airport, I also want to book a cab. Why should I have to go to four different applications to do this? I’m the same person. So now on ONDC, I will have many buyer applications and we’ll get to that subject in a minute. But through any one buyer application, from the same application, I’ll be able to do all four. I’ll be able to buy my suitcase, my snack, my flight ticket, book my hotel room and my cab. Check out and I’m done. Now this use case doesn’t exist today. So that’s just one example of the building block approach.

Vani 14:36 

I said, you know, today Google has intimate details on me. Similarly, so you are buying all of your requirements from ONDC, your snack, your hotel ticket. Will ONDC then be in a position to leverage all of that information and start targeting ads and use that information in various ways.

Shireesh Joshi 14:58 

So ONDC will keep no information. Let’s just take that example, let’s say that you had a suitcase of 5,000 rupees, and a flight ticket of 10,000 rupees. So that’s 15. A hotel room for three days, let’s say, that cost you 30,000. So that’s another, 30 plus 15, 45. So let’s say you have a total 45,000 expense. Now at best, ONDC might know that there was a transaction worth 45,000 rupees. And they will only have two applications involved. So we will know the buyer application you were using that was involved and the seller applications that in case there are more than one, then all of them that were involved in this total of 45. We will not know what you bought for 45,000. Did you buy a holiday set of items? Did you buy a television? Did you buy a very, very expensive designer dress? 

Vani 15:45 

But now you do know that this person can afford items worth 45,000. 

Shireesh Joshi 15:50 

We don’t know if it is a person, it could be a company. We have no idea who the buyer was. We just know that a transaction took place because should there be a question in future, we’ll have traceability on which transaction was referred to and which parties were involved. 

Vani 16:03 

No, but this transaction was all paid for via, you know, the credit card or a debit card and all of that. 

Shireesh Joshi 16:11 

ONDC would not know how you paid. So you would pay either in the buyer application, if the buyer application is ready to accept your payment. But there could be instances where buyer applications don’t want to deal with the money. They may ask you to pay directly to the seller application. So with one of those two applications, whatever payment tools they’ve embedded, whether net banking, credit card, UPI, whatever method they’ve embedded, the buyer pays the money in that. We have no idea who the payer is, we have no idea what the tool was. We will just know that there was a transaction at this particular time between these two applications. And that’s a deliberate choice. We do not want to keep that data. So now the buyer application on which was, as happens today, that buyer application will have access to your information and whatever history but the important thing is that because it’s an open network, if you choose to do your purchases through different applications, you will still be able to buy anything from any application. It’s like, I browse certain websites through one browser and certain other websites through another browser. So one browser does not know my browsing activity on the other browsers. 

Vani 17:17 

Yeah, but that’s typically not the case. Give me an example of a buyer application. So let’s say, in this example, if I had to go out and buy all of these things, hotel, ticket, cab, flight ticket, snacks, et cetera, what would an example of a buyer application be?

Shireesh Joshi 17:34 

Okay, so today we have four buyer applications that are already live. Users in Bangalore City can use any one of these four. The products that are available today are grocery and restaurants. 

Vani 17:47 Okay, when you say four buyer applications, what are those four buyer applications?

Shireesh Joshi 17:53 

One is Paytm, the payment application that we are familiar with. This is not a new application, it’s the same Paytm. So just the way Paytm allows you to load your wallet, pay your electricity bill, buy a highway tag, et cetera, et cetera, in that, one of the access points allows you to shop on ONDC, exactly the same app. So users of Paytm in Bangalore have not had to download a new application. They just have a new pointer in their existing application that now takes them to ONDC shopping. So that’s one example. Another is a completely new application, so IDFC Bank has built a completely new application that’s available. Then there’s a company called My Store that has built a buyer application. So today, users in Bangalore can use any of these applications and be able to shop on ONDC. These are universal. Now, today we have only two categories available in Bangalore, which are grocery and restaurants. Very soon we will have apparel, we will have electronics, we will have other items also. So when that happens through Paytm, you’ll be able to buy all these or through IDFC, you’ll be able to buy all these, or through My Store you will be able to buy all these.

Vani 19:09 And eventually the intent would be to have all banks to expand the number of applications, to expand the number of avenues through which a consumer can pay to as much as possible so that you are able to bring more and more people onto this. 

Shireesh Joshi 19:22 

Not just banks. Anybody who has any kind of a user base can become a buyer application. So banks obviously and they have begun. Telecom companies can do that, messaging applications can do that, social media companies can do that. Media companies can do that. Any one of them, or all of them can become buyer applications. So right now we are in conversation with more than 300 organizations who are joining the network as a buyer or a seller application

Vani 19:54 

What would be their draw to join this application? Basically, it’s just about the vast potential of increase in e-commerce that would help everyone grow. 

Shireesh Joshi 20:05 

Correct. It’s an additional revenue stream. So any business wants to choose their assets to grow revenue. Ideally, you want more revenue out of existing assets rather than investing in fresh assets. So now that you’ve invested in acquiring users or sellers as the case maybe. Why would you restrict the transaction you could generate through them? So let’s say if you’re a payment application today, you are helping them do payments where the earnings are fairly limited, and in fact some of the transactions are also free. So how do you earn now with the same user base, you are now able to do e-commerce transactions on a commission. You’re getting additional revenue from users you already have. So there isn’t even an acquisition cost now.

