ODR faces a myriad of hurdles in the present scenario. However, one of them can be overcome just by bringing a small change in ourselves.

Image:Flip Comic

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw 

A Stroll Down the Memory Lane
Sept. 2, 1969:
Don opened the morning newspaper. There was a flyer inside which read as “On Sept. 2, our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again!” Seeing this, he rushed to the venue.

The stage was set. There was a huge line in front of the Chemical Bank in Rockville Centre, New York. Hordes of people eyed a small machine comfortably placed in the wall, thinking “What sorcery is this?” “Will this be safe?” “How will it work?”

1969 was an important year for mankind. Sure, we landed on the moon. But, there was another event which took the world by storm. The installation of a small machine that still affects our life. Without it, the world would be a different place. The cryptic machine here in discussion, would take a small magnetic card and would churn out cash as and when the user wished for. By now you must have guessed that the we are referring to the Automated Teller Machine (ATM).

ATM was disruptive to the banking  industry. The tellers who earlier used to handle deposition and withdrawal of cash were fearing for their jobs. More than that, the bankers were skeptical about its success as they though it lacked “the human touch” and therefore would be a deterrent for the account holders.


Websites by the name of kiss.com and match.com emerge.  It is no rocket science to figure out the kind of services they provided. Though many other companies followed suit and started similar websites, the idea of meeting someone online seemed weird.

In 2002, Wired Magazine predicted that, “Twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won’t look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the card catalog to instead wander the stacks because ‘the right books are found only by accident.'” Well, it’s been only 15 years and boy have we been proving this prediction right with each passing day.


John was apprehensive as he logged on to the newly launched website. The website claimed to deliver books to your home at a very cheap price. With trembling hands, he gave his credit card information, praying all the while that it remains safe. “Have I made a mistake?”, this was the question running at the back of his mind until his book was delivered.  A few years down the road, he wouldn’t even think twice before buying a plot on moon through this website (if the company ever starts selling it).

The company being talked about is Amazon. Launched by an ambitious 30 year old Jeff Bezos, who was fascinated by the internet expansion and the potential in this segment, this company would go on to become one of the world’s most trusted brands. The business was so lean in the beginning that Amazon would order books themselves and deliver it to the buyers, owing to the shortage of supplies. It was labeled as a “bottomless pit” by some market gurus.

Another company launched during this period was eBay. Starting as a peer to peer marketplace, it faced greater difficulties. Quality of products, processing of payments, security on the website, was a pressing concern. Now, even airplanes have been sold on the website.

As Wired explains: “like the explosion of institutional banking and insurance in the early 20th century, this new system acted as a trust proxy; it didn’t require people to trust one another, because they could rely on a centralized system to protect their interests.”

It is through their impeccable services, that eBay managed to exterminate the constant concern people had over this kind of system, working.

Resistance to Change:

Out of a plethora of disruptive innovations, we have picked a handful. Though, many may contend whether they were disruptive or not, a majority would concur with us. All that is common in the above illustrations is people’s resistance to change. Treading new waters is scary, it is enthralling. The possibility of a brighter future seems titillating, but comes with it an uncertainty.  One wrong step and you may drown, but if you sail through, it’s delightful.

Every new innovation promises for a better future, but as the saying goes “ If there is no risk, there is no reward.” This is the main reason why people are reluctant to try out new things. They are afraid of the risk it entails. When electricity was introduced, people were resistant towards it as it was “dangerous”, even though the then used gas lights were more hazardous. Now, a world without it is inconceivable. People are so used to ATM machines and Amazon now, that the idea of going to the bank or a departmental store might feel ludicrous to some.

Flipkart had a hard time bringing the mindset change to India that online shopping is also safe. This was the inception of what one day would turn out to be a 100 billion dollar industry which would allow people to order stuff sitting in the comfort of their homes.

The Requisite Mindset Change:

Coming to the mindset change required for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) to work in India. We acknowledge the fact that it would take some time for people to get accustomed with the idea of resolving disputes while sitting at home.

First and foremost, it would have to be accepted that Internet can be a safe place despite the threat it possesses. Even today, so much of our information is on the Internet, but if proper safety mechanisms are employed, it would be very tough to extricate it. Google and Apple even have a record of your fingerprint now (thanks to the fingerprint sensor equipped phones), Facebook has your life history, Amazon has your credit card information; but all that is being protected. The same way, the documents you upload, your identity, your conversations with the arbitrator can be secured. The Mediators/ Arbitrators are also bound by law not to disclose any information to a third party. Just like the doctor-patient or a lawyer-client relationship.

Secondly, the idea that the authenticity of ODR is questionable is to be obliterated. As stated time and again, it is perfectly valid to practice this in India and more can be read about this here.

Thirdly, the thought that this idea strives to replace the present courts is to be done away with. ODR and the judiciary are meant to complement each other, just as ADR was envisaged to. It would be a huge boost to the pace of judiciary as the apt cases (which are veritably large in number) can be referred to ODR.

Fourthly, there should be trust on the online Mediators/ Arbitrators. While we accept that the onus is on the service provider to win trust through a constant display of paragon service and impeccable dedication towards fulfilling people’s needs, it is imperative that people start believing that it can be done. Meaning ODR can work, and the professionals solving disputes are of the same stature and quality that physical arbitrators would be.

Moreover, people have this perception that just because something takes place in an online medium, the chances of it going awry is too high, which is not the case. However, this is constantly changing, owing to the inextricable role Internet plays these days. Both online and offline processes have its own advantages and there are disputes best suited for both of them.


Tina had a long day at work. She dozes off as soon as she gets home. The next day, she gets a mail from her estranged husband asking for divorce. With money being scarce, a hectic job and a girl to look after, she opts for ODR.

Her problem gets resolved in two weeks. They peacefully divide their assets, decide upon maintenance  and even child custody. As she lulls her daughter to sleep, Tina reminisces

Isn’t it funny how 10 years ago people were anxious of this method not working?”

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