The Centre is considering making all its purchases through an e-commerce marketplace soon, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. Starting with items as small as office supplies, all government items across departments will reportedly be bought online to save money. Rita Teaotia, a bureaucrat in the commerce ministry, told Bloomberg, “So far, we’ve seen that the government’s savings are at least 10% on every transaction.”
The portal, which was set up by the national e-governance division of the government and has been operational since August, has already facilitated transactions worth Rs 39 crore. Additional director of the division Vishal Singh said the total expenditure is estimated to be 20% of India’s gross domestic product once states, state-run firms, utilities, defence divisions and the Railways come on board.
An employee of a state-run college who is undergoing training for this government e-market said that the platform is “not very different” from other online marketplaces. “Users [can] choose from products listed alongside photos and detailed specifications. It even allows them to compare prices offered on the marketplace with those on rival websites,” Ram Niwas Sharma told Bloomberg.
The new system will also allow vendors to bid for any government purchase across India. As of now, the government issues tenders to make any purchase, which allows for price manipulation, and often leaves out local suppliers.
The step is crucial in the backdrop of the recent demonetisation move. On November 8 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s decision to denotify Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Since then, he has asserted that the move was taken to push India towards becoming a cashless economy.
However, the biggest challenge for the government will be to train its staff on how to use the digital marketplace. According to Bloomberg, only 20% Indians have access to the internet and frequent power outages in rural areas make it a more daunting task.