GeM, the Government e-Marketplace, emerged as a transformative government initiative launched on August 9, 2016, by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in India. This dynamic online portal serves as a one-stop solution for the procurement of common goods and services by both state and central government departments, organizations, and public sector undertakings. Let’s delve deeper into the cooperative dimension of GeM and explore its objectives, development, significance, advantages, limitations, and the way forward.
Cooperatives’ Role in GeM:
As defined by the International Labour Organization, cooperatives are autonomous associations of individuals who voluntarily come together to fulfill their common social and cultural needs through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprises. India has witnessed the world’s largest cooperative movement, with cooperatives playing a pivotal role in the nation’s economic growth.
The Indian Constitution, under Directive Principles (Article 43B), underscores the importance of cooperative societies, which is upheld as a fundamental right under Article 19. Cooperatives participating in GeM contribute by levying transaction fees to cover operational costs. The Ministry of Cooperation collaborates with GeM SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) to determine the list of validated cooperatives eligible to participate. This partnership aims to provide technical infrastructure support, ensure prompt payments, and safeguard the interests of sellers.
Objectives of Government e-Marketplace:
GeM mandates procurement by ministries and central public sector enterprises. It empowers buyers through e-bidding and reverse e-auction tools, maximizing the value for money spent. A significant milestone occurred in June 2022 when the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, expanded GeM’s mandate to allow cooperatives to join as buyers on the portal. Additionally, GeM enforces a requirement for new product registrations to specify the country of origin, aligning with the 50% local content criteria.
With over 30 lakh products and transactions exceeding 10 lakh crores, GeM has become a robust platform for procurement.
Development of the Government e-Marketplace Portal:
The GeM portal was crafted by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal, with technological support from the National e-Governance Division, a branch of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It facilitates the procurement of both products and services.
Currently, the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposal oversees the Government e-marketplace, with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry acting as the nodal ministry.
Importance of Government e-Marketplace Portal:
GeM aligns with India’s vision of achieving self-reliance (Aatmanirbhar Bharat) by promoting transparent and cost-effective procurement. It serves as a pivotal platform during crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, facilitating seamless procurement for governments and organizations.
Local sellers benefit from schemes like Make in India and MSME purchase policies. GeM expands the ease of doing business for cooperatives while broadening the buyer base for GeM registered sellers. This initiative elevates the credibility of cooperatives, benefitting the 27 crore members associated with 8.5 lakh cooperatives, and fosters healthy competition that can result in better prices for cooperatives.
Advantages of Government e-Marketplace for Buyers:
The platform offers a diverse range of products, providing ample choices for goods and services. Buyers benefit from a streamlined process encompassing product comparison, search, and purchase. The platform is particularly beneficial during emergencies when immediate procurement is essential. The rating system enhances product information, and a user-friendly return policy and product tracking system further simplify the buying process.
Advantages of Government e-Marketplace for Sellers:
Sellers enjoy easy access to government departments through a single platform, reducing the effort required for bids, reverse auctions, and marketing. Pricing flexibility enables sellers to adapt to market conditions. A user-friendly dashboard allows sellers to monitor supply and demand, and insights into user preferences aid in effective manufacturing and procurement strategies.
Limitations of the Government e-Marketplace Portal:
While GeM has made significant strides, there are some limitations. It was initially challenging for cooperatives to register as buyers, limiting their participation. The portal is exclusive to government and public sector entities, barring private players from utilizing its services. Furthermore, multiple specialized portals such as the defense procurement portal and the Indian railways’ e-procurement portal may dilute GeM’s role as a national procurement platform. This poses a challenge to the General Financial Rule 2017, which mandates that goods and services available on the portal should be procured through it. Additionally, the absence of vernacular language support limits accessibility.
GeM represents a crucial step in India’s digitalization journey. However, addressing the urban-rural digital divide and low literacy rates is imperative. Simplifying the portal landscape and focusing on resolving other e-governance issues is essential. Economic penalties for misgovernance can further incentivize effective utilization. Providing language options on the portal can bridge the language barrier. Ultimately, GeM serves as a valuable tool, not only connecting buyers and sellers but also minimizing losses due to perishable goods. Its continued evolution holds great promise for India’s economic growth and self-reliance aspirations.