Vani 20:55 

This is great Shireesh. Tell me what else should I be asking you? It’s a concept that’s so new to the world that it’s difficult to even imagine what all it’s like when there was no Amazon, you couldn’t imagine a world with Amazon. You wouldn’t imagine that, you know, or the likes of the Zepto and Blinkit and all you wouldn’t ever think that if I need bread in the middle of the night, I could actually order it and it’ll end up in 10 minutes? 

Shireesh Joshi 21:23 

Yes. So there are a few other kinds of parallels that I could offer and again, this is going to evolve. So the first parallel, let me offer, is the camera on a mobile phone. The camera I think came in the late nineties or early 2000. When it first came, it was a very basic camera, 640*480 pixels, I think at the back you could only take daylight pictures. Little by little that camera’s capability grew. People were using apps, they were looking at their phones, so somebody decided to put a camera in the front too. You could have mirror applications, et cetera. Then the internet and mobile started to do well. We went from zero G to 1G to 2G to 3G.. So now that you have a front camera and now you have high internet speed, you can do video conferencing. I still remember when you had to go to a specific video conferencing location. There was a major dial up and connection and only then and you had to book that time. Now you can do it off your phone. So when the first camera came, I don’t think anybody was thinking about video conferencing when they were thinking like, this is just some easy picture that you can shoot and share. So how a capability grows happens with time and capability and imagination. Tomorrow, who knows what cameras might be able to do on phones. Now, the same cameras also, by the way, allow you to scan QR codes and make UPI payments. That’s also now, a use of the camera. So, things will evolve even with ONDC, things will evolve over time and new use cases will get formed. 

Vani 22:55 

Tell me something for my local Kirana shop, the guy who I have right here next to my house, who has a small limited assortment, but that’s good enough for me because I pick up the phone on him and I tell him, you know, ande bech do, crack jack biscuit bech do. How would it change life for the two of us? So right now, the way we work is I call him up, I tell him, ye bech do, I make the payment to him. How would life for the two of us become easier with ONDC?

Shireesh Joshi 23:29 

Okay. So let’s separate the two parts, which is the ordering part and then your, uh, financial arrangement for them as two separate bits. Now, in terms of ordering today, when we order on large platforms, we invariably hit sellers, we have no idea who they are, and we sort of look at their reputation and sort of trust the network to help us navigate. Now on ONDC, you can choose to shop from your neighborhood and you will see the neighborhood stores. You can actually select from your neighborhood restaurants, your neighborhood stores. You can book in your neighborhood salon. You’ll be able to shop from your neighborhood perspective in order to help that, one is of course you could search by proximity and you’ll actually see store names, not just products to be able to have that journey. But you could also have the way you have QR codes for payments today inside stores, each store has their own unique QR code. Each store will have their own unique catalog QR code as well. So they can just send you, hey, Vani, this is my QR code. Just save it anytime you want to order whatever you order. Just use this QR code and place the order. So now you do not have to wait for his phone to be free or him to be available near the phone. You can place an order to him at any point in time. In the middle of the night you say, oh, tomorrow morning I’ll need this, but I’ll be at work. I may not remember. You can just place that order on him in the night. He will wake up in the morning, his seller application will send him a notification saying, Vani has this, at that time, he’ll accept the order. And he will then figure out how to deliver. He can send his own delivery person, have a third party delivery do it. So you will be able to do the ordering and transaction. Importantly, he will now have a ready reminder and he can choose to, if his seller application has enabled it that, oh, it’s the fifth of the month Vani has still not placed her monthly order, he could trigger a reminder to you saying, Hey, whatever Kirana store is waiting for your order this month and if you say yes, he will just pick your shopping list from history and send it to you and he won’t forget an item. 

Vani 25:31 

Because he has all of that information. So I can not only place orders with him, I also have access to everything that he sells in his shop, because it’ll all be cataloged. This would mean that he should be adequately educated to even be able to catalog. How will he do that? 

Shireesh Joshi 25:52 

So he doesn’t need to do it because the seller applications will do it. Even today, the sellers who are on the network have not done the cataloging and digitizing themselves. It’s the seller applications who have onboarded them who have done that task. Right now the task is a little bit onerous, but we are building tools that will make it available. So let me cast your mind into the future. I do not know whether that future is one year away or three years away, but we are working out to make it more one than three. Okay, now picture just the way retailers sell to consumers, which is the conversation we’ve just had. Similarly, picture company distributors sell to retailers, all of them also on, ONDC. So now a retailer is doing all their buying on ONDC from company distributors and selling. Same retailer is buying Colgate products from the Colgate distributor, Unilever products from the Unilever distributor, Dabur products from Dabur distributor, ITC products from ITC distributor, et cetera. So retailers are buying them. If he’s buying them digitally, the digital transaction can update his inventory in real time. He doesn’t need to lift a finger, just his act of ordering will automatically update it. Correct. So there is some initial work involved. Now we are also working with companies to build master catalogs so that even the initial creation can become easy and consistent. We have a standard taxonomy, which is the product hierarchy on how the sequence should be organized, and so everybody in that industry will follow that same taxonomy and we’ll have a uniform way of discovering. 

Vani 27:29 

Wow. So this opens up a whole lot of avenues for business for all of these various service providers who will make ONDC effective.

Shireesh Joshi 27:38 

Correct. So everybody, the idea is that there’s the building blocks, right? So everybody builds whichever block they can sustain and contributes it to the network. So sometimes you might need this 10 minute high speed bike driven. Sometimes you may be okay with a free bicycle delivery or you might want, Now we are used, Here’s another use case, right? We are used to shopping at a location. It could be our home location. It could be our office location. It’d be the location of a friend or a relative who we are sending a gift to, but it’s still a location, correct? Everything goes to a fixed location. Now, what if I want to shop to a moving location, not to a fixed location? 

