Bharat Craft: Govt’s plan to launch Alibaba-like e-commerce portal for MSMEs seemingly scrapped

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: The portal was expected to achieve a turnover of “Rs 10 lakh crore in the next few years,” former MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari had said in August 2019 announcing the project.

The portal was to be jointly set up and operated by the State Bank of India and the government. (Image: Stockvault)

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: More than two years after announcing and deliberating on the idea of setting up an Alibaba-like e-commerce portal for MSMEs, the government seems to have scrapped the ambitious plan. Bharat Craft project was announced in August 2019 by former MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari at the listing event of 200th MSME on the National Stock Exchange and was expected to achieve a turnover of “Rs 10 lakh crore in the next few years,” the minister had said.

The current MSME Minister Narayan Rane said “No” in reply to a written question in Lok Sabha on Thursday that whether the government proposes to launch an e-commerce portal Bharat Craft on the lines of Alibaba and Amazon. The reasons for the government’s move couldn’t be ascertained.

The latest update on the portal has come months after Gadkari had informed at another event that the portal, which was to be jointly set up and operated by the State Bank of India and the government, was to be outsourced to a private entity for development and operations.

“We had multiple rounds of meetings with Government eMarketplace (GeM) as well…but now I have asked the portal to be outsourced to a private player. The better the portal performs, the better the commission private player will get. Also, an agency will be finalized, which will be responsible to deliver the project, because there are multiple issues that occur within the government while rules are also difficult,” Gadkari had said at an event organised by India SME Forum in March 2021.

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Rajnish Kumar, the then Chairman of SBI had said at a CII webinar, “It is a work in progress. We have conceptualised how it should be done and the development work on this platform is going to commence soon,” according to a PTI report in June 2020. However, this wasn’t the only change that the government had planned in launching the portal. There were discussions on merging Bharat Craft with the public procurement marketplace Government eMarketplace (GeM). But, “this didn’t work,” Gadkari had said.

“GeM has a universal code or a sort of an identification number that most people in India are not aware of and a lot of products, which are not general or generic in nature, don’t even get hosted on to it. The process of putting products onto it is equal to writing new code every time. This is the problem,” Vinod Kumar, President, India SME Forum had told Financial Express Online.

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