Google launches accelerator program to support services built on top of India’s ONDC open commerce platform

In a move that will provide some impetus to India’s ambitious but slumberish open e-commerce protocol ONDC, Google has unveiled an exciting accelerator programme to support services built on top of Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC). Ambarish Kenghe, Vice President of Google Pay, made the announcement during the Google I/O Connect India event, signalling a collaboration that promises to shape the future of digital commerce in India, as well as an aim to fuel the growth of India’s thriving community of digital sellers.

Under the accelerator programme, digital sellers will gain access to a variety of Google AI tools. Google is also open sourcing a ready implementation of ONDC infrastructure and core APIs to facilitate scalability and security, along with enabling access to Retail artificial intelligence technology and PaLM API to enhance the buyer-seller experience on the platform.

“At Google, we continue to make deep investments to support the ecosystem’s growth with a rich set of open and integrated technologies, and we are excited to see more breakthrough solutions this ecosystem will build for India and the world,” Kenghe, who is also the former CPO at Myntra added.

“The addition of Google Cloud’s Accelerator Program reinforces ONDC’s mission to revolutionize the ecommerce landscape, ushering in a new era of efficiency, agility, and customer-centricity. By streamlining the onboarding process through efficient core APIs, this milestone addition to the open network empowers enterprises to focus on their core competencies,” T Koshy, managing director and CEO of ONDC, commented on the matter. Organizations that enable ONDC will also be eligible to apply for a grant of $25,000, under Google’s new ONDC startup credits programme.

Will Grannis, CTO of Google Cloud said, “The number of applicants etc., will be determined at a later date. But we will start this programme right away considering its importance.” For now, Google is discussing with the Indian government to integrate its shopping services with ONDC. The company also rolled out an India-first experimental feature called Address Descriptors through Google Maps, which is aimed to bring better serviceability of ONDC orders. The feature is now available in 25 Indian cities and expected to make it easier for customers to find and communicate addresses using relevant landmarks and area names.

For those who aren’t aware, ONDC is India’s attempt to replicate its massive success in the digital payments space — the UPI. ONDC aims to create a similar, open-sourced, interoperable digital commerce network that connects buyers, sellers, and service providers seamlessly. It aims to promote fair competition, enable ease of doing business, and facilitate secure and transparent transactions. As of April, the ONDC had over 31,000 merchants registered for selling over 37 lakh products.

The launch of the accelerator programme signals a significant opportunity for digital sellers to scale their operations, expand their customer base, and thrive in the digital realm. By leveraging Google’s expertise in areas such as technology, marketing, and business development, participants in the programme can unlock new avenues for growth, enhance their digital presence, and tap into a larger pool of potential customers. This initiative holds the potential to transform the fortunes of numerous digital sellers across the country.

Coming to the other AI tools revealed by Google at the Google I/O Connect event in Bengaluru, Google will now open-source its research models, language models, and datasets, and make PaLM API and Makersuite available to Indian developers. It will also open-source the first set of speech data under Project Vaani, comprising over 4,000 hours in 38 languages.

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