That’s still a location because that’s a destination location. Right now, let’s say I’m going from the office to the airport to catch a flight. I realized I left my mobile charger at home. I have no opportunity to go home now. I can’t wait around in the office because I’ll miss my flight. I can’t reach the airport and wait for a delivery person to show up. Because I have to enter the airport and check in or also the delivery guy, if he comes before me, he may choose not to wait because he has other deliveries to do. So now, what if I could give my route from my office to the airport as the input, and then I see mobile charger outlets along the way, which are no more than five minute deviation from my route. So now I’m doing a mobile location or a route based shopping, right? So that’s another use case. Now, whoever builds this use case doesn’t have to find these sellers. The sellers are present on the network. All you have to do is create a digital integration that takes your travel plan as an input geolocation of sellers on the network as the other input and presents to you a combination of solutions for you. And gives you time of departure from your main route to the airport as to, okay, this particular shop that’s seven minutes off your route. That one is 10 minutes off this one, et cetera. And then you can look at those timings and the ratings and whatever you want to, or you might even discover there’s a shop inside the airport today. How will you discover a shop inside the airport? Can you find a shop inside the airport on Google Maps and can you place an order?

Vani 29:56 No, I can’t find a shop inside the airport, but on Google Maps, it’ll show me the shops along the way. 

Shireesh Joshi 30:03 

You know what they contain? 

Vani 30:04 

No.

Shireesh Joshi 30:06 

Even some brands keep updating their connectors, right? So let’s say you’re on the latest iPhone and you want to buy that iPhone charger. How do you know which of these shops have that particular model of the charger currently in stock? So I’m saying that knowing that a shop exists is insufficient information. Given that you have limited time, who has that particular item that you’re interested in, including the reputation of the store and that item that you can’t get from Google Maps today. Well, you might get repetition depending on how it is populated, but that’s only providing part of the information. So right now you are in the act of making a commercial purchase. You need much more than information that the generic tools provide today. You’ll have to cobble together that information. So let’s say you indeed use any mapping tool, Map My India, Google Maps, whatever, and you discover shops. Then you have to go to a search engine to say, okay, this shop, what is its reputation? What do they have? Now you’re having to do all these steps independently. What if you could just know that, okay, these are the three shops on your road which have this item. This is their distance from your main route and this is their rating. 

Vani 31:28 

But this will, on its own, massively also spawn deeper penetration of SKU placement at every shop. I’m just imagining a simple use case for Unilever. For example, the greatest challenge for any brand manager is just to make sure that every shop carries the required assortment. I have seven different variants. I want every shop to carry all seven variants. So, which means in this, even if I’m a young brand manager, I may not wanna buy, but on ONDC I can check these are the outlets on this route and do they have X number of variants or not, is also a possibility. 

Shireesh Joshi 32:24 

Yes, it is a lot of fun and we are able to have line of sight on a lot of things that are going to come under the network. But like my mobile camera example, we only see the first version of what’s possible today. When that is already available, there’ll be a next set of things that will be possible. So this will be an ever evolving, changing landscape. 

Vani 32:43 

Okay, great. I can’t think of anything else. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us? 

Shireesh Joshi 32:48 

No. I think people should start looking for ways by which they can engage, come on board and become part of this transformation and contribute their ideas to, as I said, I’m one person with one imagination. I want a billion imaginations to be at play.

Vani 33:01 

I’m sure that’s not very far away, but this is fantastic, you must feel so powerful and so inspired to be building what you are building because, like you said, one can’t even imagine. What a billion people could imagine and what this could turn out to be. I don’t think we are even hitting at the a of the alphabet. 

Shireesh Joshi 33:26 

Yeah. I agree. The feeling is actually not one of being powerful, the feeling really is about enablement, right? The feeling really is about enablement, right? So it’s, it’s not like a, or being small  No. What capabilities are you unleashing? So if you build a hybrid, does it make you powerful? It really doesn’t make you powerful, but you’re looking forward to who can use it and travel on.

Vani 33:49 

No, I’m saying powerful in the sense of the kind of possibilities you are opening up. It must feel so exciting. 

Shireesh Joshi 33:59 

It does. And very satisfying looking at the kind of people who are now expressing interest in joining it is extremely satisfying that we’ve been able to do this. So small handloom makers also get excited. Farmers get excited. That’s when we know that we are creating something that’s truly vast in its scope and democratic. 

Vani 34:18

I think it should give a huge boost to the economy on various fronts, and it’ll create a platform for equal commerce and it’ll be especially useful for SMEs to be able to showcase and to be able to do business. I mean, if we can actually give a Philip to all of our master craftsmen in various little corners of the country, because we keep talking about this, even the likes of us who wish to and would like to have access to a lot, simply don’t know where to find and then life just takes over and you’re going from day to day and you eventually end up buying the same stuff from the same shops. So this is fantastic. 

Shireesh Joshi 35:00

But the point of craftsmen, and now actually craftsmen can become brands because now you’re not buying the generic item from the generic state. You can actually say, I want the one that is crafted by that particular craftsman. And you could potentially get it. 

Vani 35:17

Fabulous, Shireesh. Thank you so much. 

This show is sponsored by CherryPeachPlum Growth Consultancy. ­čŹĺCherryPeachPlum is a marketing-focused business consultancy that delivers business results. Get in touch via www.cherrypeachplum.in to get marketing solutions that work in the real world!

