Brands and the beckoning call of India's Digital Public Goods

Industry watchers discuss the 'digital diplomacy opportunities' presented by India's large-scale adoption of digital public goods and the challenges that lie therein

by Shantanu David
Published - September 18, 2023
4 minutes To Read
Brands and the beckoning call of India's Digital Public Goods

At the recently concluded G20 Summit, between the brouhaha over diplomatic luggage, plane troubles, and speculation around nameplates, there were several reports of world leaders being impressed by the made-in-India UPI technology. A G20 Policy Recommendation report recently released by the World Bank noted: “For the fiscal year 2022–23, the total value of UPI transactions was nearly 50 per cent of India’s nominal GDP.”

Undoubtedly, the most popular of India’s Digital Public Goods, UPI is far from the only one. From retail-centric ONDC to language-based Bhashini, to even Co-WIN from the days of Covid, there is a slew of digital endeavours that are attracting the attention of companies, brands, and advertisers, mostly because of their large-scale adoption by consumers.

High Potential

Noting that the potential of the Digital Public Goods landscape is immense, as advertisers and agencies increasingly embrace newer platforms and initiatives, Mitesh Kothari, Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, White Rivers Media, says ONDC’s emphasis on open source networks for exchanging goods and services on the internet, independent of specific platforms, indicates a promising direction. “India’s digital transformation, fueled by modular applications built on Aadhaar and India Stack, is revolutionizing activities like payments, accessing government services, and education. This paves the way for digital diplomacy opportunities.”

Prashant Puri, Co-Founder & CEO of AdLift notes that with India prioritising building Digital Public goods in its tech policy at the G20 summit, “You know that this initiative will only gain momentum. Since it is tied to nations achieving their sustainable development goals, the potential affect change is tremendous. It is a unique opportunity for start-ups to innovate and grow. However, we need to be mindful of a couple of red flags. The major one being privacy issues where there can be misuse of data. Lack of End-to-End Encryption of Data on these goods is still a big loophole.”

Shashank Rathore, Vice President, E-commerce, Interactive Avenues believes it is still early to quantify potential as most of the initiatives are in a very early stage. “However, these endeavours present prospects for extending one's audience reach, achieving cost-effectiveness, attaining insightful data, ensuring adherence to regulatory standards, fostering collaborative innovation, engaging with communities, and bolstering brand reputation. Prudent scrutiny becomes imperative for advertisers and agencies, as they seek alignment with their business objectives and target demographics.”

Vivek Kumar Anand, Chief Business Officer, DViO Digital, believes platforms that emphasise open-source solutions aren't just technology-forward; they're people-forward. “I've always believed, as growth marketers, our objective is not just to target but to engage inclusively, and that's where these platforms shine. They echo the sentiments of the 'Networked Public Sphere' by Yochai Benkler, underscoring the role of inclusivity in global digital communication.”

According to him, navigating the diverse landscape of India and Bharat's various markets is a challenge that is both complex and exhilarating. Indeed, leveraging digital goods and services effectively and widely across these multifaceted markets requires a nuanced approach, including localized strategies; collaborative ecosystems; education and empowerment; Sustainability with inclusion; and data-driven insights.

Future Growth

Kothari points out that leveraging these digital goods effectively across India’s diverse markets involves the growth of Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI), enabling innovative applications through various combinations of services. “The open-source translation collection and the expanding DPIs in health and education promise to enhance access and efficiency along with their contribution towards the country’s innovation, inclusion, and improved government functions. The dynamic landscape holds significant potential for transforming access, services, and global inclusivity.”

Rathore agrees that this demands a comprehensive approach encompassing strategies such as localization with vernacular content, prioritizing mobile accessibility, offering flexible pricing models, establishing local partnerships, supporting digital literacy, adapting to network constraints, aligning with government regulations, conducting market research, ensuring scalable infrastructure, and prioritizing customer engagement. Recognizing the unique characteristics of each market segment is paramount for successful implementation.

“In essence, leveraging digital goods and services across India's and Bharat's diverse markets isn't about a one-size-fits-all strategy. It's a vibrant tapestry of localised efforts, collaboration, education, sustainability, and data insights. It's about a marketing symphony that plays the tune of unity in diversity. This melody is the soul of our nation and the heartbeat of a growth marketer's aspirations,” says Anand.