Digital change in this time and age has become an inevitable part of the change that everyone’s so eager to follow that they are all on-board already. But one has to realize that people do not ask for apps. What they ask for is ‘convenience’! If an app can help a hungry buyer with the right product/item in the most affordable way at the convenience of their home then they will definitely prefer it.
While, India as a country has been evolving digitally at a tremendous pace under the leadership of its Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi who understands how important IT will be when rebuilding the infrastructure of an entire nation, it has also been infected with the same business issue that has hit the west i.e. monopolization.
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The Current eCommerce Market in India
Modern America was and is nurtured by capitalism and to escape it would be to escape its own origin. Talking about capitalism and America would be futile since this discussion has been going on even before any of us in this world were born. I won’t be indulging you in that right now but whatever it is, it’s working for them.
Unlike the US, India did not go with capitalism when it came to choosing an economic model post-independence and neither did it choose extreme socialism. Looking at its own business people, demography, geography, and various other factors, the financial experts came up with a combination of both. Even today, while businesses are trying to capitalize on this country, they know that they will only be able to tap into a particular set of people and not everyone.
Online apps have already dominated the Indian eCommerce market to an extent that they have almost monopolized those areas of the market i.e. for eCommerce it’s either Amazon or Flipkart (primarily), for food delivery it’s either Zomato or Swiggy, for groceries it’s either Big Basket or Grofers, for cabs it’s either Uber or Ola, and the list goes on.
But in a country that caters to over a billion population that is so diverse in every way (even geographically), using the term ‘dominated’ for companies that have only been able to target metro cities was a little too over the top from my side. These companies have only been able to generate the amount of revenue they have been tapping by focusing only on the urban population.
To replicate the same business model in other semi-urban and rural parts of India is futile and that’s where half of the country’s population lives. Even in urban areas, it’s an economic disaster because the only way they have been able to generate any sales from their business is by giving hefty discounts while having to cater to the quality of their services at the same time.
The competition here has become so cut-throat that many of these companies are actually incurring loss just so that they can contain their existing customer base.
Fortunately, although 2020 knocked everyone out with its sudden and equally devastating blow, it made both digital and businesses in India realize that if there’s hope for bringing in a digital transformation in a uniform way, it can only be done through Hyperlocal Business Model.
Why Hyperlocal Business Model
I had already discussed what Hyperlocal Business is and why it is better than eCommerce. But here, the context of the why is different from what I’d talked about in the aforementioned article.
The word ‘data’ in today’s world has more depth, meaning, and importance in today’s world than most other things. It doesn’t just mean a piece of information anymore. It represents our information i.e. everything about us. It’s the way through which we can be understood even better than we might know about ourselves and that kind of information out there can make us shoppers very vulnerable.
There are millions of people in this country who solely depend on their businesses for a living and it is through these tiny shops of theirs that people from the neighborhood procure things from. For these businesses to grow digitally by themselves is a painful task because they lack the knowledge and skill to use technology and data. The ones who have both knowledge and resources have this urge to create their own app for the need to collect data and have a brand of their own. This barely covers 10% of the businesses in India while the rest 90% is left to the mercy of this 10% to help them run their own businesses online.
This has also led to the existence of too many apps and the more the apps, the less secure is the information. It becomes very important for us to have a sense of security over our personal information.
That is why there needs to exist a way wherein all the data comes from a single channel that is protected enough for both sellers and consumers to participate while catering to the needs of even the smallest of businesses that want to be a part of the digital journey.
This is where Beckn happens.
The Need for Beckn
The canonization of individual apps is not only an unethical process since it instills fear in the minds of people regarding their data but also because it discourages the local businesses from growing. Beckn approaches the issue from an entirely different direction. Instead of forcing all the existing apps and platforms to share the data that they have about us, Beckn takes them out of the equation entirely.
To bring in a grassroot level change to what exists already in abundance even if possible is not the right way to go forth.This is why instead of challenging the issue from the roots, Beckn is more focused towards providing an open, interoperable alternative to the closed, self-contained platforms that dominate eCommerce today. If accepted and implemented widely, it will give businesses of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to provide us with the same quality of service with transparency and security as the crowns of our faith without having to serve under the mercy of the dominant platforms.
Understanding Beckn Protocols
What is Beckn?
In its official site, beckn.org, Beckn defines itself as
An open protocol that enables location-aware, local commerce across industries to be discovered and engaged by any beckn-enabled application. beckn, while being a minimal open source protocol specification, acts as a force multiplier for end-beneficiaries – customers, application developers, governments, and businesses by creating an interoperable open playground to unlock value and innovation
This means that Beckn is primarily in its basic essence a set of protocols that lets digital businesses from every commercial ecosystem interact directly with each other without having to rely on any other third-party platforms. This open-source protocol comes with a range of commercial functionality that can be applied across a large number of interoperable microservices and makes it even easier for them to identify the specifications accordingly by bifurcating them in a systematic and labelled manner.
Each of them acts as individual parts that can be assembled into different configurations to suit the specific needs of a wide variety of businesses, ranging from small shops (kiranas) to enterprises. Up until now, a business that intended to set up a digital presence had to get these parts from select platforms that had dominated by acting as the gateway of online commerce, eCommerce, and mobile commerce. Beckn disrupts this entirely by radically opening up these gateways for all kinds of businesses by allowing them to select the segments they need for operating their business, from every other business that is Beckn-enabled.
This means that local shop owners who wish to make the contents of their stores accessible online can be able to do so with ease. With Beckn they will be able to make their own inventory for an online presence, find service providers to take and process their orders, and independently collaborate with delivery partners to deliver the items to their customers.
Each of these services can be detached from each other and provided to respective partners to be maintained respectively.In short, with Beckn, the entire process can be split into a modular and interoperable way.
Beckn’s ability to decentralize comes from the way it bifurcates all the functions. By this, I mean Beckn deconstructs any business process into its core elements i.e. discovery, order booking, payment, delivery, and fulfillment. This applies to every business irrespective of its nature, type, or area. These core elements achieve the independence of being micro-services themselves, which means that they can all be carried out by a variety of Beckn-enabled businesses individually, selectively, or in its entirety.
What this does is make it possible for developers to customise a bespoke user experience on top of the same basic commercial underpinning. This means that we will soon have a wide spectrum of modular processes, each of which are capable of being combined together in virtually infinite ways. This will give rise to a variety of highly differentiated user experiences both for customers as well as for the providers of goods and services – all the while ensuring that the commercial ecosystem is capable of talking to each other over the underlying transactional layer.
What does Beckn aim to achieve
Beckn isn’t attempting to become another eCommerce platform. To the contrary, it is looking to design the digital scaffolding on which providers of goods and services can build open, interoperable commercial offerings that can be combined to create a platform that everyone can contribute to and benefit from. It promises to take any existing commercial service offering and make it digitally accessible. At scale, it will allow any location-aware commercial operation – from fleet operators to last-mile delivery services, from large department stores to your local grocer – to leverage the power of the open internet to their mutual advantage.
Beckn is ambitious in scope. In order to become the foundational eCommerce architecture that it aspires to, it will have to convince existing businesses to make their services interoperable with other Beckn providers. This will not be easy and until it achieves critical mass, far more businesses will hold back than will agree to participate – preferring to take their chances with the more established digital commerce platforms than take a risk on a new idea.
But if there is a country in which this idea has a chance of taking root, it is India. We have already demonstrated that we are capable of building population-scale platforms in various sectors. And while the big platforms do have a strong presence in the country, there remain vast swathes of the population and regions of the country that they have yet to cover. If we can create an alternative digital infrastructure for commerce in India, we can make a tremendous difference.