India has been a global leader in creating interoperable systems and UPI is the biggest example of this. India is now leading the charge in making e-Commerce interoperable! Today, each e-Commerce business owns the entire value chain of a transaction but ONDC, or Open Network for Digital Commerce proposes to make a platform in which different players can own different parts of the value chain. Through this approach, ONDC aims to make e-Commerce more inclusive and accessible!

Vani interviews Shireesh Joshi, captain of the ONDC ship. An industry leader, Shireesh comes with over 22 years of experience in large MNCs. He has previously led Strategy at PepsiCo and has also been the COO for Godrej.

Learn about:-

01 : 50 – Definition and genesis of ONDC

06 : 00 – ONDC will act like the Internet of e-commerce

12 : 01 – How will ONDC impact consumers

27 : 29 – Future possibilities and evolution of the platform

Read the complete transcript below:-

Vani 01:33 

So Shireesh, thank you so much for being here. And the first question to you, of course, is the most obvious one. We’ve been seeing a lot of ONDC in the news everywhere. Tell me what is ONDC? The long form and then what does it mean? Just help us understand what this ONDC platform is? 

Shireesh Joshi 01:54 

Sure. So the letters ONDC stand for Open Network for Digital Commerce. And this is public infrastructure being created to allow anyone, anywhere who wants to buy something to buy from anyone who is selling that item or that service. So it is really trying to create a network where all buyers and all sellers are present in a single network and they’re able to seamlessly transact with each other. This is a departure from how e-commerce takes place today. Today, e-commerce takes place platform by platform, so the buyer and the seller both have to be registered on that platform in order to be able to buy that respective product or service. So we go to one application, for example, to book taxis, we go to another application to order food, we go to a third application to buy our flight tickets, we go to a fourth application to buy a t-shirt. So each platform has determined their play arena or what goods or services they will operate in. They accumulate providers of that particular set of goods and services and they also accumulate buyers of those services. And each commercial activity takes place for that particular good or service inside that platform. There’s no interactivity between platforms. So buyers on one application cannot buy from a seller or another. The buyer has to go and register in that other application or a seller on one cannot sell to a buyer on the other one. The seller has to go and register on their other application. So everything is taking place inside the application and while that has created a degree of solution, after all the song and dance, after all the billions of dollars of investment and excitement and everything, the penetration of e-commerce is still in single digit percentages for a vast company like ours. And when the pandemic first hit and the only containment method available at that time was to contain movement of people that automatically raised the question that if for whatever reason you have to contain people’s movement, how will they access essentials foods, medicines, et cetera. So that was the genesis of the question: could we create a digital infrastructure that could allow anyone to buy and sell without having to physically interact? That’s the genesis and the purpose. 

Vani 04:16 

So how does this work, Shireesh, help me understand this. So I’m going to use Amazon as an analogy. So Amazon, you have to get onto the Amazon platform. If you are the buyer and I’m the seller and let’s say I’m selling pens and you wanna buy a pen, both of us are on Amazon. You can buy my pens. Now you are saying that in this case, even if the two of us, so now help me understand this, how is this different from Amazon? 

Shireesh Joshi 04:45 

Okay, So first, let me use a different analogy first, then I will come to your analogy. Let’s look at the world of the internet. On the internet, there are two sites, one side is publishing information, the other side is consuming information. Those who consume information do it through browsers. You and I are, for example, chatting right now, you’re using a browser, I’m using a browser. We may not even be using the same browser. I don’t know that yet. But anyway, we are on the net and we are both using browsers and we are consuming services. Likewise, there are people who are publishing services, who are publishing information, publishing content. Now in order for me, if I wanted to publish a website, I can go to any website publisher, I can use a readymade template. I can have somebody who’s tech savvy to build one for me whichever method I do, I just need to publish that site in one place and all the consumers, on all the browsers in the world can see that site. I don’t need to specifically go and register on a particular browser, on a particular user. Same the other way around. So all the websites in the world, it doesn’t matter which browser I’m on, I can see all the websites. It doesn’t matter which company published which website. For me, the entire universe is one. Now, eCommerce doesn’t function that way, eCommerce, everything is inside. So both the sides, the consumer and the provider both need to be present in that particular platform. Otherwise they can’t see each other. Now let me use the equivalent. Many companies have an intranet. Now in the intranet, only the employees of the company can post and only the employees of the company can see. Now, e-commerce is like a universe of intranets. Everything is taking place inside and the thing is taking place in between.

So Amazon is one example of an intranet of commerce. Both parties need to be in there. Now, what happens with the intranet world of commerce is that commerce is taking place inside as part of their own business goals. Everybody wants to become big, so therefore they deploy business practices to acquire a large number of buyers and a large number of sellers and that’s where commerce takes place. Now, what also happens is that as if few entities start to grow, then that also automatically starts becoming a barrier of entry for others, which is why no matter which arena you go, you’ll see a few, two, three, maybe max four large players. So if you look at booking taxis, you’ll see a couple of large applications. You want to order food, a couple of large applications. You want to book flight tickets there are two, three, maybe max four significant players. If you look at household goods, again, similar. So what happens is that the entire thing starts to gravitate towards a few intranet. They’re closed systems.

