With the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) initiative now entering a crucial phase, the e-commerce opportunities for Indian manufacturers and suppliers are going to grow exponentially, also creating a level playing field, and bringing the much needed transparency to the process.
Anyone familiar with the procurement process of a typical public entity knows the complexities of the exercise, which keeps many otherwise competent suppliers away, just for the sheer frustration of negotiating the labyrinth. But all this is going to change soon as yet another initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to ensure transparency in official procurement by all government departments, is now entering a decisive phase. In his Budget speech last year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced the establishment of a technology driven platform by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D). The result, in the form of the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) portal, envisages procurement by government ministries and departments for their common use items ranging from stationery to machinery and everything in between.
To the uninitiated, an e-marketplace is an online marketplace, a type of e-commerce portal where information on products and services is provided by multiple third parties, whereas transactions are processed by the marketplace operator in a secure and transparent manner. GeM envisages being the B2B avatar of the various B2C portals that have captured the popular imagination and revolutionised the way people shop from the comforts of their home. The scale and scope of GeM is mind boggling and so is the scale and scope of the efficiencies and savings that would accrue once it becomes fully functional, and mandatory for all departments. At the moment only a few products are on offer, and the service, optional. The impending explosive growth in eCommerce is also supported by various other studies and research reports. According to Worldpay, a global leader in payments processing technology and solutions for merchant customers, while India accounts for less than 1% of the world’s eCommerce spend today, the country’s online retail market is set to grow by an astounding 28% per year over the next four years, making it worth US$ 63.7 bn by 2020, second only to China.
“An e-marketplace provides a level playing field for all the stakeholders ranging from large global corporates down to the smallest of SMEs. So Gupta Enterprises from Model Industrial Estate can compete against the American conglomerate GE and have the same opportunity for bagging the order which is otherwise unlikely to happen in the traditional market,” says Nilesh Gopali, cloudBuy Country Head – India. cloudBuy, a UK based company, has been doing precisely this, helping customers since 1999, with a complete e-commerce platform with demonstrable benefits. The company started as a software development house and integration specialist before building the cloudBuy e-commerce platform in 1999. Today, cloudBuy has ready solutions, Marketplace as a product – a foresight of the company, an ‘in-the-box’ solution for companies of all sizes, and the expertise to roll it out in a matter of weeks.
cloudBuy is already present in the Indian market through a tie-up with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), via CIITrade.in, a truly transnational Business to Business (B2B) platform. The rationale is to promote fair business practices through this not for profit, non-competitive initiative, where CII is not an intermediary to any transaction, but just a facilitator. With the involvement of other fulfilment partners like financial institutions and logistics and other services in a transparent manner, this platform also helps compliance with the government policy of large corporates buying from MSMEs and micro enterprises (at least 20%) and ensure payment with 45 days, thereby empowering this vital segment that contributes to the GDP in significant way. cloudBuy has a strategic partnership with Visa Asia Pacific for secure payments.
According to Nilesh Gopali, the industry is now ready to accept an online marketplace for the many advantages this platform offers like simple user experience to buy from a large database of products and with detailed profile of suppliers, with capability to execute end to end transactions in a secure environment. “At cloudBuy, we are ready with the necessary back end technologies to help the industry to get onto the e-marketplace at both the ends of the supply chain – the buyer and the seller,” says Nilesh Gopali. But the e-marketplace also accommodates the distributor or the reseller, which means the sellers can also be buyers on this platform. Recently the Gujarat government has also entered into an agreement with cloudBuy to develop a B2B marketplace for small and large business units in the State.
While there are many vendors in the market with solutions for such digital marketplaces, not many are really competent to handle the complexities demanded by the process to match the user experience. Service providers today are seeking total solutions in terms of lightweight, fast loading pages and seamless navigation, also flexible enough to accommodate rapid changes both from the clients’ end as well as the continuously evolving technologies.
“The idea is to get it right the first time, as there is really no second chance in this highly competitive domain,” concludes Nilesh Gopali.