Govt looks to outsource Bharat Craft e-commerce portal for MSMEs months after project fails to take off

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March 08, 2021 4:30 PM

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: "Since we are very pensive people, we kept on studying it and constituting committees. Ever since I took over as the MSME minister, we have been only deliberating about it so far,” MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari quipped Monday.

While minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari is confident of achieving 40 km/day construction pace soon, many stakeholders also share the optimism.While minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari is confident of achieving 40 km/day construction pace soon, many stakeholders also share the optimism.

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: More than a year-and-a-half after the MSME Ministry had announced the setting up of the e-commerce portal Bharat Craft on the lines of Alibaba and Amazon for Indian MSMEs to sell online, the proposal is yet to take off. In fact, months after deliberations within the government, the project, which was to be jointly set-up and operated by the State Bank of India and the government, may now be outsourced to a private entity. Addressing an event organised by SME body India SME Forum in Mumbai on Monday, MSME Minister Nitin Gadkari said, “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.”

“Government already runs other platforms like GeM that are not bereft of issues. Hence, the minister said that the government is looking to primarily outsource this (e-commerce portal) to someone to make and run it or work in alignment with other people to create something India centric having a pure commercial angle wherein millions of MSMEs can come online and sell products,” Vinod Kumar, President, India SME Forum told Financial Express Online.

Also read: PMMY: PM Modi’s Mudra loan scheme disbursed 94% of sanctioned amount to micro, small businesses

Gadkari had last year at an event pegged Rs 10 lakh crore turnover for the portal in a few years post-launch. “Since we are very pensive people, we kept on studying it and constituting committees. Ever since I took over as the MSME minister, we have been only deliberating about it so far,” the minister quipped.

The government was earlier also looking to merge Bharat Craft with GeM. However, “this didn’t work,” noted Gadkari. “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,” added Kumar.

Importantly, the government had in 2019 also reportedly planned to open GeM to private companies for bulk buying. GeM had crossed the whopping 10-lakh-seller milestone, within four-and-a-half years of its launch in August 2016, to become the largest e-commerce marketplace in the country in January this year. As of March 8, 2021, GeM had over 11.78 lakh sellers out of which 6.19 sellers were micro and small enterprises (MSEs). Small sellers had an order value of 57.94 per cent of Rs 94,195 crore goods bought online from government organisations and departments so far.

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