Now, would we rather have a world which is full of multiple intranets or would we rather have an internet where everyone can see everyone? Then it doesn’t matter who’s bringing the consumers of that and who’s bringing the providers of that. Everybody’s pulling them in and everyone can see everyone. So, ONDC is the idea of everybody pulling in buyers and sellers into a single place. Nobody owns them, nobody controls them and people are free to operate as buyers and sellers in whichever way they want to operate. So let’s look at it first from a seller’s perspective. A seller is interested in e-commerce because they want to access a large number of buyers. Today they have a trade off to do, either they become part of a platform, where there are a large number of buyers, but then they have to obey the rules of the platform and the platform controls how the consumers are going to see them, and there are, you know, commercial considerations and processes involved with that. So, including certain things that can be a financial burden. So I can send the perfectly correct product to the correct customer in time and yet that customer could say, I no longer want it and I have to take it back and pay for its return journey and maybe I can’t even resell it once that happens. Now, that’s an additional cost that I have to bear as part of being part of this large network because I’m having access to a large number of buyers. 

Now on ONDC, once people have pulled in buyers and sellers. I, as a seller, do not need to be on any particular size of platform. So let me go back to my internet example. If I’m publishing a website, honestly, I don’t even know the website publisher that I’m using. Are they the world’s largest? Are they the world’s smallest? Are they somewhere in the middle? Are they in the upper quintel, bottom quintel? I don’t even know because it doesn’t matter. When it’s an open network and all parties of one kind can see all parties of the other kind, the size and scale of the entity through which I’m connected becomes irrelevant. That’s the democratization. So now I no longer am dependent on any particular size of player. Now I can choose what terms and conditions I want. So if I want to publish my website, I will find the website publisher with whom I can work with, who may be the right template. So it makes it easy for me to work with commercial terms I can work with. And no website publisher can say that only if you publish through me can you access a certain number of readers of the internet, you can’t because everything is open. So that is what will happen in ONDC that no publisher or seller catalogs can claim that only through me, you can access a large number of sellers. Therefore, you need to follow my terms and conditions because the seller can just simply go to a different way to connect to ONDC and still access the same number of buyers and operate on their own terms and conditions. So now a seller can declare what terms and conditions they’re comfortable with.

Vani 10:28 

How does ONDC make money? 

Shireesh Joshi 10:31 

ONDC does not need to make money because ONDC is a not for profit organization. So ONDC is a section eight company. It’s a private sector company created at the behest of the government, but it’s a private sector company and not for profit. So we have an intrusion of funds that will see us through the initial two, three years at least, maybe more. And during that time, the network will scale up. Once the network is large in the outer years for sustainability and just basically covering our expenses, we may have a very, very small charge. We’ve not yet determined that, we’ve floated a few thoughts which the network participants were supportive of, but we’ve not implemented that. So right now, ONDC services are free and they will be for a while. We’re not in a hurry to start charging. But it’s a not-for-profit organization because we are mainly providing the infrastructure. So, think about it like a company that builds highways. So we’ve got an intrusion of capital to be able to build highways once it’s built for the longer term, for just for maintenance purposes, we might levy a small toll. But other than the highways available, whether you want to create a bicycle and ride on it, you want to create an auto rickshaw and ride on it. You want to create a cab and ride on it. You want to use private cars, you want to use buses, trucks, whatever vehicle you want to create, the highway is available. So that’s the idea that we create a commerce highway, which allows any kind of entity to create whatever commercial activity they want to participate in and be able to operate like the internet. So the internet doesn’t determine what kind of activity you will do on the internet. 

Vani 12:01 

So now just help us open our eyes up to the possibilities of this like I think the possibilities of this are so huge. It’s entirely dependent on one’s imagination because we are so attuned to thinking in terms of platforms like Amazon today, what implications will this have now on our everyday lives? 

Shireesh Joshi 12:25 

So first is everything that you can do in e-commerce platforms today, you will be able to do on ONDC as well, but in addition, because of its unbundled approach. You can actually create new combinations. So think about it like, you know, models that you buy as kids, some of us at least used to buy these model ship or model plane, and we would take out all the parts and glue them together and build that plane or build that ship, but it could only build that particular plane or that ship. Now instead, if you have Lego bricks, you can one day decide to build a plane, another day you can decide to build a ship, and on the third day you can decide to build a house with exactly the same bricks by just recombining them differently. So that’s the idea about ONDC that instead of building finished items, molded finished items, which can only be that we allow people to create bricks and we’ve only created the protocol. So in Lego you have these circular things that allow pieces to connect to each other. Any brick that has those circular things can connect with any other brick that can accept those circular things. So we’ve created the commerce protocol that’ll allow any two parties to interact. So now let me give you a few example use cases, but you’re right, it’s all dependent on your imagination and so I’m giving you only one person’s imagination. Imagine when a billion people imagine what all is possible and therefore what could take place. So first I explained that today commerce takes place, platform by platform. We do different activities in different places. Now, if I’m going on a holiday, I want to buy a different size suitcase because I don’t want to carry too much stuff, but I don’t want to carry too little so I just need that right size suitcase. I want to buy a particular suitcase. I also want to buy my favorite snacks to take along. I want to book a flight ticket. I want to book a hotel room. I also, when I’m going to the airport, I also want to book a cab. Why should I have to go to four different applications to do this? I’m the same person. So now on ONDC, I will have many buyer applications and we’ll get to that subject in a minute. But through any one buyer application, from the same application, I’ll be able to do all four. I’ll be able to buy my suitcase, my snack, my flight ticket, book my hotel room and my cab. Check out and I’m done. Now this use case doesn’t exist today. So that’s just one example of the building block approach.

