Where India’s payments infrastructure goes next
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Where India’s payments infrastructure goes next

Two new platforms show how India is building on top of its digital foundations.

teenage girl showing a mobile phone to her father
Photo: Getty

India’s world-leading Unified Payments Interface – the interoperable state-backed digital payments infrastructure that is being mimicked from the Philippines to Brazil – has found its latest use case, and it is a big one: the democratization of e-commerce.

One might think that commerce is already as democratized an enterprise as can be: it is, after all, the choice of a buyer to buy from a seller, simple as that. But in truth, up to 60% of Indian e-commerce is split between Amazon and Flipkart, the latter of which is owned by Walmart. Having global players so heavily reflected in the great national bazaar doesn’t sit well with India.

And so to the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), a non-profit set up by the government with Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani vocally behind it (Nilekani, regular readers will recall, also being the spearhead of the Aadhaar national ID card that allowed so much of India’s digital revolution to take place).

ONDC – not the catchiest name ever applied to an e-commerce platform – is at heart just a communication protocol that allows buyer and seller network participants to interact with each other.

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