The development of the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) in India marks a pivotal shift in the ecommerce landscape, aiming to democratise the digital marketplace much like UPI transformed digital payments.
However, this also brings a significant challenge for businesses, that are eager to participate but face technological and operational hurdles.
Integrating your business into ONDC requires a sophisticated understanding of a new digital ecosystem, which is a daunting task for many digital businesses. These brands need to navigate through a complex technology stack that includes application layers, middleware, and network layers, each serving distinct functions for buyer-side and seller-side applications.
The complexity is compounded by the fact that most digital brands lack the technical expertise and resources to develop such integrations in-house.
According to a report by Bain & Company, India’s ecommerce market is projected to reach $200 billion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 30% from 2021. This rapid growth underscores the urgency for brands to adapt to new digital commerce platforms like ONDC.
However, the challenge lies in the fact that the ONDC ecosystem is still in its nascent stage, with many businesses struggling to understand and implement the required technology to integrate with this new system.
The lack of standardised software solutions further exacerbates the problem, leaving many businesses at risk of falling behind in a rapidly evolving digital marketplace.
Plotch.ai, recognising this gap, aims to provide a streamlined solution for Indian businesses to join the ONDC network.
Who is the founder?
Having studied at IIT Bombay and IIM Ahmedabad, Manoj Gupta gained firsthand knowledge about technology and business. When ONDC was launched two years ago, he noticed nobody was trying to develop the software necessary to power business growth.
Manoj wasn’t new to e-commerce. In 2011, he co-founded Craftsvilla with his wife, Monica Gupta. At that time, it was India’s largest online e-commerce marketplace for ethnic products. He also worked at Nexus Venture Partners, which led him to start angel investing. Currently, he is associated with Peerlist and Tookitaki.
After spending over a decade in the e-commerce industry, he co-founded Plotch.ai with his wife during the COVID-19 pandemic. Plotch.ai enables digital companies to join the open ecommerce network by offering technical support in the form of a tech stack for both buyers and sellers.
So far, It has worked with companies like Paytm, Meesho, Snapdeal, Blue Star, and IDFC First Bank, among others.
How does it work?
According to Manoj, Plotch.ai is designed to streamline the integration of businesses into the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) in India, a network poised for significant growth across various sectors.
The startup provides a comprehensive technology stack to simplify the integration process.
The technology stack offered by Plotch.ai consists of three main components. The first is the Application Layer, which for buyer-side applications (like Paytm, PhonePe’s Pincode, and Spice Money) refers to the smartphone application or website that facilitates transactions.
For seller-side applications, this layer includes a control panel for managing orders, inventory, and product catalogues.
The second component, the Middleware Layer, functions as the enterprise resource planning (ERP) layer. It’s essential for running various features of the purchase process, such as handling refunds and managing customer service tickets.
The third component, the Network Layer, integrates the brand’s API with the ONDC ecosystem, facilitating communication and data exchange between the buyer and seller applications.
Plotch.ai’s approach to integration and onboarding is tailored to meet the needs of different businesses. It offers two distinct approaches: a bundled solution and an existing ERP connection.
The bundled solution is a comprehensive package provided by Plotch.ai, popular for its convenience, as it includes everything a business needs to get started on ONDC quickly.
The existing ERP connection option allows businesses to connect their established ERP systems with Plotch.ai’s tech stack, offering a more customised solution.
Notably, Plotch.ai can significantly reduce the time required for businesses to go live on the ONDC network. While typically, this process could take at least a year, The startup claims to accomplish it within four weeks, which is beneficial for businesses eager to tap into the growing digital commerce space without the lengthy setup time.
The business model
The revenue model of Plotch.ai is multi-faceted. Firstly, it includes a one-time setup fee charged to clients for integrating their systems with the ONDC network. This fee covers the initial costs of setting up and customising the software to meet the specific needs of each client.
Secondly, The startup has an annual maintenance contract in place. The contract is designed to ensure that the software is regularly updated and maintained, keeping it in line with the latest technological advancements and client requirements.
In addition to these fees, It also implements a transaction-based revenue model. The startup charges a small fee on every order that is processed and fulfilled through the Plotch.ai-supported brand.
The transaction fee is a critical component of the revenue model, as it is expected to cover the costs associated with handling orders on the ONDC network.
The startup believes that as the volume of orders increases, the transaction fee will become a significant revenue stream, which would further help it expand its operations and growth. According to Manoj, Plotch.ai has projected revenue of Rs 2.5 crore in FY24 and aims to reach Rs 10 crore by the end of FY25.
In June 2023, Plotch.ai partnered with technology giant Google Cloud to launch an ONDC-in-a-Box solution for enterprises. The solution is powered by Google Cloud's open-source solution and bundled with Google Cloud infrastructure.
It has also partnered with Microsoft and launched an ONDC-focused accelerator to evaluate, select, launch and scale startups that are focused on building the ONDC ecosystem.
Funding and investors
While Plotch.ai was founded nearly four years ago, The startup raised its first funding in July 2023 as part of its pre-seed funding round led by early-stage investor Antler India, with participation from Peak XV Partners and Global Founders Capital.
It is now looking to raise roughly $3 million to expand its presence into new categories such as insurance, lending, and mutual funds.
With an employee base of 42 people, the startup is focusing on expanding its client base. It aims to onboard 50 clients by the end of FY24 and 200 by March 2025. ‘
Manoj Gupta believes that Indian businesses must join the government-backed ONDC network to realise the opportunity and growth potential of e-commerce in India.
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