Vani 14:36 

I said, you know, today Google has intimate details on me. Similarly, so you are buying all of your requirements from ONDC, your snack, your hotel ticket. Will ONDC then be in a position to leverage all of that information and start targeting ads and use that information in various ways.

Shireesh Joshi 14:58 

So ONDC will keep no information. Let’s just take that example, let’s say that you had a suitcase of 5,000 rupees, and a flight ticket of 10,000 rupees. So that’s 15. A hotel room for three days, let’s say, that cost you 30,000. So that’s another, 30 plus 15, 45. So let’s say you have a total 45,000 expense. Now at best, ONDC might know that there was a transaction worth 45,000 rupees. And they will only have two applications involved. So we will know the buyer application you were using that was involved and the seller applications that in case there are more than one, then all of them that were involved in this total of 45. We will not know what you bought for 45,000. Did you buy a holiday set of items? Did you buy a television? Did you buy a very, very expensive designer dress? 

Vani 15:45 

But now you do know that this person can afford items worth 45,000. 

Shireesh Joshi 15:50 

We don’t know if it is a person, it could be a company. We have no idea who the buyer was. We just know that a transaction took place because should there be a question in future, we’ll have traceability on which transaction was referred to and which parties were involved. 

Vani 16:03 

No, but this transaction was all paid for via, you know, the credit card or a debit card and all of that. 

Shireesh Joshi 16:11 

ONDC would not know how you paid. So you would pay either in the buyer application, if the buyer application is ready to accept your payment. But there could be instances where buyer applications don’t want to deal with the money. They may ask you to pay directly to the seller application. So with one of those two applications, whatever payment tools they’ve embedded, whether net banking, credit card, UPI, whatever method they’ve embedded, the buyer pays the money in that. We have no idea who the payer is, we have no idea what the tool was. We will just know that there was a transaction at this particular time between these two applications. And that’s a deliberate choice. We do not want to keep that data. So now the buyer application on which was, as happens today, that buyer application will have access to your information and whatever history but the important thing is that because it’s an open network, if you choose to do your purchases through different applications, you will still be able to buy anything from any application. It’s like, I browse certain websites through one browser and certain other websites through another browser. So one browser does not know my browsing activity on the other browsers. 

Vani 17:17 

Yeah, but that’s typically not the case. Give me an example of a buyer application. So let’s say, in this example, if I had to go out and buy all of these things, hotel, ticket, cab, flight ticket, snacks, et cetera, what would an example of a buyer application be?

Shireesh Joshi 17:34 

Okay, so today we have four buyer applications that are already live. Users in Bangalore City can use any one of these four. The products that are available today are grocery and restaurants. 

Vani 17:47 Okay, when you say four buyer applications, what are those four buyer applications?

Shireesh Joshi 17:53 

One is Paytm, the payment application that we are familiar with. This is not a new application, it’s the same Paytm. So just the way Paytm allows you to load your wallet, pay your electricity bill, buy a highway tag, et cetera, et cetera, in that, one of the access points allows you to shop on ONDC, exactly the same app. So users of Paytm in Bangalore have not had to download a new application. They just have a new pointer in their existing application that now takes them to ONDC shopping. So that’s one example. Another is a completely new application, so IDFC Bank has built a completely new application that’s available. Then there’s a company called My Store that has built a buyer application. So today, users in Bangalore can use any of these applications and be able to shop on ONDC. These are universal. Now, today we have only two categories available in Bangalore, which are grocery and restaurants. Very soon we will have apparel, we will have electronics, we will have other items also. So when that happens through Paytm, you’ll be able to buy all these or through IDFC, you’ll be able to buy all these, or through My Store you will be able to buy all these.

Vani 19:09 And eventually the intent would be to have all banks to expand the number of applications, to expand the number of avenues through which a consumer can pay to as much as possible so that you are able to bring more and more people onto this. 

Shireesh Joshi 19:22 

Not just banks. Anybody who has any kind of a user base can become a buyer application. So banks obviously and they have begun. Telecom companies can do that, messaging applications can do that, social media companies can do that. Media companies can do that. Any one of them, or all of them can become buyer applications. So right now we are in conversation with more than 300 organizations who are joining the network as a buyer or a seller application

Vani 19:54 

What would be their draw to join this application? Basically, it’s just about the vast potential of increase in e-commerce that would help everyone grow. 

Shireesh Joshi 20:05 

Correct. It’s an additional revenue stream. So any business wants to choose their assets to grow revenue. Ideally, you want more revenue out of existing assets rather than investing in fresh assets. So now that you’ve invested in acquiring users or sellers as the case maybe. Why would you restrict the transaction you could generate through them? So let’s say if you’re a payment application today, you are helping them do payments where the earnings are fairly limited, and in fact some of the transactions are also free. So how do you earn now with the same user base, you are now able to do e-commerce transactions on a commission. You’re getting additional revenue from users you already have. So there isn’t even an acquisition cost now.

Vani 20:55 

This is great Shireesh. Tell me what else should I be asking you? It’s a concept that’s so new to the world that it’s difficult to even imagine what all it’s like when there was no Amazon, you couldn’t imagine a world with Amazon. You wouldn’t imagine that, you know, or the likes of the Zepto and Blinkit and all you wouldn’t ever think that if I need bread in the middle of the night, I could actually order it and it’ll end up in 10 minutes? 

