Beckn Protocol in Brief
The Europen Union looks to adopt the Nandan Nilenkeni-backed Open Network protocol called the “Beckn Protocol” for making urban mobility services interoperable. Also, the Germany’s Hof University is building a decentralized manufacturing network in Germany using the open network Beckn Protocol. Beckn is a protocol for creating “interoperable”/ “platform-independent”/ and “open architecture” digital networks for public use.
India’s “tech prowess” lies in creating an easy-to-use set of specifications consisting of APIs, data models, reference architecture, transaction mechanisms, and global standards. They can be adapted to create decentralized digital networks.
One such Protocol stack is Nandan Nilenkeni-backed Beckn, whose utility has been appreciated by Europeans. They have started using it to build local apps. This article will briefly introduce the Beckn Protocol to the readers.
Introduction to open network digital stack
India is home to the largest open API in the world. But it’s not just about creating a record. India Stack has been the backbone of the largest democratic identity ecosystem in the world: Aadhaar.
Aadhaar is a paper identity card and paperless too. It has been seamlessly integrated into other services like
CoWIN is used as a starting point to build India’s much talked about Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) – it aims to develop the backbone necessary to support the integrated digital health infrastructure of the country. The work on the digital stack, now called “India Stack” commenced in 2009 with the launch of Aadhaar. It took a decade of developmental work to come to where India is today.
Let’s understand a bit about the Beckn Protocol (BP) in brief
What led to the creation of ONDC & BP
With the phenomenal success of Amazon.com, Flipkart.com, and other e-marketplaces, there were complaints of domination by large enterprises and unfair trade practices to stifle competition from small traders and enterprises.
To end the domination of a few biggies and bring a level-playing field for all (including the small businesses), the government initiated building an open architecture-based e-commerce network that is platform-independent and decentralized to help Small and Medium-sized businesses and consumers go online. Thus, the BP and ONDC were born in late 2022.
Under the leadership of Nandan Nilenkeni, Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) standards were developed. The ONDC aims to curb digital monopolies, create new opportunities, and support micro, small, and medium enterprises and small traders to get on online platforms. The objective of ONDC is to create a level playing field on par with e-commerce behemoths such as Amazon, Flipkart, and offline traders who have been blamed for their unfair trade practices.
Microsoft has become the first global Big Tech Company to join the ONDC. It has plans to introduce social e-commerce through its app in the Indian market using ONDC.
Beckn Protocol (BP)
BP is a set of specifications consisting of APIs, data models, reference architecture, transaction mechanisms, and global standards all rolled into one.
When digital platform developers adopt these APIs, they enable the creation of decentralized networks that can seamlessly communicate between them to exchange data.
Such networks allow consumers and merchants to discover, identify each other, and perform transactions with each other without the need for a central intermediary.
Example of closed platforms
Amazon, Flipkart, Bigbasket, Tata Neu, DMart, Nyka, etc are all e-marketplaces and are called platforms in tech language. Now, each of them has spent billions of dollars and decades of hard work to build and operationalize their platforms, yet they can’t talk to each other seamlessly. That means buyers from one platform CANNOT see and buy goods hosted on another platform.
It’s because they are all platform-dependent and are closed to other platforms.
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How platforms developed using open network protocol can talk to each other?
By building platforms using the BP, they can communicate with each other using mutually agreed-upon standards put forward by ONDC. The platforms allow their users to perform discovery, ordering, fulfillment, and post-fulfillment activities between each other in a standard way. It is a sector-agnostic protocol, meaning, it can be applied to any sector. The sectors are as follows
The Beckn protocol can support a few kinds of e-marketplaces. They are as follows
The protocol is so open that at any given time, the rates of products and services under any sector can be changed without stopping the app.
What exactly can BP do?
The decentralized, open network-based Beckn Protocol can bring a massive difference to the digital app ecosystem anywhere in the world. The apps developed using this protocol can effortlessly talk to each other. In a way, it can digitalize commerce throughout the planet and make selling and buying an easy activity.
