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Updated December 4th, 2023 at 17:48 IST

ONDC, Google Cloud, Antler join hands to foster over 200 startups

With 'Build for Bharat' the companies will provide financial support to budding entrepreneurs and small businesses

Gauri Joshi
ONDC
Event | Image:Republic World
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The Open Network of Digital Commerce (ONDC) on Monday announced the 'Build for Bharat' initiative that aims to tackle challenges in digital commerce and promote industry innovation with applicable and scalable solutions.

“Such initiatives will unleash the talent and potential of the startup and student community to drive meaningful innovation at scale. Through grants, investments and recognition, we hope to nurture the best ideas into sustainable businesses,” said T Koshy, MD and CEO, ONDC.

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Recently, ONDC partnered with fintech platform Paytm through in-app integration on the One97 Communications’ UPI app to simplify ordering dishes, to buying groceries and finding electronics, fashion and home delivery. 

The event was addressed by Google Cloud India MD, Bikram Singh Bedi said the digitisation and commerce in the country is fulfilling potential, and the American search engine’s cloud platform will lend all support for onboarding, cataloguing and enabling multi-language access to startups via their partnership with Build for Bharat Initiative.

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“It was widely said that ONDC was an idea, but with partners building on top of the technology stack, the goal is to further integrate buyers and sellers on the platform. Cataloguing is a critical problem, but with Generative Artificial Intelligence (Gen AI), we aim to help small sellers, and also enable multiple languages for sellers from tier 2 and 3 to transact in their language of choice,” he added.

The first phase of the Build for Bharat initiative was announced in the Google for India event in October with 5,000 participants. 20 of 500 problem statements crowdsourced have been shortlisted.

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Bedi said Google will give cloud credits to SMEs for building prototype, enable access to Gen AI and also provide credits for eligible startups.

The Google teams will mentor startups for their technology program, making sure that businesses which may not already be production ready are prepared by Google.

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The winners for different categories will receive funding and mentoring as well as equity-free grants upto Rs 5 crore, and potential venture capital (VC) funding by investment fund Antler in India. 

Former Chief Architect Aadhaar & India Stack and CTO of EkStep Foundation Pramod Varma said it is still very early for ONDC, and the network is barely scratching the surface in terms of its e-Commerce potential.

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boAt co-founder and angel investor Aman Gupta said ONDC might bring the same revolution in e-commerce as UPI did for payments. He said, "We don’t have to be losers by missing the boat.”

He said that it is becoming "increasingly tougher" to make a presence on other e-commerce platforms. 

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Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company will bring 10 million merchants on the "Paytm se ONDC platform", and shared how his mother asked his help to onboard a sweets shop in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh on the platform. 

Sharma also addressed the issue of over-governance on the platform.

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Notably, the Reserve Bank of India has been putting halts to lending operations specifically for Paytm Payments Bank, and regulating onboarding on the platform.

Reports suggest Paytm may see a slowdown in revenue growth. It may have to revisit its strategy and find an alternative to the lucrative loan distribution business.

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Managing Director & CEO at Protean eGov Technologies Suresh Sethi said that one cannot explain tokenised trust to kirana stores, and onboarding can only happen after one builds social trust and reputation.

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Published December 4th, 2023 at 16:02 IST

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