Shireesh Joshi 21:23 

Yes. So there are a few other kinds of parallels that I could offer and again, this is going to evolve. So the first parallel, let me offer, is the camera on a mobile phone. The camera I think came in the late nineties or early 2000. When it first came, it was a very basic camera, 640*480 pixels, I think at the back you could only take daylight pictures. Little by little that camera’s capability grew. People were using apps, they were looking at their phones, so somebody decided to put a camera in the front too. You could have mirror applications, et cetera. Then the internet and mobile started to do well. We went from zero G to 1G to 2G to 3G.. So now that you have a front camera and now you have high internet speed, you can do video conferencing. I still remember when you had to go to a specific video conferencing location. There was a major dial up and connection and only then and you had to book that time. Now you can do it off your phone. So when the first camera came, I don’t think anybody was thinking about video conferencing when they were thinking like, this is just some easy picture that you can shoot and share. So how a capability grows happens with time and capability and imagination. Tomorrow, who knows what cameras might be able to do on phones. Now, the same cameras also, by the way, allow you to scan QR codes and make UPI payments. That’s also now, a use of the camera. So, things will evolve even with ONDC, things will evolve over time and new use cases will get formed. 

Vani 22:55 

Tell me something for my local Kirana shop, the guy who I have right here next to my house, who has a small limited assortment, but that’s good enough for me because I pick up the phone on him and I tell him, you know, ande bech do, crack jack biscuit bech do. How would it change life for the two of us? So right now, the way we work is I call him up, I tell him, ye bech do, I make the payment to him. How would life for the two of us become easier with ONDC?

Shireesh Joshi 23:29 

Okay. So let’s separate the two parts, which is the ordering part and then your, uh, financial arrangement for them as two separate bits. Now, in terms of ordering today, when we order on large platforms, we invariably hit sellers, we have no idea who they are, and we sort of look at their reputation and sort of trust the network to help us navigate. Now on ONDC, you can choose to shop from your neighborhood and you will see the neighborhood stores. You can actually select from your neighborhood restaurants, your neighborhood stores. You can book in your neighborhood salon. You’ll be able to shop from your neighborhood perspective in order to help that, one is of course you could search by proximity and you’ll actually see store names, not just products to be able to have that journey. But you could also have the way you have QR codes for payments today inside stores, each store has their own unique QR code. Each store will have their own unique catalog QR code as well. So they can just send you, hey, Vani, this is my QR code. Just save it anytime you want to order whatever you order. Just use this QR code and place the order. So now you do not have to wait for his phone to be free or him to be available near the phone. You can place an order to him at any point in time. In the middle of the night you say, oh, tomorrow morning I’ll need this, but I’ll be at work. I may not remember. You can just place that order on him in the night. He will wake up in the morning, his seller application will send him a notification saying, Vani has this, at that time, he’ll accept the order. And he will then figure out how to deliver. He can send his own delivery person, have a third party delivery do it. So you will be able to do the ordering and transaction. Importantly, he will now have a ready reminder and he can choose to, if his seller application has enabled it that, oh, it’s the fifth of the month Vani has still not placed her monthly order, he could trigger a reminder to you saying, Hey, whatever Kirana store is waiting for your order this month and if you say yes, he will just pick your shopping list from history and send it to you and he won’t forget an item. 

Vani 25:31 

Because he has all of that information. So I can not only place orders with him, I also have access to everything that he sells in his shop, because it’ll all be cataloged. This would mean that he should be adequately educated to even be able to catalog. How will he do that? 

Shireesh Joshi 25:52 

So he doesn’t need to do it because the seller applications will do it. Even today, the sellers who are on the network have not done the cataloging and digitizing themselves. It’s the seller applications who have onboarded them who have done that task. Right now the task is a little bit onerous, but we are building tools that will make it available. So let me cast your mind into the future. I do not know whether that future is one year away or three years away, but we are working out to make it more one than three. Okay, now picture just the way retailers sell to consumers, which is the conversation we’ve just had. Similarly, picture company distributors sell to retailers, all of them also on, ONDC. So now a retailer is doing all their buying on ONDC from company distributors and selling. Same retailer is buying Colgate products from the Colgate distributor, Unilever products from the Unilever distributor, Dabur products from Dabur distributor, ITC products from ITC distributor, et cetera. So retailers are buying them. If he’s buying them digitally, the digital transaction can update his inventory in real time. He doesn’t need to lift a finger, just his act of ordering will automatically update it. Correct. So there is some initial work involved. Now we are also working with companies to build master catalogs so that even the initial creation can become easy and consistent. We have a standard taxonomy, which is the product hierarchy on how the sequence should be organized, and so everybody in that industry will follow that same taxonomy and we’ll have a uniform way of discovering. 

Vani 27:29 

Wow. So this opens up a whole lot of avenues for business for all of these various service providers who will make ONDC effective.

Shireesh Joshi 27:38 

Correct. So everybody, the idea is that there’s the building blocks, right? So everybody builds whichever block they can sustain and contributes it to the network. So sometimes you might need this 10 minute high speed bike driven. Sometimes you may be okay with a free bicycle delivery or you might want, Now we are used, Here’s another use case, right? We are used to shopping at a location. It could be our home location. It could be our office location. It’d be the location of a friend or a relative who we are sending a gift to, but it’s still a location, correct? Everything goes to a fixed location. Now, what if I want to shop to a moving location, not to a fixed location? 

