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Indian Government seeking to develop national policy on e-commerce

The Indian Government is seeking to develop a comprehensive and overarching national policy on e-commerce. The Government’s Department of Commerce has set up a think tank for development of a Framework for National Policy on E-commerce.

In March, the Economic Times reported that the Indian Government is considering a national e-commerce policy and a consolidated legal framework. At the moment, there are multiple government agencies dealing with different aspects of e-commerce, such as IT, industrial policy, revenue, payments etc.

India’s e-commerce sector is growing rapidly, with online retail projected to grow to $200 billion by 2026 from $15 billion in 2016. But challenges remain due to poor Internet penetration, inefficient delivery infrastructure in rural areas and financial inclusion issues. India was ranked 83rd in the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) B2C (Business‐to‐Consumer) E‐commerce Index, 2017, which evaluates the processes involved in an online shopping B2C transaction.

The Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, Mr Suresh Prabhu, will chair the first meeting of the think tank to be held on 24 April 2018. Senior officers of the ministries/ departments of the Government of India involved in different aspects of e-commerce; high level representatives from the industry bodies, e-commerce companies, telecommunication companies and IT companies; Reserve Bank of India; and independent experts have been invited to participate in the meeting. Representatives of almost fifty organisations are expected to participate.

The think tank is expected to provide a credible forum for an inclusive and fact-based dialogue leading to recommendations for informed policy making. The objective is to prepare the country to take advantage of the opportunities, and address the challenges, that would arise from the next wave of advancements in digital economy.

The issues that will be discussed by the think tank include the following aspects of e-commerce and digital economy: physical and digital infrastructure, regulatory regime, taxation policy, data flows, server localisation, intellectual property rights protection, FDI (foreign direct investment), technology flows, responding to disruptions in industrial organisation, need for skill development and trade-related aspects.

Developments on e-commerce at the WTO (World Trade Organisation) and evolving appropriate national position on the underlying issues, would be another important dimension of the discussions of the think tank.

In addition, the think tank will explore options for providing a boost to entrepreneurship in the digital economy. It will identify specific policy interventions for nurturing domestic firms and creating jobs in e-commerce.

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