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ONDC sells 50,000 kg tomatoes to date at subsided rates in NCR

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Shiv Joshi
Shiv Joshi
An editor with over 20 years of experience across industry verticals and content formats from tabloids to magazines, he is the Deputy Group Managing Editor at Images Group.

ONDC sells about 2000 kg of tomatoes every day but consumers just lap it up within 10-15 minutes of going live on partner apps

New Delhi: The Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) sells everything from electronic items to fashion products. However, currently, the hottest-selling item for the digital network is a precious commodity: tomatoes.

Amid soaring tomato prices in India that is commanding up to Rs 200 per kilogram, ONDC started rationing to consumers in New Delhi and its suburbs two kilograms of tomatoes at Rs 70 per kilogram (KG). The initiative has proved to be a hit for the network with consumers lapping them up within 15 minutes of going live even though ONDC applying a rationing system where a consumer is only able to purchase two kilograms of tomatoes per week. On top of that the affordable tomatoes come with no delivery charges.

Since 14 July, ONDC through its partner platforms including Paytm, Magicpin, Mystore, and Pincode apps, has already sold about 50,000 kg of tomatoes.

“The initiative’s popularity on social media has been humbling, resulting in daily tomato supplies being fully purchased within an astonishingly short time, typically within 10-15 minutes,” ONDC told IndiaRetailing in a response to the query. Tomatoes are available for purchase at 9 am every day on partner apps.

The idea of selling affordable tomatoes directly to the consumers was born when the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Limited (NCCF) approached ONDC with a proposal that sought to stem the soaring prices of tomatoes in the country which were selling at Rs200 per kg in July 2023.

NCCF, set up under the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), provides supply support to consumer cooperatives and other distributing agencies for the distribution of consumer goods at reasonable and affordable rates.

While the tomatoes are procured by NCCF in partnership with the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) from mandis in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the last mile deliveries are made by Shadowfax with Shiprocket’s support.

“The Government of India is trying to see how it can prevent the dramatic rise in prices of products. So NCCF contacted us and said can the ecosystem of ONDC, which has many buyer applications which have their own customers, be used as a channel to make tomatoes available to a larger audience?” said T Koshy, managing director of ONDC.

ONDC is a private non-profit Section 8 company under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT). A Section 8 Company is a non-profit organization formed for social welfare. The profits of such companies are utilized for promoting these objectives and are not distributed among the Company’s members. ONDC was started by the government with the aim to democratise digital commerce in the country.

Within six days of launching the initiative, ONDC sold 10,000 kg of discounted tomatoes in Delhi, reported Hindustan Times.

Paytm app alone sold nearly 6,000 kg of tomatoes in just one week, accounting for 60% of total tomato sales in Delhi NCR on the ONDC network, as per a Paytm statement.

What started as a trickle of tomatoes has at present turned into a flood. Till 13 August 2023, a total of 15 lakh kgs of tomatoes had been procured by the two agencies NCCF and NAFED for selling to consumers in major consumption centres in the country, as per a DCA statement released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB).

Koshy said ONDC was happy with the initiative as it provided the platform with the opportunity to participate in a government-run programme to arrest the price rise.

“It is also going to give people confidence that this is something that works,” beamed Koshy.

Koshy said ONDC processes about 1,000 orders of subsidised tomatoes on any given day adding up to 2,000 kilos sold per day through the programme.

Anice Joseph Chandra, Managing Director at NCCF, recently took to x (formerly twitter) to express his happiness to be part of the mission.

“We are delighted to team up with the ONDC Network for this initiative. It aligns perfectly with NCCF’s commitment to serve our consumers with affordable and quality produce,” he said in the social media post.

Future plans

Koshy said the continuity of the program will depend directly on the tomato prices.

“We don’t know how long the prices will remain high or how long the supply will last,” he said. “See, this is not a standard ONDC initiative, it shows that this network is imminently adaptable to rise up to a demand that came on a Friday evening with everybody being ready.”

Koshy lauded the help of all the stakeholders including the supply chain partners in pulling off an entirely new and difficult digital commerce initiative.

“Shiprocket helped with packaging, ShadowFax helped with the shipment, Paytm and Phonepe among others said we will make it visible to consumers. The beauty of the network is that you are able to harness the different components of the network to come together at short notice,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, the initiative is being lauded by everyone–from consumers on the street to industry bodies and lawmakers in the parliament.

Commenting on the initiative, Kumar Rajagopalan, chief executive officer, Retailers Association of India that works closely with ONDC to onboard retailers on the network said, “What ONDC did in Delhi with tomatoes is a nice way to understand democratisation of supply chains in the country. Going forward we will see many more examples of the power of the ONDC being leveraged by retailers and other members of the retail ecosystem to meet consumer demands in a timely manner.”

The affordable tomato campaign also found a mention in finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s parliamentary address where she said that the initiative will continue in the coming days and she also assured that the government is looking to increase supplies of cheaper tomatoes.

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