NITI Aayog and Mastercard Release Report on ‘Connected Commerce: Creating a Roadmap for a Digitally Inclusive Bharat’

New Delhi: NITI Aayog and Mastercardtoday released a report titled‘Connected Commerce: Creating a Roadmap for a Digitally Inclusive Bharat’. The reportidentifies challenges in accelerating digital financial inclusion in India and provides recommendations for making digital services accessible to its 1.3 billion citizens.

The report was released by NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar, CEO Amitabh Kant, and Ajit Pai, Distinguished Expert and Head, Economics and Finance Cell, along with Ravi Aurora, Senior Vice President and Group Head, Global Community Relations, Mastercard.

Based on five roundtable discussions held in October and November 2020, the report highlights key issues and opportunities,with inferences and recommendations on policy and capacity building across agriculture, small business (MSMEs), urban mobility and cyber security. Experts from the government, banking sector, the financial regulator, fintech enterprises, and various ecosystem innovators participated in the discussions led by NITI Aayog and supported by Mastercard.

NITI Aayog was a knowledge partner in this endeavour. The series of workshopsand the outcome reportwere curated by business advisory firm FTI Consulting.The report reflects the discussions held during the roundtables.

In his opening remarks, Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog,said, “Technology has been transformational, providing greater and easier access to financial services. India is seeing an increasing digitization of financial services, with consumers shifting from cash to cards, wallets, apps, and UPI. This report looks at some key sectors and areas that need digital disruptions to bring financial services to everyone.”

Between October and November, experts discussedways to accelerate digital financial inclusion, enable global opportunities for MSMEs, inspire trust and security in digital commerce, prepare India’s agri-enterprises for connected commerce, and build robust transit systems for smart cities. Key issues addressedduring the knowledge series were:

  1. Acceleration of digital financial inclusion for underserved sections of Indian society.
  2. Enabling SMEs to ‘get paid, get capital and get digital’ and access customers, and ensure their continued resilience.
  3. Policy and technological interventions to foster trust and increase cyber resilience.
  4. Unlocking the promise of digitization in India’s agriculture sector.
  5. The essential elements of a digital roadmap to make transit accessible for all citizens.

“In the post-Covid era, building resilient systems and encouraging business models that could be change-makers of the future are crucial,” said Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog. “India is emerging as the hub of digital financial services globally, with solutions like UPI growing tremendously and being hailed as instrumental in bringing affordable digital payment solutions to the last mile. Fintech players, alongside the conventional financial services providers, hold the key to transforming the way the economy functions and increasing access to credit for our industry. This will enable us to make the Indian digital financial landscape convenient, safe, and accessible to all.”

Key recommendations in the report include:

  1. Strengthening the payment infrastructure to promote a level playing field for NBFCs and banks.
  2. Digitizing registration and compliance processes and diversifying credit sources to enable growth opportunities for MSMEs.
  3. Building information sharing systems,including a ‘fraud repository’, and ensuring that online digital commerce platforms carry warnings to alert consumers to the risk of frauds.
  4. Enabling agricultural NBFCs to access low-cost capital and deploy a ‘phygital’ (physical + digital) model for achieving better long-term digital outcomes. Digitizing land records will also provide a major boost to the sector.
  5. To make city transit seamlessly accessible to all with minimal crowding and queues, leveraging existing smartphones andcontactless cards, and aim for an inclusive, interoperable, and fully open system such as that of the London ‘Tube’.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has alerted us all to the fragility of cash and the resilience of digital technologies, including digital payments. Even with restrictions, commerce needed to continue to fulfil basic livelihood needs—and it was digital technologies that made it possible. Now more than ever, the power of brick-and-mortar distribution channels must parallel in the digital world. In the past years, India has changed its operating landscape in making digital more accessible and friction free. It is one of the most advanced digital payments environment in the world. Now is the time to take our learnings and digital transformation-at-scale with speed and agility. With this report, we hope to highlight key elements of a roadmap India can follow to achieve the next level of digital transformation, driven by providing real value to the next half-billion of society that will go online and onto digital transactions in the next three years,” said Ari Sarker, Co-President, Asia Pacific, Mastercard.

The full report can be accessed here: https://niti.gov.in/writereaddata/files/Connected-Commerce-Full-Report.pdf

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