What kind of apps be developed using this protocol?
Let’s take an example of how it can help merchants (product sellers and service providers) and consumers do trading. In Bengaluru, if business merchants of Jayanagar and JP Nagar areas get together and want to start an e-marketplace for the merchants to sell their wares online. They can quickly do so through an e-marketplace that can be developed with minimal rates and in the least timeframe using the Beckn protocol.
The e-marketplace, built using the protocol, can have all the features that Amazon/ Flipkart platforms have. It can interface seamlessly with the payment apps for accepting payments (UPI/ Bank transfer/ Visa/ Master card) and logistics apps to make the last-mile delivery of goods, provided they (apps) use the Beckn Protocol and comply with ONDC standards. The e-marketplace can communicate with other platforms elsewhere to exchange data, and that’s the beauty.
All they (the merchants) need is a consultant to develop the platform using the Beckn protocol (open network) and comply with ONDC-defined e-commerce standards.
Namma Yatri (NY) mobility app built on the Beckn Protocol
Namma Yatri is the first open network mobility application built to provide multi-modal (local buses, Metro trains, Auto rickshaws, Taxis) service to commuters without involving brokers. It is built on the Beckn protocol (open source) and adheres to the open network standards defined by ONDC. Any other App – payment apps, to offer services to Namma Yatri should comply with the standards set by ONDC.
Auto rickshaws were the first service providers to join the Namma Yatri mobility network. It is similar to the Ola-Uber apps without any commission-seeking middleman, so Namma Yatri became popular in Bengaluru. In a short period, thousands of auto drivers jumped onto the bandwagon, as did lakhs of commuters.
Kochi Open Mobility Network (KOMN)
KOMN is built on the open network standards defined by ONDC and uses the Open Network Beckn protocol. Kochi Metropolitan Transport Authority initiative like KOMN is supporting the local community in Kochi commute seamlessly using various transport services. KOMN drives the integrated multimodal urban transport services.
Novel initiatives like KOMN is helping digitising the mobility, where all mobility apps in the network exchange data with each other flawlessly.
It offers an open interoperability-led integration approach akin to the Internet.
Hoff University’s decentralized manufacturing network
Now, a university in Germany is building a manufacturing domain adaptation of the Beckn Protocol, as Beckn can handle Industry 4.0 specs.
Also, the university is building a “rent a machine” project at the Hof University of Applied Sciences in Germany. The researchers and students are creating a platform accessible to all companies in the manufacturing sector. The platform carries information on the free production capacities that can be spared with others. The platform carries information on the free production capacity of the registered companies.
The companies in need of manufacturing help can rent the idle capacity to manufacture their products. The following example can clear the mental cobweb.
Let’s say one company got a huge order to manufacture the T-shirts for exports. If the company cannot produce and fulfill the order due to constraints in the production capacity. Using a Beck-enabled open network, he can quickly discover similar plants with free capacity to spare. He can commercially allocate work to them over the network, and get it done at other’s premises.
Other platforms that can be created with BP
The kind of decentralized digital ecosystems that can be created using ONDC and Beckn Protocol lies in one’s imagination. There can be an e-marketplace exclusively for fruits and vegetables. A certified agency can certify the quality of the produce put for auction on the platform. From marketing to payments to fulfillment different apps can take care. It will help growers and consumers a lot.
India is marching ahead by building the digital infrastructure for the public good at a breakneck pace. What started in 2009 as experimentation to create a digital identity (Aadhaar) of 130 crore people, ended up creating many apps by 2020. They are as follows
- Digital KYC
India’s digital journey has just begun, and in the next 10 years, it is going to take off to great heights. Already, our India stack is in high demand from South America, Africa, and the Middle East. With the success of UPI and the internationalization of the Indian rupee, there is a plan to make UPI an alternative to the SWIFT network for international inter-bank bulk transfer of money. The future looks bright for India, and it is good for the country if the individuals contribute to her growth story in whatever way possible.