India’s ONDC – How Brands Can Benefit From it

When initiatives like ONDC are taking shape, brands need to stand out from the competition and stand out from the crowd, says Sanjay Mehta.
Image: Sohil Laad

As most of you would be aware, the Government of India has come up with a digital initiative called ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce). Its motive is to act as a force multiplier for various segments such as businesses, consumers, application developers, governments, and other relevant participants through the creation of an interoperable and open playground for various sections to function and compete.

It aims to create a win-win situation for the buyers as well as the sellers. For buyers it will benefit them to shop from all possible sellers available at everyday apps and the sellers will have an even greater buyer audience.

In my recent article unpacking the ONDC we talked about a revolution that will democratize and integrate the digital commerce interface in India. We covered in that article, the fundamentals of ONDC and its operating model. Let us clarify again that ONDC is not any platform or an application, rather it is an open network, and an open network goes beyond the current platform-centric model where the buyer and seller must be part of the same platform/application to enable transactions between them.

 
 

“The reality is that whether it is ONDC or otherwise, in an open market, sooner or later, everything tends to get commoditized.”

Instead, in an open network, if the platforms/applications are interoperable, buyers and sellers can transact no matter what platform/application they use to be digitally visible/available, thereby enabling the flow of value.

Even as this ONDC revolution is coming our way, what about the many brands that have already forayed into e-commerce, on their own, or via aggregators? They have potentially invested a lot of time, effort, and money to achieve a certain visibility on the platforms and generate good business. With a sort of level playing field now emerging with ONDC, will all their hard work come to naught? Will a newcomer competitor be equally accessible and stand to benefit from ONDC, despite the experience and early start that some brands had got??

 
 

Well, the answer is that the challenge is certainly on, for even those who had started early and had made their initial play on e-commerce via aggregators. There is certainly a risk for them, in that many new competitors can compete for their customers’ business, since ONDC may allow all of them equal access.

So, in this “level playing field” of ONDC, is there no differentiator possible? Would it be a commonization across the board??

Well, the reality is that whether it is ONDC or otherwise, in an open market, sooner or later, everything tends to get commoditized. And yet, brands tend to succeed and command some premium and preference. That is exactly where “branding” comes into the picture. And it would be no different now, in this new e-commerce world of ONDC!

MORE: Unpacking India’s Landmark ONDC Initiative

So why is standing out important? In an era where people’s attention spans are getting shorter by the minute, the need to make an impression is more important than ever. And the best way to do this is by creating a solid and memorable brand identity. It all comes down to one thing that people who know you and your business will trust you more and will buy more products and services from you. And for this to happen one must not leave any stone unturned.

“In an era where people’s attention spans are getting shorter by the minute, the need to make an impression is more important than ever.”

While in the actual customer experience, factors like better product availability, better visibility, prompt delivery and overall swift service will help you differentiate, but in addition to that, the creation of a good brand identity, one that your consumers connect and identify with, will help you generate preference, even in a far more democratized e-commerce world of ONDC!

“People wear brands, eat brands, listen to brands, and they’re constantly telling others about the brands they love. On the flip side, you can’t tell someone about a brand you can’t remember.”

Making the customers connect emotionally with your brand is crucial as purchasing is an emotional experience, and an interface can only throw up choices, but the final decision that a buyer takes, has a strong dependence on how she “feels” about the brand!

Today when initiatives like ONDC are taking shape, brands need to stand out from the competition and stand out from the crowd. Your full brand experience, from the visual elements like the logo to the way that your phones are answered, tell your customer about the kind of company that you are.

People wear brands, eat brands, listen to brands, and they’re constantly telling others about the brands they love. On the flip side, you can’t tell someone about a brand you can’t remember.

To sum it up any seller or vendor offering their products and services on a democratized ONDC network, needs to ensure that there is something unique about the brand which sets it apart, and which generates preference, since they are on a network where potentially lakhs of Kirana stores and other businesses will compete with each other, and everyone has an opportunity to make the best out of it and for that, they need to have a strong brand idea which they can hold on to, can commit to, and can deliver upon.

Sanjay Mehta

Sanjay Mehta

Sanjay is Joint CEO at Mirum India and Co-Author of the book, "If I Had To Do It Again".

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