That’s still a location because that’s a destination location. Right now, let’s say I’m going from the office to the airport to catch a flight. I realized I left my mobile charger at home. I have no opportunity to go home now. I can’t wait around in the office because I’ll miss my flight. I can’t reach the airport and wait for a delivery person to show up. Because I have to enter the airport and check in or also the delivery guy, if he comes before me, he may choose not to wait because he has other deliveries to do. So now, what if I could give my route from my office to the airport as the input, and then I see mobile charger outlets along the way, which are no more than five minute deviation from my route. So now I’m doing a mobile location or a route based shopping, right? So that’s another use case. Now, whoever builds this use case doesn’t have to find these sellers. The sellers are present on the network. All you have to do is create a digital integration that takes your travel plan as an input geolocation of sellers on the network as the other input and presents to you a combination of solutions for you. And gives you time of departure from your main route to the airport as to, okay, this particular shop that’s seven minutes off your route. That one is 10 minutes off this one, et cetera. And then you can look at those timings and the ratings and whatever you want to, or you might even discover there’s a shop inside the airport today. How will you discover a shop inside the airport? Can you find a shop inside the airport on Google Maps and can you place an order?

Vani 29:56 No, I can’t find a shop inside the airport, but on Google Maps, it’ll show me the shops along the way. 

Shireesh Joshi 30:03 

You know what they contain? 

Vani 30:04 

No.

Shireesh Joshi 30:06 

Even some brands keep updating their connectors, right? So let’s say you’re on the latest iPhone and you want to buy that iPhone charger. How do you know which of these shops have that particular model of the charger currently in stock? So I’m saying that knowing that a shop exists is insufficient information. Given that you have limited time, who has that particular item that you’re interested in, including the reputation of the store and that item that you can’t get from Google Maps today. Well, you might get repetition depending on how it is populated, but that’s only providing part of the information. So right now you are in the act of making a commercial purchase. You need much more than information that the generic tools provide today. You’ll have to cobble together that information. So let’s say you indeed use any mapping tool, Map My India, Google Maps, whatever, and you discover shops. Then you have to go to a search engine to say, okay, this shop, what is its reputation? What do they have? Now you’re having to do all these steps independently. What if you could just know that, okay, these are the three shops on your road which have this item. This is their distance from your main route and this is their rating. 

Vani 31:28 

But this will, on its own, massively also spawn deeper penetration of SKU placement at every shop. I’m just imagining a simple use case for Unilever. For example, the greatest challenge for any brand manager is just to make sure that every shop carries the required assortment. I have seven different variants. I want every shop to carry all seven variants. So, which means in this, even if I’m a young brand manager, I may not wanna buy, but on ONDC I can check these are the outlets on this route and do they have X number of variants or not, is also a possibility. 

Shireesh Joshi 32:24 

Yes, it is a lot of fun and we are able to have line of sight on a lot of things that are going to come under the network. But like my mobile camera example, we only see the first version of what’s possible today. When that is already available, there’ll be a next set of things that will be possible. So this will be an ever evolving, changing landscape. 

Vani 32:43 

Okay, great. I can’t think of anything else. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us? 

Shireesh Joshi 32:48 

No. I think people should start looking for ways by which they can engage, come on board and become part of this transformation and contribute their ideas to, as I said, I’m one person with one imagination. I want a billion imaginations to be at play.

Vani 33:01 

I’m sure that’s not very far away, but this is fantastic, you must feel so powerful and so inspired to be building what you are building because, like you said, one can’t even imagine. What a billion people could imagine and what this could turn out to be. I don’t think we are even hitting at the a of the alphabet. 

Shireesh Joshi 33:26 

Yeah. I agree. The feeling is actually not one of being powerful, the feeling really is about enablement, right? The feeling really is about enablement, right? So it’s, it’s not like a, or being small  No. What capabilities are you unleashing? So if you build a hybrid, does it make you powerful? It really doesn’t make you powerful, but you’re looking forward to who can use it and travel on.

Vani 33:49 

No, I’m saying powerful in the sense of the kind of possibilities you are opening up. It must feel so exciting. 

Shireesh Joshi 33:59 

It does. And very satisfying looking at the kind of people who are now expressing interest in joining it is extremely satisfying that we’ve been able to do this. So small handloom makers also get excited. Farmers get excited. That’s when we know that we are creating something that’s truly vast in its scope and democratic. 

Vani 34:18

I think it should give a huge boost to the economy on various fronts, and it’ll create a platform for equal commerce and it’ll be especially useful for SMEs to be able to showcase and to be able to do business. I mean, if we can actually give a Philip to all of our master craftsmen in various little corners of the country, because we keep talking about this, even the likes of us who wish to and would like to have access to a lot, simply don’t know where to find and then life just takes over and you’re going from day to day and you eventually end up buying the same stuff from the same shops. So this is fantastic. 

Shireesh Joshi 35:00

But the point of craftsmen, and now actually craftsmen can become brands because now you’re not buying the generic item from the generic state. You can actually say, I want the one that is crafted by that particular craftsman. And you could potentially get it. 

Vani 35:17

Fabulous, Shireesh. Thank you so much. 

This show is sponsored by CherryPeachPlum Growth Consultancy. ­čŹĺCherryPeachPlum is a marketing-focused business consultancy that delivers business results. Get in touch via www.cherrypeachplum.in to get marketing solutions that work in the real world!

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Shireesh Joshi Chief Business Officer, ONDC

About Marketing with Vani

Hosted by award-winning marketeer Vani Dandia, who has spent over two decades in advertising and marketing with Unilever, PepsiCo, Reckitt Benckiser, Henkel, BBDO and Leo Burnett.

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