The Centre’s e-commerce platform, government e-marketplace (GeM), was launched in 2016 with an ambitious goal to become the ‘Flipkart’ — then the byword for large-scale e-commerce in India — of government procurement. Three years and Rs 28,710 crore worth of transactions later, it has more than double the number of sellers than Flipkart.
According to official statistics, the portal, under the commerce and industry ministry, has 259,000 sellers and service providers combined.
Flipkart — currently the second-largest e-marketplace by gross sales — doesn’t sell services. But it advertises to potential sellers that 100, 000 sellers showcase their goods on the platform.
However, GeM is yet to catch up on its basic task of digitising government transactions, estimated at an annual Rs 5.5 trillion. The official target remains Rs 50,000 crore in 2019-20, ultimately hitting Rs 1 trillion worth of procurements by 2021.
More than 2.1 million separate orders have been placed on the portal till now, with 1.7 million orders in 2018-19 itself, up from 300,000 orders in the preceding year.
All public sector agencies are mandated to directly purchase common-use goods and services through the online portal. While most states have signed a memorandum of understanding with the GeM authority, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh remain the largest buyers.
The number of products on the portal has also jumped exponentially, now featuring more than 11.13 products, from office stationery to vehicles. Automobiles, computers and office furniture are currently the top product categories. Also, 14,147 separate services, including transportation, logistics, waste management, web casting and analytical, among others are listed on the portal. Cloud computing and management services, security and catering services are the top focus of government buyers.
Many of these services and products have now been open to the more than 15,000 start-ups recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), and other start-ups keen to be a part of this ecosystem. More than 2,500 start-ups are on board, sources said.
Interested start-ups had been asked to provide their products and services free of charge for a fixed period of about two-three months. Response from buyers on the platform will determine their long-term approval on the platform. According to DPIIT officials, the move favours smaller start-ups rather than the ones which have been in the news for their marquee fund-raising.
After an increasing number of buyers had complained of being sold faulty or decoy products by distributors or re-sellers, the government partnered more than 100 major brands such as HP, Infosys, TCS and Wipro, etc., senior officials said. Other companies such as Godrej also figure on the list. Cases of fraud dealerships and re-sellers are now taken up by the original equipment manufacturer concerned, officials added.
Expanding the outreach of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) on the platform remained the first priority, a senior GeM official said.
Seen as a step to woo small firms, the government has started offering credit facility to MSMEs on GeM through the Trade Receivables Electronic Discounting System (TReDS). It is a bill discounting service supported by Small Industries Development Bank of India for pre- and post-shipment of products. As small enterprises find it difficult to deal with payment delays, GeM is ensuring that this issue will be resolved for MSMEs who can now avail the TReDs facility.
Currently, 44,317 such firms more than Rs 1 trillion worth of procurement is done nationally by 170 central public sector enterprises through GeM.
The GeM platform is also being used to place orders for World Bank projects. MoUs have also been signed with 12 banks to facilitate payments. The platform is also closely monitored by the Prime Minister's Office, with the Cabinet Secretary holding a review meeting every three months with the committee of secretaries and regularly.